Blyth Spartans boss Michael Nelson left with mixed emotions after Darlington draw

Blyth Spartans manager Michael Nelson admitted to having mixed emotions after his side threw away a two-goal lead in their home draw with North East rivals Darlington.

By Mark Carruthers
Sunday, 12th September 2021, 2:59 pm
Blyth Spartans manager Michael Nelson.
Blyth Spartans manager Michael Nelson.

Spartans made an impressive start as they looked to keep alive their unbeaten home record and took a two-goal lead by the time the midway point of the first-half had passed.

Former Spartans management team Alun Armstrong and Darren Holloway cut frustrated figures in the away dugout as their side’s inability to defend effectively allowed JJ O’Donnell and Lewis McNall to put Nelson’s men in control with two well-taken headers.

The Quakers got back into the game just before half-time when McNall’s former Newcastle United academy teammate Luke Charman became the first visiting player to score at Croft Park this season.

Darlington substitute Andrew Nelson came off the bench to stab home a second-half equaliser and ensure his side claimed their first point of the season as reward for a spirited fightback.

Nelson admitted his side cost themselves a chance to secure a third win in four home games - but was pleased they were able to remain unbeaten at Croft Park.

“It’s our own fault really,” he told The Leader.

“We didn’t defend well enough going into the break and I think we go on and win the game if we take that two-goal lead into half-time.

“It’s a completely different game if that happens, but we gave them something to hang on to.

“We only have ourselves to blame - but we always say if you’re in a scrap and don’t win the game, make sure you take something from it.

“We did that and they deserve credit for that.”

The draw keeps Spartans in the top ten of the National League North table and they sit just two points and two places shy of the play-off places.

The opening month of the season has seen Nelson’s new-look squad suffer only one defeat in their opening six games of the campaign.

That reverse came against in-form Kidderminster Harriers - but Nelson’s side reacted well to that defeat by going unbeaten in the four games that followed.

Next weekend’s FA Cup second qualifying round home tie against Northern Premier League Premier Division side FC United of Manchester offers a chance to take a break from the hustle and bustle of life in non-league’s second tier.

And it also offered Nelson an opportunity to reflect on what he believes is a solid start to the season that could and should have been even better for his side.

“We feel we are probably four points short of what we should have at this point in time,” he explained.

“We should have taken two more points at Farsley Celtic and possibly two more here against Brackley Town.

“It’s a sign of how far we have come as a squad and a sign of the attitude and commitment of the lads that they are disappointed with draws.”