Groundhopper: Stourbridge 0 Blyth Spartans 3 (Malcolm Stephenson)

stourbridge (4)

 

Blyth were beaten midweek and so I was hoping we would get back to winning ways today. I was not disappointed as the lads went to task after a long journey down to the South of Birmingham.

A long journey it is and a full day out to watch the Spartans. I set off from my house at 8.30 and picked two Blyth supporters up at Newcastle central station. The drive took nearly 5 hours with a couple of short stops on the way. I was able to pull into the club car park, have my lunch and take a cat nap before watching the match.

 

Stourbridge were formed in 1876 and were originally known as Stourbridge Standard before changing their name just a few years after forming. They play at the War Memorial Athletic ground in Amblecote a Metropolitan Borough of Dudley and just North of Stourbridge. They used to play in the Southern league until transferred to the Northern premier at the end of last season. It’s only a few miles from Halesowen where I watched Blyth last August.

 

The ground is only three-sided as they share an area with the cricket club. A green metal fence separates the two areas and will come down during the cricket season. There is a small terrace behind the clubhouse goal end and a decent covered terrace behind the other far end goal. Down one side of the ground is an old and small seated area with covered standing areas either side of it.

 

Stourbridge only ever got to the first round of the FA cup for the first time in 2009 when they lost 1-0 at home to Walsall. In 2011 they got through to the first round again but were drawn away to Plymouth. They gained a creditable 3-3 draw down there and won the replay 2-0 in front of ESPN cameras, netting themselves £33,000. They lost the next round 3-0 at home to Stevenage. For this match they put up three temporary stands. Last season the ‘Glassboys’ lost to Chesham in the play-offs to the Conference South.

 

The teams came out and I put my flag out on the fence behind the goal. Two seconds later a bloke came along and said it was not stopping there. I told him it was. He tried to untie my flag. I pushed his ‘mitts’ of it. He was in my face and started eyeballing me. I eyeballed him back. I do not like trouble and never have done but there is a time and place you have to stand your ground. This bloke was half drunk and looked if he had gone a few rounds with Mike Tyson. In fact he looked like a pre-transformation Frank Maloney. He was shorter than me and knocking on a few years. His demeanour reminded me of the Wealdstone raider and this must have been Stourbridge’s version. I felt like asking him “Do you want some” but thought I am not going to give in to him. You travel all this way and get like hassle like this at a non-league match. He had a few mates with him who looked quite big blokes and I could not have fancied having a go with them. He made a few comments towards me which I ignored. He had a cigarette and I thought I would keep a close eye as I felt he was going to do something with it. He did not smoke it all and dropped it in front of him. I think he tried throwing his lit cigarette down on my flag to burn a hole in it. I was not going to move because of him and I was not going to give him the satisfaction of me biting back either. I just totally ignored him from that point and hoped he would go away. He did eventually.

 

Spartans looked good right from the word go. They pushed the ball around well and they never looked like a team playing on the back of a recent defeat. On 13 minutes Spartans were awarded a penalty. Robert Dale stepped up and for the second time in the last 5 days he skied the ball way over the bar. It was like two identical penalties missed. That’s three recent penalty misses.

 

Blyth continued to dominate and Stephen Turnball curled in a cracking free kick. Stourbridge did not really push forward that much and whatever they did produce up front the Blyth defence seemed to handle quite well. Spartans might have scored another just before half time but ‘Nippers’ (Dan Maguire) shot went just over the bar. We were in the led at half time. Frank Maloney 0 Malcolm 1.

 

Blyth started the second half as the first and on 53 minutes Jarret Rivers scored a second. I felt we were never going to lose after that goal went in and just to make sure Dan Hawkins scored a third on 81 minutes.

I went to the toilet during the second half and could not see ‘Frank’ anywhere. I think he must have been in the bar drowning his sorrows at seeing his team being taken to task.

The Spartans fans were in good voice especially in the second half. For the last 45 minutes we were behind the goal with the shed. One of the Cannock lads used the top of a plastic bin lid banging up and down as a makeshift percussion instrument. “Tommy Wades Green and White army got a good rendition this afternoon.

At the end of the game the players applauded the travelling support and Tom Wade came across personally to shake the supporters hands. Costs nothing but means a lot.

On the way out a few home fans were saying well done to Blyth fans. It was a nice touch and was a reminder not to tar everyone with the same brush. See you next season Frank.

 

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