The Non-League Football Paper - - NATIONAL LEAGUE NORTH - By Jeff Bowron

NATIONAL League North pace­set­ters Sal­ford City stretched their lead at the top to nine points after a big win at Blyth Spar­tans.

It was clash be­tween the joint lead­ing scor­ers in the di­vi­sion, Blyth, against the side with the best de­fence.

And the Am­mies, still un­beaten on their trav­els in the league, showed all of their de­fen­sive qual­i­ties to come win this top-four bat­tle.

Blyth threw ev­ery­thing at Sal­ford in a one-sided sec­ond pe­riod but didn’t work goal­keeper Sam Slo­combe enough.

For all Spar­tans’ pres­sure the Am­mies held firm, cap­tain Liam Ho­gan a tow­er­ing pres­ence at the heart of the vis­i­tors de­fence.

The former Gateshead and Tran­mere man, how­ever, was for­tu­nate to stay on the pitch after pick­ing up a first half book­ing.

Ref­eree Gar­reth Rhodes was hardly flavour of the month at Croft Park, Blyth boss Alun Armstrong con­fronting the of­fi­cial on the pitch at the end.

“I didn’t want to get into it but I thought the ref­eree had a re­ally poor game and has prob­a­bly cost the lads a point,” said Armstrong, who guided Blyth to the Evo-Stik NPL ti­tle last sea­son in his first cam­paign as man­ager.

“There were three or four play­ers who were al­ready on book­ings and he’s bot­tled send­ing them off.

“The play­ers are fum­ing that the big de­ci­sions went against them and I’ve never seen a more bla­tant penalty than the one that wasn’t given at the end.

“Sal­ford de­fended ex­cep­tion­ally well, but any­one who was at the game will agree that we were the bet­ter side.”

In the end it took a 36th minute penalty from National League North player of the month Jack Red­shaw to sep­a­rate the two sides.

Nathan Bud­dle failed to deal with a ball over the top, Blyth keeper Peter Jameson bring­ing down Red­shaw, who calmly slot­ted home the spot kick.

Spar­tans top scorer Dan Maguire was twice off tar­get after the break, David Atkin­son clear­ing a rare Sal­ford threat off the line.

In a fran­tic fi­nal ten min­utes Blyth had ef­forts from the lively Jar­rett Rivers and

Bud­dle cleared off the line, no penalty given when Sean Reid went down in stop­page time.

“Blyth are as good as we’ve played all sea­son,” said Sal­ford joint-man­ager Bernard Mor­ley. “But it was a mag­nif­i­cent de­fen­sive ef­fort from our boys. Blyth will feel hard done by com­ing away with nothing, but that’s why we’re top of the league and have the best de­fen­sive record.”

PIC­TURES: Me­dia Im­age

RED ALERT: Jack Red­shaw en­joys his goal that sends Sal­ford nine points clear at the top of the ta­ble

CITY SLICKER: Jack Red­shaw fires in his penalty

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