Blyth Spartans 2 Halifax Town 3: Vardy goal secures Town win

JAMIE Vardy scored what proved to be the winner with 14 minutes remaining as Town eventually shook off the challenge from Blyth Spartans in an entertaining tussle in the north east.

He fired home from a Tom Baker pass to put the Shaymen ahead for the third and final time in the game as they bounced back from defeat in Saturday’s home opener.

And while they were still some way from their best, they have to be credited with great character as they kept going despite Blyth twice levelling after goals from Baker and James Dean.

Aspin had intended to stick with the same starting line up that was surprisingly beaten at home in the season opener.

But his plans were disrupted with barely 15 minutes to go before kick off when Anton Foster, originally named among the subs, was drafted in to start his first game for the Shaymen in place of Liam Needham.

Town were forced to defend an early free kick with Liam Hogan blocking Graeme Armstrong’s shot on the turn after a minute.

The ball was cleared downfield for Vardy whose pace took him past Phil Cave, but his low cross intended for Dean was collected by home keeper Max Johnson.

The match lacked any real pattern after that as the sides struggled to come to terms with the strong wind and bobbly pitch.

But Aaron Hardy found Foster who forced the first corner of the game in the 11th minute.

Blyth scrambled Baker’s first delivery behind for another corner which was never fully cleared and Hardy crossed in for Dean who headed home only to be denied by an offside flag.

Vardy forced Town’s third corner of the game after 15 minutes but, after David Haggerty had retrieved the ball on the right, Liam Hogan headed wide.

Blyth won their first corner a minute later but were unable to put any pressure on Town keeper Simon Eastwood.

Vardy, playing just behind Dean and Danny Holland, was causing the home side problems and created a chance for Danny Lowe whose right footed shot was deflected behind by a defender.

And from the resulting corner the Shaymen had strong appeals for a penalty dismissed by the referee after the ball appeared to hit Chris Emms on the arm as he guarded the near post.

The home side’s first clearcut chance came after 24 minutes when a free kick from the left was glanced goalwards, but just wide, by Armstrong.

And they should have taken the lead four minutes later when Shaun Vipond crossed for the unmarked Glen Taylor, but his header was saved by Eastwood.

Town responded well with Hardy winning the ball back before Holland and Dean combined, but Baker’s effort was always rising.

That proved to be something of a sighter as the skipper made no mistake a minute later when Lowe squared a pass for him 25 yards out and he lashed a shot beyond the keeper who never moved a muscle.

The home side were handed the perfect opportunity to level a minute before the break when Armstrong went down under a challenge from Scott McManus just inside the area.

But the home striker then saw his spot kick saved by Eastwood before blazing the rebound over from five yards.

The Shaymen went straight to the other end and Dean was inches away from getting on the end of a Vardy cross.

Blyth were level four minutes after the break after a slip by Hogan allowed Armstrong to get away down the right and he crossed for right back Dan Groves who slid the ball home from 10 yards.

But the Shaymen were back in front six minutes later after Vardy had sent Lowe racing away on the left.

He crossed for Dean who turned the ball goalwards and it crossed the line despite the despairing efforts of the keeper.

Vardy almost bagged another a couple of minutes later, racing into the box only to be denied by a defender at the expense of a corner.

And Hogan was only denied by a despairing block after the keeper had failed to hold onto a McManus cross.

But Blyth hit back for a second time just past the hour mark when Town failed to deal with Wayne Phillips’ cross from the left and Glen Taylor stabbed home from eight yards.

Armstrong’s weak shot, from a quickly taken free kick was comfortably saved by Eastwood before Vardy went into the book for a sliding challenge that saw tempers fray.

Vardy was denied by the keeper as the midway point of the second half approached, Johnson sticking out an arm to block after the Town man had been put in by Holland.

Dean might have done better from a Baker free kick on the left, but could only head wide of the target at the far post.

And Danny Lowe was denied twice in a matter of seconds with low well struck shots, first by the keeper then a defender as Town looked to get back in front again. They did so in the 76th minute when Baker won back the ball midway inside his own half and raced 50 yards before playing in Vardy whose powerful finish gave the keeper no chance.

Vardy cut in from the right with six minutes remaining and forced Johnson to make a decent save from his left footed shot.

Hardy did well defensively to dispossess Emms as Blyth threw everything forward in the dying minutes.