NFU v Blyth Spartans (NLN 17-18)

North Ferriby United  v Blyth Spartans
 National League North
Saturday 20  March 2018
 Kick-off 3.00pm

Ferriby will be chasing their only chance of a  “double” this season when Blyth Spartans visit The Eon Visual Media Stadium.

The Villagers won the reverse fixture 1-0 way back in August. It proved something of a false dawn as Ferriby failed to build on that victory. Only Ross Durrant, Jordon Cooke and Bobby Johnson remain of The Villagers squad that day.

Blyth are having a good season and are in the play-off positions in sixth place. Their play-off spot is far from assured but unless they have a serious dip in form they should clinch one in the coming weeks. There have been some warning signs as they have lost four and won three of their last seven games.

Last time out, they lost 0-1 at Leamington who gained a vital three points in their fight against relegation. On their travels they have won 8 games and lost eight with no draws. They have scored 33 goals and conceded 31 in those games.

They will be taking nothing for granted given, Darlington apart, Ferriby’s recent up-turn in form. Striker Dan Maguire made his England C debut against Wales in midweek and is obviously a key man to watch.

Despite probably their best performance of the season in the draw against Salford on Tuesay, Ferriby’s relegation from the National League North was confirmed. It had been on the cards for much of the season.

No criticism should be made of current Manager Chris Bolder. He  took over a team that was rock-bottom of the table with just 7 points. Tuesday’s point saw that tally doubled. It may not seem much but people need to remember that Bolder has had to perform an almost total re-build to his squad It is, on the whole, young and inexperienced but is gaining in confidence with every game. The side is playing some good football and they stunned league leaders Salford on Tuesday.

It may have needed a late equaliser to snatch a point but James Nicholls’ goal was no more than Ferriby deserved. It was a blow to Salford as it means that second-placed Harrogate are in position to over-take them at the top of the table.

Ferriby had Salford rocking for much of the game. The visitors played the final hour with 10 men but that should not take anything away from The Villagers performance. They took the game to Salford and followed Bolder’s game plan in the second-half,

“I told the players at half-time that we had to play the ball around and make use of the space the extra man provided rather than just lump it forward.. We did that well. We were strong going forward and kept our shape defensively.”

Whilst Ferriby may only have pride to play for, Bolder will ensure his side remains focussed and professional as the side can still have a say in the promotion and relegation battles. The remaining seven fixtures are all against sides who are trying to gain a play-off spot or avoid relegation.

Bolder comments,
Obviously it is hugely disappointing to be officially confirmed as being relegated, but it was always going to be a tall order to survive when I was given the job.

“North Ferriby United has had some fantastic experiences in recent years, so to have back-to-back relegations is saddening, but the club will have to stabilise then look to progress once more.

“We may be relegated but we owe it to the other sides in the division to give our best right to the end. Every game is vital with all our scheduled opponents in need of points for one reason or another.

“It has taken some time, but through recent performances and results (Darlington aside), it is clear that we are developing as a unit  and instilling a philosophy that is going to stand us in good stead moving forward.

“This, for me, was epitomised in the performance against a very strong outfit in Salford City on Tuesday evening, where we showed fantastic character and determination to bounce back after a heavy defeat on the Saturday. The lads showed real desire to defend our goal and, at the other end, we continued to show signs of an attacking threat which is something we have focused on in recent weeks.

 “It takes a certain mentality to come into a team that is really struggling. This is doubly so when you are starting to play at a level that you have never experienced. A lot of the lads that have come in are new to the level, so to hold the league leaders to a draw was testament to their attitudes and commitment and all these experiences are invaluable for their personal development.

“There is still work to be done but we should have the nucleus of  good squad for next season.”

Looking towards Saturday’s game Bolder comments,

“We have to take Tuesday’s form in to the Blyth game. They will be looking for all three points to consolidate their play-off spot so it could be  a tense game.

“They are a good side who knock the ball around so we need to make life difficult by pressuring them and denying them space.

“With players coming back from injury and suspension, we now have more options available so Paul and I will be giving a lot of consideration to the squad and tactics.

Looking even further forward, Bolder adds,

“I am thoroughly enjoying my time here, working alongside all involved with the running of the club and the staff that are directly involved with the players. I was fully aware of the remit of the job from the off and I am totally committed to that, so as long as I am required to be here, then I will remain as manager. The aim was to work with the best local talent which is something that has been

achieved so far and that strategy will continue to be explored moving forward. I am hopeful that these players that have come in have seen what we are all about and would like to continue their development under our guidance  next season.”

Certainly, Ferriby fans will be hoping that Bolder and Robson are in charge next season. Nobody will blame them for the club’s relegation. They had an impossible task when they took over. Rather than any criticism, the pair deserve praise for the transformation they have achieved.

With Hull City not playing due to the international weekend, Ferriby will be hoping that their fans will take advantage of the £5 admission price for City pass-holders.

Bolder’s selection problems are easing a little bit. Brett Agnew and Jack Walters made welcome returns against Salford. Alex Davidson, a hip injury. And Jordan Deacey, a hamstring issue, are the major doubts.

Possible Ferriby squad: Ross Durrant,  Lewis Exall,  Ben Clappison, Jack Walters, Jordon Cooke, Jack Mail, Jamie Taylor, Bobby Johnson, Paul Robson, Adam Bolder, Luke Lofts, AJ George, Lewis Collins, George Harrison, Jamie Forrester, Brett Agnew, James Piercey, Jordan Deacey, Josh Walker, James Nicholls, Alex Bannister


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