After seeing his side beaten in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League play-offs, Blyth Spartans manager Tom Wade was left to ponder what might be in store for him and the Croft Park club over the coming months.
It has been another season of progress for Wade and his Spartans side, albeit one that has ended in disappointment.
When Wade took over his hometown club in February 2013 they were sat eighteenth in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League table and were looking nervously over their shoulders at the relegation zone.
Wade led them to safety that season, before overseeing a complete restructure of the playing squad, with the emphasis on putting together a younger squad.
In the seasons that followed Spartans finished eighth in 2013/14 and sixth in 2014/15, a season when they made national headlines with an epic FA Cup run that took the famous giantkillers to the third round of the competition.
This season they led the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League for a large proportion of the season, only succumbing to an inspired run from eventual champions Darlington in the closing weeks of the season.
And now with a play-off semi-final defeat at the hands of Workington ending their hopes of making it into the Vanarama National League North, Wade admitted that it is now down to the club as a whole to make the next step, one that he called “a big one”
“It’s been a very long season for us, and you’d have to say they were that bit hungrier than us. I don’t think either of us played any football. They looked a bit sharper and their three lads up top were excellent.
“It’s disappointing but this level is probably where we are at the moment. When I came here three-and-a-half seasons ago it was to make us a competitive Northern Premier League side, which we are now.
“The next step is a big one, if that’s with or without me that’s up to the club, but we have to use this as a springboard for next season and let’s get up there again.”
A flash of lightening and a rumble of thunder met the two sides at Croft Park ahead of the game.
It could be said that it gave notice of the epic ninety minutes that was to follow.
A Scott Allison goal ten minutes before half time put Workington ahead, before Spartans midfielder Sean Reid levelled the game going into half time.
Allison went on to complete his hat-trick with two quick-fire goals as he took advantage of some sloppy Spartans defending and gave a display of ruthless finishing to put his side 3-1 up.
However Spartans did not give up and got themselves back on level terms as defender Dillon Morse and striker Dan Maguire (pictured left) produced two goals inside six minutes to seemingly send the tie into extra time.
As they searched for a winner in normal time Spartans succumbed to late defeat after a 90th minute winner by Robert Wilson.
The Reds midfielder lashed home at the far post, leaving two Spartans players sprawling and keeper Adam McHugh in the back of the net with the ball as he was met by the 150 supporters that had made the journey from Cumbria.
And Spartans boss Wade admitted that the visitors were able to produce something that his side couldn’t.
“We fought really well but we were hit on the break; other than that I thought it was a pretty even game,” said Wade.
“I thought we defended badly and they defended really well, and their keeper has saved them at the end. I think we matched them all over, but they turned their magic on and we didn’t like we normally do”
Article: Mark Carruthers