Stafford Rangers 2 Blyth Spartans 2
SUPER sub Dan Cope came off the bench to earn strugglers Staffords Rangers a hard earned point against play-off hopefuls Blyth Spartans.
On a Marston Road mudbath, Rangers took the early initiative and debutant Brian Smirkle found the side-netting after roiunding visiting keeper Connor Grant after just three minutes.
However, Smirkle was instrumental as Rangers grabbed a seventh minute advantage. He got clear down the right and produced the perfect cross for James McCarthy to force the ball home from close range.
Only a timely blocked by Blyth defender Joe Kendrick thwarted Matty Burke as Rangers went close to increasing the lead on ten minutes.
However, Blyth gradually came more into the game and Rob Dale curled in a delightful shot from the edge of the home area to equalise on 23 minutes.
Blyth continjued to press and the home defence was caught out as Danny Parker headed home a 37th minute corner for the lead.
Both sides tired in the heavy conditions and, after Dale struck a post for the visitors, substitute Cope pounced for a Rangers equaliser.
Just four minutes remained when excellent wing play from teenager Alex Curtis, making his first start, set up the chance for Cope to slide in at the near post.
Next up for Rangers in the league is an away game at fellow strugglers Stocksbridge Par Steels on Saturday (3pm).
The draw against Blyth enabled Rangers to draw level on points with Stocksbridge, who have two matches in hand and a far better goal difference.
Smirkle was one of three players making their debut for Rangers against Blyth. The other two being central defenders Lewis Chalmers and Joe Ballinger,who gave solid performances in what were atrocious conditions.
Before the weekend, Rangers entertain Port Vale in the quarter finals of the Staffs Senior Cup on Tuesday night (7.45pm).