THERE was late drama at Horsfall Stadium as Blyth Spartans were awarded a last-gasp penalty – but Bradford (Park Avenue) keeper Steve Drench pulled off a stunning save to ensure a 1-1 draw.

It brought an end to the home side's three-match losing streak but the point gained was not enough to keep them in second place. They slipped to third in the National League North table as Stockport County leapfrogged them.

The referee’s decision to award the spot kick had the Avenue bench leaping up and down in incredulity. Spartans forward Danny Maguire went down as Conor Branson poked the ball away from the striker’s feet.

The contact looked minimal but referee Barry Lamb gave himself some thinking time before pointing to the spot.

Blyth legend Robbie Dale placed the ball but Drench waited until it was struck before hurling himself to make the save, and as soon as he parried the ball the final whistle was blown.

Avenue manager Mark Bower was far from impressed with the penalty decision.

He said: “It’s a good job that was saved because it was never a penalty in a million years.

“Conor has won the ball cleanly and fairly. We’ve had a lot of those decisions going against us over the last few games but that tends to happen when you’re on these little runs when your luck is out.

“It was important that we got something out of the game. It’s been a difficult week for everyone at the club and in the dressing room (after three straight defeats, the last at home to relegation-threatened FC United of Manchester), and if that penalty had gone in it would have been a travesty.

“I’m immensely proud of the players and a draw was the least we deserved.

"I thought we had done enough to win it and at 1-1, when their player got sent off I felt we would win. We just couldn’t find that bit of quality in those last few minutes to create the chance to get the winning goal.”

Blyth were reduced to ten men when substitute Jarret Rivers launched into a horror challenge on Jamie Spencer. The assistant referee on that side of the pitch raced on to the field of play as players from both sides became involved in a melee.

After the match officials had briefly consulted, a straight red card was shown to Rivers.

Avenue had found themselves chasing the game after Spartans had broken the deadlock in the 26th minute. The home side had dominated the chance count before Sean Reid leapt to net a firm header.

Branson had a key role in the equaliser when his surging run from the back ended with a shot that Blyth keeper Peter Jameson palmed for a corner. Lewis Knight’s flag kick was nodded back by Mark Ross and Branson headed in.