Despite having already seen his side crowned Evo-Stik Premier League champions, Blyth Spartans manager Alun Armstrong has still set himself a target of 100 points for the season.
Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Ashton United put Spartans on 95 points from 44 games. With only two games left before the end of the season, Armstrong’s men must take maximum points when they welcome Whitby Town and Grantham Town to Croft Park if they are to better last season’s total of 99 points.
However, the 42-year-old has even more reason than that when instructing his players to reach a century of league points this term – as he wants to end his first season in management on a high.
Armstrong explained: “Ashton was a strange one; playing games that now don’t really mean anything, but actually they do. We want to win every game we play.
“Our aim is to reach 100 points, so we want to win our last two games. If we can finish on a high, we can go into next season with that winning mentality.”
Spartans went ahead at Ashton thanks to a first half header from Nathan Buddle, but the visitors were pegged back after the break when Ryan Crowther hit a fierce rocket past Paul Woolston just after the hour mark. Armstrong revealed that he thought Blyth’s first half display should have put them out of sight, but he had no complaints about the final score.
The Blyth boss added: “It took us a while to get going on a really bumpy pitch, but we went on to batter them in that first half and could have had the game won by being four or five up by half time. We really could have had the game put to bed.
“To be fair, Ashton’s goal was a great finish. However, it came after poor defending from us initially.
“After that, the game could have gone either way. We struggled to get our tempo back to the first half levels, but you can’t complain.
“It’s a point away from home and you have to accept that.”
Blyth’s cause was not helped by being forced into changing central defenders Ryan Hutchinson and Buddle during the game with injuries. However, Armstrong is hopeful to have the pair back for Monday’s visit of playoff chasers Whitby – along with fellow defender Jordan Watson.
Armstrong continued: “We took Hutchy and Budds off as precautions, really. They both picked up little injuries but, fingers crossed, they should be OK for the Whitby game – as should Jordan Watson, who’ll be available again for what will be a much tougher game.”
With the league already won, Spartans supporters couldn’t help but arrive at Hurst Cross in party spirit. However, with the added bonus of seeing a huge swarm of Mexican bandits descend on Ashton, Armstrong was obviously delighted with the support Blyth received at the weekend.
The former Stockport County, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town striker said: “Our fans at Ashton were outstanding! The atmosphere they can produce is ten times better that at professional clubs, plus everyone can celebrate together after a game like Saturday’s.
“At Ashton, the supporters, players and managers were all singing and dancing together. It gives the players a buzz that you don’t get in the professional game.”