Saturday was a day for both ghouls and goals.
Blyth Spartans’ Halloween fixture at home to Ilkeston saw a nightmare first half from the home side in a match which ultimately produced five goals, four for the visitors and a consolation reply for Blyth.
Spartans manager Mick Tait was incensed by this team’s showing in the first half which saw them concede three goals in the initial 30 minutes.
“We certainly started very badly,” he said. “I had expected a better response following our FA Cup exit to Telford during the week but we didn’t work hard enough and Ilkeston were able to bombard us with crosses at will. This put us under massive pressure and as they dominated we became a little bit nervy which meant our passes started to go astray and some of our clearances were abysmal.”
“I was very disappointed with how we performed at the beginning of the match but actually we made Ilkeston look better than they were. Everything which could go wrong for us did go wrong” Tait continued.
“Two of their goals came from shots which were heading for throw ins before landing luckily for their players to finish and they had two simple tap ins.”
Ilkeston’s fourth goal was well taken involving the two thorns in Blyth’s side, the impish Duncum who tricked Harrison before crossing for sprightly Amarl Morgan-Smith to treat himself to a hatrick.
“Obviously having Kenny Boyle sent off just before half time didn’t help our cause either,” said Tait.
But he had no complaints about the dismissal.
“Kenny launched himself into the tackle with his feet off the ground and you just cannot go in like that. It was a nasty challenge.”
That said Steve Harrison on the Blyth right played an infield ball to Boyle which lacked the necessary pace meaning Boyle had to try to reach it before Ilkeston’s David Graham or risk a break away. Graham suffered a suspected broken leg.
Although frustrated with first half affairs Tait had praise aplenty for how his side dealt with playing a man short in the second period.
“We worked hard, passed well and created chances. I played with three men up front and we began to put their defenders under pressure. There was no point in sitting back and accepting defeat – we didn’t have anything to gain from that.
“We can’t be a bad team if we can play like that with only 10 men. We’ve got tons of ability in the dressing room, we just need to be more consistent.
“I thought we’d got over the problem of starting slowly but it appears we still need to work on this aspect more to reduce our vulnerability when we’re not applying ourselves enough.”
There are no hair dryers in the Blyth dressing room. Croft Park is no Old Trafford – at least not yet. But even if he was of such a disposition Tait wouldn’t have been throwing them at players. Not even plastic cups were in danger of becoming airborne at the end of Saturday’s match.
“I’m no cup thrower!” suggested Tait. “I did tell them what I thought but I need my players to be positive so I have to be positive too. We have to take the defeat on the chin and get on with things.”
However doing just that in the immediate future, starting at Solihull next weekend, may be hindered by pressure on Tait’s squad.
“I have several players with niggling injuries. These include Robbie Dale who is out for at least four weeks after his operation, plus Adrian Webster’s wife has a new job in Australia so he will be going out there in couple of weeks time while Mark Doninger has left for a two-week trial in Singapore. I’d hoped Josh Gillies would have been OK for the Ilkeston match after taking a heavy knock at Telford bur he wasn’t comfortable in the warm up.”
Doninger’s trial was arranged before he joined the Spartans earlier in the season.
Tait also clarified the matter about whether forward Shaun Reay, who scored twice against Shrewsbury in last year’s FA Cup match, would be returning to Croft Park.
“I didn’t want Shaun to leave us when he went to Shildon. He hasn’t been getting game there and I thought we’d see him on Saturday but it seems like he has gone to Whitby Town. It’s a shame because he might have played against Ilkeston and done well.”
Of all Tait’s injury problems it is the unavailability of Dale which is potentially the most damaging. Dale, known as ‘The Gosforth Magician’ to supporters, provides an unpredictability and sleight of feet which gives any Blyth performance an added dimension and which may just have brightened this year’s Halloween.