It has been said many times, and by numerous observers, that Blyth Spartans’ inscrutable midfielder/forward Robbie Dale blows hot and cold.
On a day when gales buffeted the Spartans’ Croft Park Dale blew hot. In fact he blew as hot as a Sahara storm.
Arguably playing his most consistent and effective game in a Blyth shirt Dale blew Alfreton away after taking the wind of the visitors’ sails with a cheeky goal after 19 minutes.
The Derbyshire side had arrived in Blyth pushing for a play off spot in the league but a resurgent home side, with Dale at the forefront, deservedly beat them 2-0 with the second goal also courtesy of Dale.
Spartans’ manager Mick Tait was pleased with his side’s showing as well as that of Dale.
“Yes, we deserved the three points. The only pressure Alfreton put us under was in the final 15 minutes when we sat a little too deep but we were desperate to hang on for a victory. We always expected that they would have a good spell but we defended better than of late and performed well as a more solid unit.”
Tait agreed that Dale, voted Man of the Match, did extremely well.
“Robbie can play like that. It’s just that he can have two great games then tail off. He just needs to be more consistent.
“Dropping him last week probably spurred him on as he hates missing games. But he’s not immune to being left out, much the same as any of my players. We have a strong squad and I won’t be afraid to leave anyone out if they’re not performing at their best.”
Dale’s first goal saw him quickly react to a defensive lapse, pouncing on the ball, striding towards goal and purposely stroking the ball home.
Tait commented, “Robbie reads the game so well. He susses things out, keeps a close eye on defenders and that’s what won him his goal. But he can also pick out the right pass and see the runs of others and deliver precise passes.”
He certainly did that at the weekend with great gusto.
Blyth’s second goal, after 61 minutes was a spectacular 20-yard drilled effort from wide on Blyth’s right.
Tait recounts how his assistant Adam Saddler was screaming to Dale, as the ball was coming across him, ‘technique, technique, technique!’
Dale duly obliged showing accomplished technique but also flair in contemplating such a strike and indeed composure in effecting it.
Despite already having a gale blowing at him the visitors’ goalkeeper Craig Dootson must have also felt an added rush of wind as Dale’s shot whistled past him at breakneck speed.
In fact the winds of change blew through Tait’s team selection.
“I watched the weather forecast on Thursday and decided that if there were to be gales
for the match I needed a more workmanlike side on the pitch rather than the pure footballing team of last week. We needed to be more solid and strong at the back so I left out Josh Gillies and Simon Todd both of whom are special players. Adrian Webster held us together in front of the back four. And we proved to be more gritty in terms of our defending than of late.”
Another player who had been dropped for the previous game – goalkeeper Mark Bell, was given a chance to impress when Craig Turns reported in ill. Tait was impressed with Bell’s reaction to his disappointment by, in his manager’s words, “making a couple of good saves, catching well, sweeping up well behind his back four and getting into good starting positions.”
Tait also had sympathy for striker Paul Brayson who he brought off towards the end.
“Paul was very disappointed to have to come off but we needed more powerful running up front at that point of the game and John Alexander could bring us that, chasing long balls into the corners and put their defenders under pressure plus, to be honest, we didn’t really give Paul much service on Saturday.”
The afternoon, which belonged to Robbie Dale ably supported by grafting colleagues and alongside their manager’s thoughtful planning, suggested that Blyth’s future success was clearly more in their own hands than merely blowing in the wind.