Blyth Spartans thumped Ossett Albion 7-1 on Saturday in the second qualifying round of the FA Cup almost exactly ten years to the day since their previous seven goal haul.
A convincing win – sure. A convincing score – certainly. A convincing performance – well not quite, that is according to Blyth manager Mick Tait.
“It wasn’t an all-round great showing” he commented.
“I said to the players afterwards to enjoy their win which was deserved in the end but we didn’t do everything as well I’d hoped.
“We’re not defending well as a team and to compete this season we will need to improve certain aspects of our game and that is one of them.”
The Spartans started the game at a high tempo, something Tait had insisted on from his players after the lethargic showing the previous weekend at Gloucester City.
“I was pleased with the way we pressured them and I though we attacked really well throughout the match,” said Tait.
Missing early chances which fell to Brayson and Brackstone Blyth nearly paid the price and home goalkeeper Craig Turns was called on three times in as many minutes to make excellent saves as the visitors showed they were up for the game.
Tait acknowledged this but used it to emphasise his argument about Blyth’s defensive defects.
“Yes, Craig was excellent but it just goes to show how there are little spells in games where we switch off. It happens often and makes us very vulnerable.”
Tait’s son, Michael, scored to put Blyth ahead before forcing an own goal to put his side 2-0 up at the break.
Poor defending backed up the manager’s concerns allowing the Yorkshire side to pull a goal back in the second half.
Tait rued the indecisiveness of the defence.
“We should have cleared the ball several times before it went in. We need more desire in there to grab these situations and deal with them, everyone seems to have been waiting for someone else to take charge and deal with the pressure. Defending is an aspect of our play we can put right by harder work. Their goal came at a stage of the game where they could have gone on and pegged us back.”
In fact a sending off, a substitution and overall impressive attacking play conspired to see Blyth cruise to victory.
Ossett’s Conner was sent off after pulling back Paul Brayson. Within a minute Michael Tait scored again and then manager Tait brought on Robbie Dale who helped change the face of the tie first crossing for Tait to score his first hatrick in senior football, then playing an exquisite 30-yard crossfield ball which Brayson took down and calmly slotted home. Then, after Ian Graham had scored with a screamer to put Blyth 6-1 up, Dale threaded the ball to fellow substitute John Alexander who was brought down in the penalty box by Ossett’s keeper Neil Bennett and Dale stepped up to blast home the resulting penalty.
Tait accepted that the sending off helped but added, “Against ten men it’s not always easy but we ensured we made the extra man count on Saturday. We’ve got players who can dismantle teams and against Ossett it could actually have been a cricket score in the end.”
He presumably meant, based on recent one-day match results, an Australian cricket score rather than an English one.
Asked about why he had started without the capricious Dale, Tait was clear. “Robbie had a ‘day off’ at Gloucester and he didn’t fit into the system I wanted to start with. He wasn’t happy about only being on the bench but I’m pleased he wasn’t. I wanted him to prove me wrong. I know he can destroy the opposition which is what he did with ten-man Ossett. I told him afterwards that he was outstanding when he went on.”
Commenting on Michael Tait’s game he said that he had played him at right back, in a sitting midfield role and both wide left and wide right already this season but an attacking midfield role is his strength where he can get in the box and score goals.
Looking ahead to next Saturday’s game with Alfreton Tait will be doing his research but that will not be his major focus.
“I’ll be finding out about them over the next few days” he said “but I don’t go overboard about the opposition teams. I will be spending more time on how I think we should play because if we play well we can give anyone a game.”
Former Newcastle reserve player Mark Doninger is still not back to full fitness but may get a place on the bench while New Zealand international Adrian Webster is being eased back to fitness.
Spartans supporters are bound to give special reception to former Blyth centre back, and hero of last season’s FA Cup run, Richard Pell who moved south in the summer to join the Derbyshire club.