By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Tuesday October 18 2016
Blyth Spartans 3-1 Ilkeston FC
Blyth Spartans extended their unbeaten run to four games – as they saw off Ilkeston FC with a 3-1 win in Tuesday night’s Evo-Stik Premier League meeting at Croft Park.
Matty Pattison reacted quickest to the rebound from Robert Dale’s saved penalty to put Spartans ahead on 61 minutes, before the Blyth captain more than made up for his miss with a superb solo goal three minutes later.
Ilkeston substitute Malachi Lavelle-Moore gave the visitors hope of a share of the spoils with 15 minutes to go, but Luke Armstrong struck in the last minute to secure a third win in four games for the hosts.
Alun Armstrong opted to stick with goal-scoring pair Armstrong and Sean Reid up front, meaning top scorer Daniel Maguire was once again denied a first start since making his return to the side from a calf injury.
Blyth ended Saturday’s game against Hednesford Town well on top and looked set to continue in that vein when Pattison picked the ball up in the Ilkeston half. He struck an early tester at Ross Durrant, but his low drive was always destined to go wide.
In an opening spell that didn’t do any justice to the footballing ability of either side, it took until the 10th minute for the game’s first real chance and it fell the way of the visitors.
Rory Coleman whipped a corner in across the Spartans’ goal, which diverted itself towards Jaylon Bather at the back post. He didn’t appear to know too much about it though – as he could only poke the ball high and wide of the goal.
A fantastic turn and twist by Dale nearly resulted in Reid opening the scoring for the second time inside four days on 14 minutes. The 24-year-old dropped his head to nod the talismanic winger’s cross towards goal, but he got too low and it cleared the bar.
Dale was once again in the mix three minutes later, when he met Pattison’s cross at the far post and headed it back across goal – into the feet of Armstrong. The 20-year-old fired a shot low and hard at goal, but a fantastic reaction stop from Durrant denied him a third goal in four games.
Things didn’t get any better for young Armstrong just shy of the half-hour mark either, when he was booked for simulation – after going down rather theatrically inside the box.
While Armstrong has had his pick of fortunate goals in recent weeks, Reid must have thought his luck was in when the ball presented itself to him in the box – following a defensive mix-up. He managed to slip the ball under the advancing Durrant, but his shot ran just wide of the far post.
Dale had been a thorn in right-back Danny Gordon’s side all night and looked to have finally claimed an assist for the night, when he whipped in a deep cross towards the back post. Pattison and Reid both threw themselves towards the ball, but it just eluded the pair of them.
While Dale was occupying one of Ilkeston’s full-backs, the other advanced down the pitch and tried his luck from 30 yards on 36 minutes. The ball rasped in from the left and across McHugh, but the Spartans stopper was able to dive to his left and push Coleman’s strike past his far post.
Having seen his opposite number have a crack at goal three minutes earlier, Michael Liddle had a go of his own – after battling into the box with the ball at his feet. However, he struck the ball with his unfamiliar right foot and was unable to really test Durrant – as the two sides went in level at the break.
While the start of the second flattered to deceive, it burst back into life on 52 minutes when Ilkeston were awarded a free kick on halfway.
Seeing McHugh off his line, Mark Shelton opted to try and chip him with a quickly taken set-piece. While his effort had McHugh back peddling towards goal, the ball went just over the bar to spare the keeper’s blushes.
That chance obviously spurred Spartans to get going once more – as they went close to an opener of their own 60 seconds later. Pattison drifted in from the right and blasted the ball towards the near post, but Durrant got across well to deny him.
Maguire enjoyed a hero’s welcome when he walked back onto the Croft Park turf for the first time since hobbling off against Spennymoor Town last month. The reaction from the Croft Park faithful obviously gave ‘Nipa’ a lift – as some good play from the forward within a minute of coming on nearly led to a goal.
The substitute picked out Dale perfectly at the back post with a cross from the left and the Blyth captain powered a header at goal. Unfortunately for him though, Durrant was there to keep the ball out with a smart save.
Dale continued to make a nuisance of himself and had the Spartans supporters celebrating on the hour mark when he was brought down by Luis Rose in the box, to give the home side a chance to go ahead from the spot.
The talismanic winger stepped up himself to dispatch the penalty, but his drilled effort was saved by Durrant. Despair turned to joy in an instant for the home side though – as Pattison reacted quickest to the rebound and slotted it past the unlucky goalkeeper.
Spartans’ long-serving skipper didn’t let that penalty miss throw him off his stride though – as he returned to his majestic best just three minutes later, to put Blyth 2-0 up.
Dancing in from the left like only Dale can, he drifted past two in the box to create an opening for himself. Despite facing a tight angle, the 32-year-old finally bested Durrant with a fierce strike that the stopper had no answer to.
Armstrong’s men appeared to be coasting to another win to continue their fine recent form, but Ilkeston popped up with 15 minutes to go to halve the deficit and set up a nervy final spell for the hosts.
Some great play from Anthony Dwyer down the left held the ball up well, which allowed Lavelle-Moore to run onto a lovely weighted through ball. Shooting from the edge of the area, the substitute did well to find the bottom corner with a nice low finish past McHugh.
If fingernails were shorter than normal for the Blyth fans following that goal, then they would have been down to the knuckle when Dexter Atkinson drilled a low cross in from the right with three minutes to go.
The ball somehow avoided everyone and ran through to the far post, where Lavelle-Moore raced to knock it into the net. Despite his best efforts though, a second goal would not present itself to the substitute.
With that crisis suitably avoided, Spartans could have been forgiven for settling for what they had. However, the home side were able to secure all three points in the last minute of the 90 with another fine goal.
Maguire produced a superb piece of play on the left to play in Armstrong. While he might have enjoyed some lucky strikes in recent weeks, there was no hint of fortune about this one – as he fired a lovely effort across Durrant and into the top corner.
Blyth have now claimed 10 points from a possible 12 and will look to extend their unbeaten run to five matches when they welcome Stourbridge to Croft Park on Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Nicholson, Liddle (Cartwright 71), Wade, Buddle, Hutchinson, Pattison (Rivers 75), Turnbull, Armstrong, Reid (Maguire 56), Dale.
Subs not used: Richardson, Caines.
Ilkeston FC: Durrant, Gordon (Walters 46), Coleman, Morris (Lavelle-Moore 62), Baker, Foster, Rose, Shelton, Dwyer, Bather (Atkinson 71), Goddard.
Subs not used: Clarke, Owen.
Referee: Ms Lindsey Robinson
Spartans Man of the Match: Robert Dale