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
Spartans Boss Armstrong Suffering With Mixed Emotions Over Ilkeston Result
Spartans manager Alun Armstrong saw his side extend their unbeaten run to four games with a 3-1 win over Ilkeston FC on Tuesday night, but he still couldn’t quite shake the feeling of disappointment at aspects of their performance – after Blyth let their visitors back into the contest late on.
Matty Pattison turned in the rebound from goalkeeper Ross Durrant’s spot-kick save on 61 minutes, before Spartans’ skipper Robert Dale more than made up for his penalty miss with a majestic individual effort just three minutes later.
Ilkeston clawed their way back into proceedings with 15 minutes to go when Malachi Lavelle-Moore reduced the deficit, before he was just inches away from turning in an equaliser with three minutes to go. That miss was then further punished by the hosts – as Luke Armstrong fired home to record a third Evo-Stik Premier League win in four games for Blyth.
Despite his side securing another win to see them claim 10 points from a possible 12, the gaffer’s joy at the result was tinged slightly with a hint of disappointment – after Blyth appeared to ease up after taking a 2-0 lead with 25 minutes to go.
Armstrong explained: “I’m happy with the result, but I’m still disappointed in a way – as we’ve ended up conceding a goal that we should never have conceded.
“It should have been a game that we won at a canter, once we went 2-0 up. We should have controlled the game a lot better than we did and been a bit more professional about it.
“We took our foot off the gas and thought that we’d just keep the ball, but there’s a difference between keeping the ball and just slowing everything down. That allowed them back into the game and we got put on the back foot once they went with virtually four up top.
“We dropped too deep for me, which gave our midfielders a lot of work to do and – as anyone at the match could see – we were looking tired towards the end. I don’t blame them either, because it’s a lot of work for just the two of them in there.
“We got the breakaway goal, which helped settled everyone’s nerves at the end. I’ve got to give the lads credit though – as I thought it was a fantastic performance from the whole team.”
While many players would have dropped their heads after seeing their penalty saved by the goalkeeper, Dale opted instead to atone for his miss with a superb solo goal just three minutes later. Former Ipswich Town striker Armstrong famously scored in two games against Inter Milan in the UEFA Cup back in 2001, but admitted that he’d have been happy to have scored one similar to the man of the match’s audacious strike.
“I would have been proud of that one myself, without a doubt,” Armstrong admitted. “Robbie’s got that in his locker and everyone knows he has, but we’ve not seen much of it so far this season.
“Tuesday night was probably the first time I’ve really seen what he can do and we need more of that from him, to be honest, but we also need the other side as well. He still infuriates you at times – as he’s so good at going forward but, when we went on the back foot, we needed that other side from him.
“It might seem like I’m being a bit picky, but if we do things properly then we can be professional and save ourselves for the next game. We should have just seen the game through and looked forward to Saturday at 2-0 up, but we made hard work of it for ourselves.”
While the goals were worth the wait in the end, Armstrong revealed his frustration was rising as the game remained goalless. However, the Spartans’ boss knew that his not-so-secret weapon on the bench – striker Daniel Maguire – could change the game and that proved to be the case when Blyth opened the scoring within five minutes of Nipa’s introduction.
Armstrong said: “It was so infuriating, because we should have been 2-0 up at half-time. Then, in the second half, chances were coming in but we didn’t get that breakthrough and I thought it was going to be another one of those nights again.
“I knew who I had on the bench though and, when you bring Nipa on, he causes chaos. I just think he gives everyone a massive lift when he comes on and you could see that our intensity lifted, but it was just disappointing that we never went and put the game to bed after those two quick goals.
“I was disappointed with their goal – as it was sloppy from start to finish. It was a good finish from the lad, but he should never have got in there in the first place.”
With Spartans conceding a second sloppy goal inside four days, Armstrong must almost feel that his decision to bring in former Sunderland and Wimbledon defender Darren Holloway in as joint assistant manager earlier this week has been justified – as he now wants his players to see games out and put an end to their defensive mistakes.
Armstrong said: “It was a horrible goal to look at. I’d gone through the Hednesford goal on Saturday with the lads before the game and this one was even worse.
“That’s why I’ve brought Daz in with that side of things – as it does need improving.
“I know what we’ve got going forward and we look really exciting when we move the ball quickly. When we do it, there’s not many teams that can do it better than us and that’s what I’m looking to keep it.
“I can praise the lads to the hilt, because they were fantastic once again. They’ve taken everything on board that I want, but now I’ve just got to try and get that professionalism into them so we can see games out – as games are coming thick and fast.
“It’s tough when you’re working and then you’ve got games Tuesday, Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday etc. I’m trying to help the lads and work with them – in an effort to try and preserve energy for the next game once we get in front.”
With that in mind, Blyth don’t have long to revel in their victory over Ilkeston – as 13th-placed Stourbridge make the long trip up from the West Midlands on Saturday afternoon looking to claim their fourth away win of the season.
When asked if he would be looking forward to taking advantage of home comforts once again this weekend, Armstrong replied: “Yes I will and that’s where we need the supporters as well. You have to try and get maximum points from your home games.
“Teams will come and try to sit – like what Ilkeston did on Tuesday night – and not really come out of the blocks, but then try and catch us out on the counter. We’ve got to move the ball quickly to break teams down, so it makes it that bit harder for us.
“It’s going to be another tough game against Stourbridge. They had a good season last year, so I’m expecting a tough challenge from them.
“However, if we can get the fans behind us and get the lads on the front foot early once again, I’m confident that we’ll get another three points. We have to be patient again and work as hard as we possibly can, if we want to give ourselves a chance.
“The lads know how to win a game now and I know that we’ll nearly always score goals. It’s just making sure that we stop conceding them now.”