Despite a hugely impressive opening to the new season by his side Blyth manager Mick Tait wasn’t getting carried away.
The Spartans earned a 1-1 draw at title favourites AFC Telford and although he conceded that Blyth could have won the game and, indeed were the side mostly likely to do so, he thought that the Bucks were the better side.
Indeed he told their manager Rob Smith what a good team he had at the final whistle.
This prompted Smith to retort, “If he thinks that he must be on a different planet!”
Well, if Tait is indeed on a different planet is could be Saturn as the Spartans, at times, ran rings round their opponents in midfield.
Tait started the game with a positive 4/3/3 formation with newcomer John Alexander in the middle up front supported by Adie Webster on the right and Robbie Dale on the left.
“We set ourselves up to compete with a side who will be in the running for promotion,” he said. “We knew it was going to be a tough game and that we had to stifle them but at the same time get at them when we could. I was very pleased how well we played in the first half but we had to change things around when Dale was injured just before half time.”
Dale had put Blyth into the lead in the third minute after Andy Leeson played a well judged ball up the wing to Webster who beat the fullback and crossed for Dale to cheekily back heel the ball past the non-plussed Young in the home goal.
“That’s the kind of thing you get from Robbie, he’s capable of pulling off the unexpected” commented Tait. “But he was struggling when Telford equalised after the half hour and we couldn’t afford to concede again so I had to replace him with Simon Todd and reshape our set-up for the second half with Michael Tait tucking in on the left and Webster doing the same on the right with Alexander the lone front man.”
With the new formation Blyth continued to have the better of the play and the clearer opportunities to score, Telford being restricted to long-range efforts.
“I was delighted about that,” Tait said. “Mark Bell in our goal didn’t have to make a proper save with the lads in front of him blocking Telford’s shots. The only one that got through was the effort they scored from.”
Deft and thoughtful passing in the middle of the pitch saw Blyth playing in triangles and with a geometrical precision that would have had Pythagoras donning a green and white scarf out of respect.
Tait suggested that his approach of how to play the game was vindicated following poor pre-season friendly results but in which Blyth’s passing game was being honed.
“Playing football that way can cost you goals but we’ve persevered and I knew that eventually we’d stop making mistakes. We also showed on Saturday that we can successfully adjust the manner in which we play to suit new circumstances and different teams.”
John Alexander gained confidence as the game progressed and his boss was impressed with the young former Billingham Town striker.
“This League is going to take him some getting used to but John did extremely well against Telford. We’ve seen glimpses in pre-season of what he can do but, especially late on in Saturday’s game his strength, work rate and ability were there to see. He’s becoming more and more relaxed and with that he will continue to improve.
“ I thought he would tire and need to be replaced but he told me he was fine so I didn’t use any substitutes due to that and the general way we were going about things.”
The extent of Dale’s knee injury should be ascertained soon. “We’re keen to have it scanned as soon as possible,” said Tait.
“He aggravated the injury on Saturday and if it is cartilage trouble he could be out for a while.”
Tait is looking ahead to Tuesday’s home tie with Southport.
“We know what we’re in for – another hard game. I don’t know if they are better than Telford or not but we will need to show the same application and commitment as we did on Saturday combined with a little more attacking emphasis. We aim to be a bit more dominant. I’m also hoping we get a good crowd in to support the lads.”
Tait has been around long enough not to be lulled into any false sense of security on the back of one good result.
Despite what anyone, opposition manager or otherwise, might say he has his feet firmly planted on mother earth.