Don’t necessarily believe what you read in the papers. Blyth Spartans manager Mick Tait had this message as he reflected on his side’s 4-1 home defeat to Alfreton Town and the impression that this scoreline was likely to have on readers as they flicked through the Blue Square Bet North results over their Sunday breakfast.
“People looking at that score will get completely the wrong idea about the game,” said Tait.
“With the chances we had we should have scored more than them. We should have scored enough goals to win two games never mind one. It could actually have finished 6-4 to us!”
Tait, however, did concede that his side failed to impress in the first half.
“Alfreton dominated us physically. They were very direct, getting balls into our box at every opportunity, and we didn’t handle it well. We tried to play the ball on the ground in our usual style but it just didn’t happen for us and we got sucked in to their way of playing. It frustrated me and it frustrated the crowd.”
Blyth’s alarming habit of this season – conceding early goals, raised its head once more on Saturday when the visitors took the lead after three minutes with Jake Moult finishing from close range. Tait was very disappointed with another early lapse.
“Too often this year we’ve been chasing games and it puts us on the back foot immediately,” he admitted.
The Spartans went two down on 25 minutes through an own goal before pulling one back with an own goal at the other end after good work from Stephen Turnbull.
The ex-Gateshead midfielder had an excellent game despite being marked out by Alfreton for some special attention.
Tait revealed, “They must have had us watched at Guiseley in midweek because they changed from their usual 4.4.2 formation and put a man on Stephen.”
After the break Blyth came out brightly and within a minute Turnbull picked out Paul Brayson with a cross-field pass, the forward hooked the ball back across goal but Robbie Dale just failed to connect when well placed.
Nevertheless Alfreton extended their lead on 54 minutes when Jake Cunningham, the Blyth goalkeeper, rushed from his goal and brought down an Alfreton forward.
Tait wasn’t convinced of the penalty’s legitimacy.
“The lad sucked Jake into the challenge when he was going down anyway but maybe Jake should been a little more cautious.”
The setback saw Blyth dominate the game and miss chance after chance. Brayson’s curling effort cannoned off the post from 20 yards and shortly afterwards a Turnbull shot also hit the woodwork.
Tait commented, “I said to the lads at half time that we were a better football team than them and that we needed to play the game our way, not theirs. We needed to be brave enough to do that. To their credit they did just that – carving Alfreton open several times. On the law of averages we should have put a few of our chances away.”
Unfortunately for the Blyth boss the law of averages wasn’t playing ball on Saturday.
Tait added, “Their keeper made two unbelievable saves while Jake, for us, had little to do as we restricted them to very few chances.”
Blyth’s admirable efforts were dealt another blow when centre back Chris Swailes was adjudged to have given away a second penalty.
“It was a scandalous decision,” seethed Tait. “The lad dived. Chris saw what he was after and pulled his foot out of the challenge!”
The home side, however, didn’t relent and full back Phil Cave hit the post with a rasping drive on the 80th minute.
By no means does Tait usually show any symptoms of being bipolar but in summarising his feelings, he said that he was very disheartened with the result as well as being very heartened by the second half performance.
As he said, “Playing well in one half is not good enough to win football matches.”
It is this dual personality trait of Blyth at the moment which needs to be addressed.
“ Despite the scoreline, and the first half display, the crowd applauded the lads off at the end – which is great for the players! The supporters understood that we got it wrong in the first half but we did fix it in the second.”
Midfielder Michael Tait suffered an injury to his elbow which could keep him out of Mondays’ clash at Droylsden while fullback Stephen Harrison was replaced against Alfreton with a hip or back problem. Better news for Blyth is that Neil Hooks has recovered from a calf injury and is fit to return.