Blyth Spartans captain Robert Dale “Knew” he was going to save Grantham Town’s late penalty, despite having being put on the spot in added time following Peter Jeffries’ dismissal.
Dale had already scored his first goal of the season to give Blyth a two-goal cushion, before Town responded a minute later when Danny Meadows sent Jeffries the wrong way with the host’s first penalty of the afternoon.
However, Meadows was subbed off prior to the Spartans goalkeeper’s straight red card for retaliation in added time. Substitute Jamie McGhee stepped up to try and put Grantham’s second penalty past the winger, but Dale guessed the right way and kept the shot out with his legs to seal a win for Spartans.
And the Blyth captain insists that he was more than confident of keeping a fourth clean sheet as an emergency goalkeeper for the club – and his second at The South Kesteven Sports Stadium – having recently had some spot-kick practice in training.
“I knew I was going to save it,” Dale exclaimed. “We had a training session the other week and we just messed about with penalties. I went in and saved about seven out of ten, so I felt pretty confident about saving it.
“Reidy was going to go in nets, but I just told him that I was going to go in.”
Dale was forced to step between the sticks after Jeffries saw red for a coming together with a Grantham player in the box, following a routine stop from a free-kick. The attacker seemed to leave a knee in on the Spartans’ stopper, causing him to take issue and retaliate to earn himself a sending off.
Dale was quick to point out that he didn’t see the incident that led to the red card, but he has tipped Jeffries to learn from his dismissal and improve because of it.
He added: “I didn’t really see what happened with Peter, but we were coasting when we were 2-0 up and I thought it was game over. We conceded a stupid goal to let them get back to 2-1, even though it wasn’t even in the box to start with.
“I don’t know what Peter’s done, but it’s obviously some sort of lash out and you can’t do that. He’s let us down a little bit but, hopefully, he’ll come back stronger after his suspension.”
While Dale claimed all the headlines for his heroics at both ends of the pitch, the Spartans skipper was more interested in discussing Michael Richardson’s fantastic strike that beat the Grantham keeper from the halfway line.
Dale said: “It was basically the same goal as his one at Heaton Stannington last season, but against a lot better team. I mean, you saw him take the touch and the keeper was off his line, so you just knew he was going to go for it.
“Once he hit it, everyone knew it was going in. It was an amazing goal.”
Dale doubled Blyth’s advantage three minutes after the opener, when he instinctively cut out Meadows’ poor back pass and slotted the ball past Jake Turner. While he was happy to have opened his account for this season, the 32-year-old has called on his teammates to ease the burden on star striker Daniel Maguire by finding the net themselves.
Dale said: “It’s always nice to score a goal. I know I won’t score anywhere near as many as I did last season, but I’m just looking for double figures again and it was more important that myself and Michael scored really – as ‘Nipa’ [Daniel Maguire] has scored five already.
“We need him to score a lot this season, but the rest of us still have to chip in as well.”
Blyth face their second away trip of the August bank holiday with a trip to Workington on Monday, but Dale insists that revenge is not on the minds of the players – after the Cumbrian outfit ended Spartans’ promotion chances last season in their playoff semi-final meeting.
“It’ll be up to Tom to make that decision,” Dale joked, when asked if he would be playing on the wing or in goal. “Hopefully, we can get back to normal and get a result with whoever is in goal on Monday.
“I think the win against Grantham has given us a bit of leeway where we don’t have to win, but it would be nice if we could get a win.
“I don’t think revenge is in the mind of the players really. It was a 4-3 game and we couldn’t have done any more on the night.
“They were the better team on the night and the lad up front [Scott Allison] had a great game – as he scored a hat-trick.
“Sometimes, you just have to tip your hat and say ‘fair play’. That’s what this league is all about really.
“It’s a pretty even league – as most teams can beat anybody on their day and some of the results already this season have proved that. There’s a lot of good teams, so you can see why they say it’s a long old season.”