By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Evo-Stik Premier League
Saturday October 8 2016
Blyth Spartans 3-0 Mickleover Sports
Spartans’ scintillating first half display saw them end their five-game winless run on Saturday – as Alun Armstrong claimed his first victory as Blyth boss with a 3-0 triumph over Mickleover Sports.
Luke Armstrong was the lucky benefactor from Nathan Buddle’s header – as it was diverted into the goal via the leg of the manager’s son – before Matty Pattison produced a spectacular finish to put the hosts 2-0 up after just 22 minutes.
Jarrett Rivers profited from a dreadful defensive mix-up five minutes later to wrap up Spartans’ first three points in four Evo-Stik Premier League clashes, meaning Pattison’s penalty miss had no bearing on the result.
Blyth had failed to get out of the blocks during Tuesday’s 0-3 defeat against Warrington Town, but they flew out of the traps straight from the whistle and dominated the game’s opening exchanges.
Referee Shane Sugden made sure he would stand for no nonsense either when, within 60 seconds of the start of the game, Kevin Grocott caught Robert Dale late. The Mickleover midfielder was told, in no uncertain terms, that this was his one chance and he would receive no more.
Dale then found Pablo Mills wanting for pace down the left, before his cross was deflected behind for the first of a succession of corners in the first five minutes.
That resulting corner saw Buddle found free in the box. His first effort was blocked, but his second attempt had to be clawed off the line by Jake Eastwood and lifted over the bar to safety.
Pattison tried his luck from a free-kick, but a deflection for yet another corner led to the game’s opening goal.
Buddle was once again picked out at the back post from Pattison’s corner and powered a header down towards goal. While Spartans have been short of luck in recent weeks, there fortunes improved when the ball bounced onto Armstrong’s leg and nestled in the back of the net.
If Spartans were lucky with their first goal, then their second strike seven minutes later was a thing of real quality.
Pattison picked up the ball 25 yards from goal and unleashed an unstoppable rocket at goal, which gave Eastwood no chance – as it bounced in off the post to give the former South Africa international his fifth of the season.
While Armstrong profited from being in the right place at the right time, he was desperately unlucky not to double his tally on 24 minutes. The young forward turned his man and tried to curl one inside the far post, but his shot went just wide.
With Spartans completely in the ascendancy by this point, Sports were failing to deal with the pressure and it showed – as Blyth scored their third goal three minutes before the half-hour mark.
Dale had tried to pick out Sean Reid at the back post with a cross that had Eastwood panicking. A defensive mix-up between the goalkeeper and Mills saw the defender tap the ball down straight into the path of Rivers, who was left with the simplest of tasks to roll the ball into an empty net.
Reid then nearly made the most of another Mickleover mess up on 32 minutes – as he ran onto Tom Burgin’s poor header back to get himself in one-on-one in the box. Reid tried to pick his spot but was denied by a fantastic save by Eastwood, who had spread himself well to save with his foot.
Burgin then made another mistake at the back two minutes, when the Mickleover captain caught Buddle in the box while trying to clear the ball. However, he had his goalkeeper to thank once again – as Eastwood got down well to his left to keep out Pattison’s penalty.
Armstrong gained possession of the ball from another suspect back-pass moments after that and cut in between the two Sports centre-backs. Despite looking certain to score, Eastwood – who was obviously still buoyed by his spot-kick save two minutes earlier – was able to produce yet another instinctive stop.
With Spartans well on top, Reid was unlucky not to join his team-mates on the score-sheet with six minutes left of the first half – as he fired one just wide of Eastwood’s right post.
Mickleover came out to try and play themselves back into the contest in the second half, but it was Blyth that went closest to extending their advantage with the first real chance after the break.
A lovely bit of possession football from the home side ended up with Armstrong trying his luck inside the box, under pressure from two members of the opposition. However, his goal-bound effort was blocked behind before Eastwood needed to be called into action.
Mickleover continued to work hard and their efforts were nearly rewarded with a goal, when former Crystal Palace, Birmingham City and Republic of Ireland striker Clinton Morrison played the ball back to John McGrath at the edge of the Blyth box. McGrath tried to curl an audacious effort into the top corner, but it was blocked behind for a corner.
While it was all-action in the first 45, the second half was less inspired for those in attendance at Croft Park and chances were at a premium, while the most action seemed to come from the whistle of Sugden.
However, with the game approaching the final 15 minutes, Blyth turned on the style once again and should really have seen their fantastic counter-attacking football rewarded with a fourth goal.
Great link-up play between Armstrong and Reid saw the former play a ball across the box to the 24-year-old. Reid tried to place it into the bottom corner, but yet another block denied Spartans from scoring.
A result that finally saw Blyth return to winning ways for the first time since a 1-0 win over Marine on September 13 will certainly give Armstrong’s side added confidence, ahead of Tuesday’s tough trip to Matlock Town.
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Cartwright, Liddle, Buddle, Hutchinson, Wade, Rivers, Pattison (Turnbull 69), Armstrong (Nicholson 75), Reid, Dale (Richardson 82).
Subs not used: Bell, Pell.
Mickleover Sports: Eastwood, Bennet, Turner, McGrath, Mills, Burgin, Grocott (Baskerville 60), Broadhead (Belgrave 46), Morrison, Litchfield, Schofield.
Subs not used: Dales, Dickinson.
Referee: Shane Sugden
Spartans Man of the Match: Robert Dale
Blyth Boss Pleased With Spartans’ Reaction To Dressing Room Dressing Down in Mickleover Massacre
Alun Armstrong finally recorded his first victory as Blyth Spartans manager at the third time of asking, in what he described as an “outstanding” 3-0 win over Mickleover Sports.
Spartans had not won in five games in all competitions since their 1-0 triumph over Marine on September 13, but goals from Luke Armstrong, Matthew Pattison and Jarrett Rivers saw Blyth claim an invaluable three points – as the club rose back up to fourth place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
And following his strong words about their woeful performance in the 3-0 reverse against Warrington Town, the 41-year-old was delighted with the response he received from his players – as he claimed the first win of his managerial career.
Armstrong said: “It feels brilliant to have my first win and it was justified. I thought we were outstanding in the first half and were everything we weren’t against Warrington.
“I told them exactly what I thought – everyone’s seen that – and I asked them for a response. As I said to the lads, I’ll be honest with them.
“If they put the effort in, they’ll get all the praise like they have for this result. If they don’t then they’ll get the rollickings that they deserve.”
Armstrong’s decision to come out and criticise his players following Tuesday’s disappointing defeat split the Spartans supporters, with half praising his honesty and half stating that he was wrong to lay into his players so soon into his managerial reign.
However, the man himself has stated that he will continue to be honest with his players, be it good or bad – as he feels that he will get more from them that way and Saturday’s result has proved that.
Armstrong explained: “I’ve said before that I’ll be honest and I’m not going to lie to people. What would be the point in that?
“They’re not going to get any better if I just paper over the cracks and say ‘it’s alright, we’ll do it next time. Unlucky lads.’ What’s the point in that?
“I’ve got to tell them where I think they are and I’ve got to tell them the truth, otherwise we won’t get any better. If we’re big enough – and we should be – we’ll take it on the chin, move on and work on it.
“I worked on something in the training session on Thursday night, where the lads weren’t allowed to pass the ball backwards. It was something as simple as that, yet we’ve reaped the rewards from it against Mickleover.
“I will be harsh on the lads if they don’t put the work in; you have to be to get the response and that result showed me what the response was. Some of the fans maybe thought I was a bit harsh on the lads, but you come and watch that game there and you see what you get.
“That’s what I’m looking for and that’s the standards that the lads have to start producing week in and week out. If they don’t, then we need to fix it.
“After that result, the lads can go home with their heads held high. I’ll heap loads of praise on them – as I though every single one of them was outstanding and I can’t fault them.
“If they take that when things are going well, then they have to expect a bit when it doesn’t goes so well – as you can’t have it both ways.”
Despite coasting to a 3-0 lead within the first half-hour of the match, Armstrong still knew that Spartans had a job to do after the break and was pleased with what he saw from his side in the second half as well.
Armstrong added: “To be fair to them, the first 45 minutes were really good and we should have been 6-0 ahead at half-time. That’s not taking anything away from the lads, but we missed a penalty, the keeper’s saving things, shots are getting deflected away and no one could have complained if we had been 6-0 ahead.
“You’ve got to be very careful at half-time in those type of games though – as you know they’re going to come out in the second half and have a go. I knew we couldn’t keep that up for 90 minutes, because we’d had a lot of the ball and our intensity was really high.
“We knew they were going to have a spell, so I just told the lads to go and see it through, keep them out and win the game. So, my main objective for the second half was just to keep a clean sheet and I thought the lads did exceptionally well.”
While every member of the side covered themselves in glory against Mickleover, the Spartans’ manager reserved special praise for midfielder Matthew Wade – after the 24-year-old returned to the starting line-up for the visit of Sports.
Armstrong said: “I have to give special praise to Wadey. I thought he was outstanding.
“Some people might question me for saying that, but the ugly stuff he did in the game was different class. He’s pinching the ball off the front man’s feet, he’s intercepting passes and stopping the balls going through to their forwards.
“People don’t see that though and think you just have to look pretty on the ball. The stuff he did off the ball was fantastic, so I think he fully justified the decision to put him in there.”
The gaffer’s praise didn’t end there either – as he laid the plaudits on Wade’s central midfield partner and second goalscorer Matty Pattison.
The former Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough striker said: “That’s the best I’ve seen Patto play. He was doing things that I wanted him to do and that he’s capable of.
“He was running at people, he’s not coming back and playing backwards or sideways balls. He’s getting the ball, running at the opposition and playing people in.
“He was rewarded with the great goal that he scored and we need to get that from him consistently.”
Having brought an end to the club’s recent run of four defeats and a draw with a convincing win, Armstrong is now looking forward to taking his side to Matlock on Tuesday – as he hopes they can build on Saturday’s success and the result can inspire the start another winning spell for Spartans.
Armstrong said: “Obviously, I’m pleased with them for a great win and I’m really pleased for the fans, to get a result for them too. We’ve got the three points, so now we can move forward and start looking to the next game.
“Now I know what I’ve got, it’s up to me to start keeping the results coming. We’ll keep getting results if they keep playing like that.
“It’s all about high energy, keeping the ball and moving the ball quickly, but with a purpose. There’s no point playing backwards or sideways all the time, we need to get the ball forward as much as we can.
“When we score, we look like a totally different team. The confidence goes up and everyone wants the ball, so it’s imperative we get the first goal.
“I’m quite positive in that sense. After that, I’m really looking forward to Tuesday – as the lads can go out with their heads held high and, hopefully, they’ll produce another great performance against Matlock.”