Spartans manager Tom Wade was delighted with match-winner Robert Dale following Blyth’s 2-1 win against Grantham Town, but couldn’t help but reveal his frustration with the two penalties conceded by his side at The South Kesteven Sports Stadium.
Blyth raced to a 2-0 lead midway through the second half thanks to Michael Richardson’s fantastic strike from the halfway line and an instinctive finish from Dale, but they were pegged back instantly after Dale’s goal – after they allowed Danny Meadows to halve the deficit from the spot a minute later.
Peter Jeffries was then sent off following an altercation with a Grantham player in the box in the dying minutes, but Spartans captain Dale kept his cool to save substitute Jamie McGhee’s penalty and win the game for Blyth.
And Wade was delighted with Dale’s determination to lead from the front in a poor performance from the Northumbrian club – after a pre-match discussion with his skipper paid dividends during the game.
Wade said: “It was one of those magical days when Robbie Dale just scores and saves a penalty. It’s what headlines are made of, isn’t it?
“He’s done it before. He did it here at Grantham before, in fact.
“I don’t think he had the best game in the world, but he’s getting better. I had a chat with him before the game and I just explained how important he is in the team, but I didn’t expect him to be that important.
“I think the lads are disappointed that we didn’t play as well as we can, but we have to understand that teams aren’t just going to let us play football.
“They closed us down and they had three on Robbie at times, which should have allowed us to open their team up and move the ball a bit quicker. We didn’t manage that against Grantham, unfortunately, but you don’t want to be going out all guns blazing this early in the season anyway.
“I think we’re in a good place at the moment and we can still get a lot better than where we are.”
Despite Dale’s save, both decisions to award Grantham a spot-kick angered Wade for different reasons – as he feels it just sums up the the fact that his side are just gifting goals to the opposition at present.
Wade said: “It was never a penalty the first one – as it was two yards outside the box, for starters. I thought it was a foul, but it was miles outside the box so that’s disappointing.
“The second one, I didn’t see it. However, when you’re away from home, you have to be squeaky clean and we’re giving teams goals. I don’t think anyone’s created a proper goal against us yet, we’ve gifted them it.
“Teams aren’t ripping us open yet, it’s just bad defending on our part. We’ll solve that though – as I think it’s just a case of getting the right defensive blend to compliment our attacking prowess.”
Dale wasn’t the only one to receive praise from the manager – as Wade insisted that he would have given his Man of the Match award to opening goalscorer Michael Richardson, who produced a similar finish to his audacious goal from halfway against Heaton Stannington in last season’s Senior Cup.
When asked if Richardson ever just scores a tap-in, Wade replied: “Well that’s his problem, he doesn’t and he needs to. I thought he worked unbelievably hard and he was one of our better players.
“He worked his socks off. We’d tried to rest him against Ashton, but he gives you everything.
“We should have went a bit more defensively, but we ended up going more attacking – as I kept the same team as I’d named on Tuesday but, in hindsight, I shouldn’t have.
“Michael’s a workhorse and he scores some special goals. He had a great game and was probably man of the match for me.”
Saturday’s result wasn’t all good news for Blyth’s boss though – as he bemoaned Jeffries’ “terrible” straight red card, which will result in a three-match ban for the Spartans stopper. However, that opens the door for Adam McHugh, who Wade insists can keep his place in the side if he performs during Jeffries’ suspension.
Wade said: “I didn’t see it, but the lads said it was stupid and that’s it. It’s terrible.
“We’ve had the fair play award for the last few years, so I’m disappointed with anything like that – as we were strolling the game. We brought a couple of defensive players on to see the game out and then we shot ourselves in the foot.
“I’m pretty disappointed that the game management was poor, but we’ll get there and we can’t have things like that happening at all. I’ll have a chat with Peter on the quiet, but now he’s going to be out for three games and he’s just given his place up to Adam McHugh.
“Adam’s been waiting around, so he’ll be able to show what he can do and – if he can do well – he’ll keep the shirt and Peter won’t play when he’s back. That’s just how football is.”
Speaking after the 3-3 draw with Ashton United, Wade stated that he would be happy with four points from the bank holiday fixtures against Grantham and Workington. However, even with a win already in the bag ahead of their trip to Cumbria, Wade won’t be settling for a point from Monday’s meeting with last season’s playoff finalists.
He said: “I was always looking for six points from this bank holiday weekend. Workington are on a bit of a poor run, but I’m expecting them to turn the corner – as they’re a good side.
“I thought Grantham were excellent as well. They worked really hard, turned us around at times and really grafted, which we had to compete with.
“At times, we were great on the ball, but we didn’t match their graft and we have to learn from that. We’re learning all the time though and I’m learning as a manager, so we’ll get there soon enough.
“If we get a point against Workington away from home, we’ll be happy. Rest assured though, we’re still going there to win.”