Blyth find top gear

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IN their 200th game in the Conference North, Blyth Spartans FC produced an unbelievable second half display at Rivacre Park to banish any memories of their last visit to the ground, where they suffered a 5-1 defeat in the FA Cup back in September.

Vauxhall Motors were cruising when Obi Anoruo and Leighton McGivern fired them in to a 2-0 lead, but John Alexander halved the deficit on the stroke of half-time before the wheels well and truly came off for the hosts as the visitors ran riot after the interval.

Robbie Dale terrorised the Vauxhall defence and was involved in every one of Blyth’s second half goals, with Stephen Turnbull and Alan White netting either side of a Paul Brayson hat-trick.

Aside from the eight-goal thriller, it was an eventful day all round with the Spartans team bus taking a wrong turn en route to the ground, and then making a trip to A&E afterwards to pick up midfielder Neal Hooks who had sustained a head injury on the half hour mark.

Hooks was caught by a flailing arm in an accidental collision and suffered a cut below his right eye, which thankfully looked a lot worse than it actually was.

He said. “I was feeling a bit groggy and my eye had swollen up but I didn’t need any stitches.”

Blyth started the contest well and half chances through Nicky Deverdics and Michael Tait suggested the away side would draw first blood.

But instead it was the hosts who took the lead on 24 minutes when Anoruo cut in from the left and fired a fierce shot past Dan Lowson from 20 yards.

Vauxhall moved through the gears after their opening goal and came close to scoring a second when a Josh Wilson header was cleared from the goalmouth by Deverdics.

Injury to Hooks meant Mick Tait had to reshuffle the pack with Alexander coming on to partner Brayson up front with Deverdics dropping back into midfield.

Turnbull and White then came close to scoring for Blyth, and Brayson had the ball in the net only for the assistant to flag for offside.

Vauxhall then gave their opponents what looked like a mountain to climb on 44 minutes when McGivern raced clear to finish coolly past Lowson.

Spartans responded immediately when a Phil Cave free kick was helped on by Chris Swailes and Alexander finished with a neat header on his 50th appearance for the club.

This gave Blyth renewed hope of getting a result from the game, but nobody could have predicted what was to unfold in the second period.

It was one-way traffic after the break and the visitors were in the driving seat from the moment they found an equaliser on 47 minutes.

Dale and Alexander combined down the right and Brayson looked poised to tap in before being bundled over by Andy Taylor in the area, but this proved academic as Turnbull was on hand to finish from close range.

Brayson then got on the score sheet after a six-game goal drought when he slotted home on 55 minutes following good work from Dale and Michael Tait.

After this Spartans never looked like surrendering their advantage and basically set up camp in their opponents half for the remainder of the game.

Dale was simply irrepressible and it was his magnificent pass which led to Blyth’s fourth.

Brayson’s first touch was equally impressive and he managed to evade two challenges before firing low and hard past Scott Tynan in the Vauxhall goal.

Brayson then completed a 17-minute hat-trick with Dale the architect once more when he found the striker in the area, who simply dinked the ball over the exposed Tynan.

It was then the defenders’ turn to get in on the act as Swailes headed down a Dale free kick for White to poke home from close range with 16 minutes remaining.

Three minutes later Blyth thought they had scored a seventh when Alexander pounced on a ball spilled by Tynan and tapped in, but the assistant denied the visitors for the second time in the match.

Liam O’Mahoney was probably the last player Vauxhall wanted to see entering the pitch on 81 minutes to replace Tait, and his array of tricks and skills were appreciated fully by Blyth’s travelling support.

His delivery from a corner almost provided a second for White but the defender headed inches over from six yards.

The referee brought an end to a contest that would have been halted long before his stopwatch beeped if it had been a boxing match.

Ironically Blyth once again only played to their capabilities for 45 minutes, but what a half of football they displayed.

Blyth Spartans: Lowson, Buchanan, Cave, Tait (O’Mahoney), Swailes, White, Hooks (Alexander), Turnbull, Brayson, Deverdics, Dale

Attendance: 159.