Blyth Spartans ease to their seventh win of the year

Blyth Spartans' Jarrett Rivers.
Blyth Spartans' Jarrett Rivers.
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Blyth Spartans extended their winning run to seven games in 2017 with a comfortable 5-0 win over second bottom Ilkeston FC.

Jarrett Rivers headed in within the first five minutes to set the Evo-Stik Premier League leaders on their way, before skipper Robert Dale produced a truly stunning goal that only he can just before the break.

Rivers struck again following the restart, before substitutes Adam Wrightson and Daniel Maguire both struck within seven minutes of their double introduction as Spartans made plain sailing of seeing off their Derbyshire opponents, who are still without a win since October.

Despite scoring his 100th goal in the 4-1 triumph over Matlock Town seven days ago, Maguire was named on the bench as Jordan Laidler made his first start since arriving at the club.

Dale’s starring role in last Saturday’s win saw him return to the starting line-up, with Wrightson making way for the Spartans skipper.

Rivers had been in fine form throughout January and the tricky winger produced a lovely piece of play to release David Atkinson with four minutes on the clock. The right-back drilled a cross in, but Dante Leverock was able to hack it away to safety.

Blyth were not to be denied for long, though, as they took the lead just 60 seconds later with their first real chance of the game.

Dale got past Connor Walters with ease and dinked the ball towards the back post. The unlikely figure of Rivers met the ball in the air and looped a header past the desperate hand of Dale Eve.

The vocal Spartans support chanted out the name of Stephen Turnbull on the 15-minute mark to the theme tune of Spongebob Squarepants, no less, following the news he is leaving the club, but the departing midfielder nearly grabbed an assist from his resulting free kick.

Eve made a mess of the cross when he went to collect, which presented the ball to Luke Armstrong with his back to goal. The striker tried an audacious overhead kick, but could not keep his effort down.

Laidler was then played in two minutes later but opted against shooting and played a cross over to Armstrong at the back post instead. The 20-year-old stretched to get his foot on the ball but was unable to get enough of a touch to divert it towards goal.

Ilkeston had essentially been spectators for the first 18 minutes before Danny Gordon called Paul Woolston into action. But his shot produced nothing more than a routine stop from the on-loan Newcastle United goalkeeper.

Spartans responded by racing straight up the other end from Woolston’s kick out. Dale struck a low drive from the edge of the area but Eve got down well to hold the shot.

Blyth had found it rather straight-forward from the first whistle, but they were nearly caught cold at the back on 26 minutes when Anthony Dwyer picked up a loose pass and had a run towards goal. The striker played the ball over to Brandon Clarke but he blasted it well wide.

It was then nearly a case of déjà vu for Spartans just after the half-hour mark when Dale’s dinked cross was clawed away off the head of Rivers by Eve. The ball made its way back to Dale and the winger put a low ball back in, but Armstrong’s first-time effort was blocked at his feet.

Armstrong went close once again on 38 minutes when he headed Turnbull’s corner at the back post, but Eve was at his best to tip the ball over.

The Ilkeston stopper had been at his best to deny the 20-year-old, but he could only stand and watch the ball go into the back of his net once again five minutes later after a fantastic goal from the magician that is Dale.

Following a routine throw-in from Andrew Cartwright, the 32-year-old hit a speculative half-volley on the turn that deceived Eve as it rocketed into the back of the net off the upright.

In a coincidental occurrence, both sides replaced a D Atkinson at the break as Jordan Watson made his first appearance since rejoining the club from Darlington 1883 and Tevahn Tyrell took the place of the Ilkeston midfielder. Watson went to left-back, with Cartwright switching flanks to his more familiar position.

Within six minutes of his introduction, Watson tried his best to mark his return with a goal as his driving run opened up a chance at the edge of the Robins’ area. However, his shot was blocked away.

Just 60 seconds later, Armstrong thought he had finally got the better of Eve whe he was released inside the area, but the Ilkeston stopper produced a good stop to thwart the youngster once more.

As had been the case just before the break, an Eve save was swiftly followed by another Spartans goal as Rivers doubled up on 53 minutes.

Dale’s fantastic ball from halfway perfectly found Armstrong, who played the ball to the feet of Rivers. The winger turned in space inside the area and fired a fierce shot in off the underside of the bar.

A double change on the hour then saw the visitors change their front pairing as Laidler and Armstrong made way for Maguire and Wrightson.

And Alun Armstrong’s decision paid dividends within a minute as a Turnbull cross ended with Wrightson finding the back of the net via a deflection with his first touch of the ball.

Things got even better for Blyth on 67 minutes, when Maguire got in the action as well. Dale aimed a corner towards the near post, where the striker was able to lose his marker and nod in past a despairing Eve to wrap up another emphatic win for Spartans.

With their lead at the top now extended to nine points, Blyth will look to make it eight wins in a row when they travel to Warrington Town on Tuesday night.

Blyth Spartans: Woolston, David Atkinson (Watson 46), Cartwright, Mullen, Hutchinson, Buddle, Rivers, Turnbull, Laidler (Wrightson 60), Armstrong (Maguire 60), Dale. Subs not used: Pell, Bell.

Attendance: 389.