It has been a long time coming but after a wait of over five and a half months Blyth Spartans finally grabbed an away win in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
As an added bonus, Tom Wade’s side took three points from play-off rivals King’s Lynn Town, their first win on the road since the 2-1 success at Barwell in late September.
Robbie Dale was the match winner with a 67th minute header, but in reality this was a win secured by a team performance with every player in green and white playing their part.
There was one change from the previous Saturday’s home draw against AFC Fylde with Damen Mullen returning at right back in place of Ryan Cummings.
The former Bishop Auckland youngster took a knock in training on Tuesday and was ruled out of the long journey to Norfolk.
An explosive start to the game saw both sides have golden chances to take the lead, and Spartans could have been three up before the clock ticked past the ten-minute mark.
Just four minutes in Dan Maguire was released in on goal and forced a fine save out of Ashley Timms, the loose ball ran to Matty Wade on the edge of the box but he saw his low drive diverted wide by a brave block from Linnets captain Ryan Clarke.
The home side’s first chance came a minute later but Jason Lee could only head over from an out-swinging David Bell corner.
Spartans had a great chance moments later and arguably could have had a penalty.
Arran Wearmouth turned away from experienced defender Peter Bore but fired over from ten yards, although the hosts’ defender had two hands wrapped around the Spartans winger.
The final chance of the lively opening came saw Maguire drag a shot wide after a pinpoint Mullen through ball.
The pressure continued from Wade’s side, who were visibly buoyed by their impressive start.
Maguire’s driven corner was met firmly by Wade but his strong header forced an impressive save out of Timms.
Wade was at the heart of the action midway through the half as he met a Danny Parker flick but saw his header run narrowly wide of the far post.
Finally the game settled down with Spartans looking confident in possession without really pressuring the goal, and the final chance of the half fell to the home side ten minutes before the interval.
A driven long ball from left back Jordan Yong released Massiah McDonald in on goal but a poor touch allowed Grant to put the striker under pressure and he sliced his shot badly wide.
The opening period of the second half was all about the home side with Grant proving a constant frustration for Gary Setchell’s side.
The Spartans keeper made a superb double save to deny Hall, with Lewis Horner making a brave block to deny Mulready on the follow up.
The loose ball ran to McDonald but his delicate and imaginative chip fell just wide of Grant’s far post.
On the hour mark George Thomson was the next to test Grant but he was up for the challenge and saved well from the Linnets defender’s 20-yard drive.
The decisive moment of the game came on 67 minutes with a neat interchange between Maguire and the newly arrived Paul Robinson.
Maguire latched on to Robinson’s flick and curled an effort on to the far post. The loose ball ran out wide to Mullen who took one touch before whipping a fantastic cross into the area towards Dale. The winger was under heavy pressure from Ryan Clarke but managed to loop a header towards the far corner that dropped just under the bar for his tenth goal of the season.
The home side in desperation threw on Charley Sanders to add some physical presence to their front line and peppered the Spartans area with an increasingly direct brand of football.
However, the likes of Nathan Buddle and Danny Parker stood up to the challenge winning header after header.
The only chance for the hosts to grab a point fell to Sam Mulready who headed wide from a far post cross.
Learning the lessons of recent dropped points, Spartans saw the game out well, maintaining possession and running down the clock with some intelligent play.
On the whistle there were jubilant scenes from everyone connected with the club.
But those scenes took a sour turn with both sets of players and coaches being involved in a confrontation which neither club will come out of with much credit.
Bu that did not detract from an impressive performance from Spartans on a day when the pressure was on them to get a result.
That result was gained by a complete team performance when everyone from the rock steady Grant right through to the hard-working Maguire and the late graft of substitutes Craig Hubbard, Ash Davis and Robinson sealed a valuable three points.
Next up for Spartans is a home fixture against Skelmersdale United
Spartans’ man of the match was Nathan Buddle
Blyth Spartans: Grant, Mullen, Watson, Buddle, Parker, Wade (Robinson 66), Horner (Hubbard 80), Wearmouth (Davis 73), Maguire, Hooks, Dale. Subs not used: Kendrick, Purewal.