Dale strike enough to maintain Spartans’ lead at top

Robbie Dale scores the only goal of the game as Blyth Spartans beat Gantham Town. Picture by Bill Broadley
Robbie Dale scores the only goal of the game as Blyth Spartans beat Gantham Town. Picture by Bill Broadley
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Blyth Spartans continue to lead the way in the Evo-Stik NPL premier division after a strike from Robbie Dale saw off Grantham Town on Saturday.

The skipper scored midway through the first half as the Croft Park faithful saw their side continue their assault on the league title.

Grantham provided the first of the action on a bitter, windy afternoon when Lee Shaw shot from 18 yards, but his effort was collected comfortably by Adam McHugh in the Blyth goal.

From there it was Spartans who went on to have the better of the play for the rest of the opening period.

After ten minutes Michael Richardson found Wilson Kneeshaw in the Grantham penalty box but the forward’s curling effort lacked power and keeper Jake Turner had time to get down and collect the ball.

A minute later Aaron Wearmouth was fouled 20 yards from goal. But Dale’s free kick just eluded Matthew Wade at the far post.

Dale was in the thick of the action soon after as he neatly supplied Wearmouth only for the winger’s low shot to be saved by the feet of Turner.

Blyth’s pressure told on 21 minutes when Wearmouth showed great strength in holding off Ellis Storey and managing to pick out Dale who fired the ball across goal and into the far corner of Turner’s net.

Wearmouth produced another good save from Turner before Grantham came close to equalising when Michael Emmott found himself free of the Blyth defence ten yards fro goal, but he poked his shot over the on-rushing McHugh and the bar.

Kneeshaw and Wearmouth both shot over at the other end before the interval.

Kneeshaw was proving to be a handful for Grantham defender Lewis Carr, who had to resort to a clear foul in order to prevent the forward advancing clear on goal. Dale once again stepped up to take the free kick but his effort went wide of Turner’s left hand post.

On 60 minutes the Grantham manager, Adam Stevens, was sent to the stands by the referee, apparently for dissent.

Nathan Buddle just failed to get on the end of a deep Dale free kick before the visitors started to put pressure on the Spartans defence with the hosts increasingly having to resort to some rushed clearances.

Ben Saunders tried an audacious overhead kick which McHugh was relieved to see slide just wide of his goal.

Emmott then fired narrowly wide of the target before, in the final minute of normal time, Ben Harris came within inches of grabbing a point for his side but could not get his boot to a powerful cross from wide.

Blyth’s next game at Croft Park is on Tuesday, February 9, when they entertain Ilkeston, kick-off 7.45pm.

Blyth Spartans: A McHugh, D Mullen, J Watson. N Buddle, D Morse, N Hooks (S Reid 70), A Wearmouth (A Davis 75), M Richardson, W Kneeshaw, M Wade, R Dale. Subs not used: P Robinson, D Parker, F Otte.

Attendance: 821.