A FOOTBALL match is often described as a ‘game of two halves’ but Blyth Spartans FC manager Mick Tait is focused on a different fraction – thirds.
And it is the ‘final third’ which is giving him issues.
Summing up Saturday’s 1-0 defeat at home to Solihull Moors, Tait said: “I was not too disappointed by our performance, we played some good football, but our play in the attacking third of the pitch was poor and our crossing was awful.
“We didn’t really hurt Solihull and actually made life quite easy for them.
“They came for a point and got the three.
“Their manager watched us recently and knew how to play us. He admitted after the game that they couldn’t beat us at football so they came to sit back and deny us space to play in.
“They’d done their homework, thought through their game plan and it paid off.
“If we’d only managed to score in the first 20 minutes that plan would have had to be changed and the game itself would subsequently have changed.”
The Spartans started brightly, spraying the ball around the pitch with ease and confidence but creating anything meaningful from their endeavours was immediately a difficulty.
In spite of their possession, Blyth were stunned with a minute of the first half remaining when Solihull took the lead.
Tait added: “I’d said before the game that they will win headers so we had to be aware and it was going to be vitally important to pick up the second ball.
“We didn’t do that and English finished well. He went to shoot with his right foot then dropped his shoulder as we went to block the shot, swung round the other way and struck it neatly with his left.”
At the break Tait still thought his side were in with a chance of a victory.
“I was still confident,” he said.
“We needed to persevere but when we lost Michael [Tait] early on I didn’t have a direct replacement so I had to reshuffle the formation.”
To Tait’s chagrin the visitors dropped even deeper after the break, frustrating his players’ ability to penetrate the massed Solihull defence.
As the half, which offered little to the home side’s forwards, drew to a close Blyth striker Paul Brayson reacted to a quickly taken Stephen Turnbull free kick but, with the ball never fully under his control, he stretched and shot wide.
Tait admitted that, on other days, he would have scored. Teams visiting Croft Park and shutting up shop is something Tait believes is becoming an increasingly common occurrence.
“I’ve said it to the players – it’s never going to be easy at home in that respect,” he said. When we are away, however, the opposition are more likely to have a go at us and that means we can play through them.
“In terms of the final third we are all aware of the problem. We must get more quality in there. Everyone will think we didn’t play well against Solihull but we know we were good but we must improve crossing and decision making.”
n Match report – page 79