Blyth Spartans recovered from their midweek defeat at Chorley with a spirited victory at high-flying Barwell on Saturday.
Heading into the interval a goal behind after a disappointing first half, Blyth recovered to see close-range finishes from Dan Maguire and Nathan Buddle lift Tom Wade’s side up to third in the division.
Phil Airey and Arran Wearmouth – who both started Tuesday’s fixture in Lancashire on the bench – returned to the Spartans line-up at the expense of Danny Parker and Ian Watson.
Captain Joe Kendrick travelled with the squad but did not feature at Kirkby Road. In the Irishman’s absence, Arjun Purewal deputised as skipper.
The hosts – transferred from the Southern Football League premier division ahead of the 2013-14 campaign – were enjoying something of a purple patch ahead of the Spartans’ visit; three successive victories at home having heaved Jimmy Ginnelly’s side into a play-off position.
In forward Danny Newton, the Leicestershire side also boasted the division’s leading marksman.
And it was Newton who was presented with the game’s first real opportunity. Seven minutes into proceedings, the former Nuneaton man was the first to react to Luke Barlone’s enticing cross from the right flank. However, his stabbed effort narrowly wide of Michal Misiewicz’s left hand post.
Just two minutes later, Spartans midfielder Lewis Horner squandered a glorious chance to put the visitors in front. Having done superbly to beat defender Mark Albrighton to the ball, Horner raced clear of the hosts’ backline, goalkeeper Liam Castle all that stood in his path. But the new recruit could only direct a tame effort wide of Castle’s right hand post.
On 15 minutes, Spartans were struck by an unpleasant sense of déjà vu.
Wearmouth – their liveliest asset for much of the first half – closed in on goal having seen off the challenge of Barwell right back Shane Byrne. Like Horner, he opted for placement rather than power. And like Horner, he could not find the net – his curved right-footed effort rebounding off the post.
Having somehow managed to remain on level terms, Barwell improved as the half progressed.
Frontman Jamie Towers, in particular, caused the visiting rearguard all manner of problems – a physically powerful presence, showcasing a deft touch to boot.
After a spell of concerted pressure, the home side took the lead on 37 minutes.
When Spartans failed to clear their lines, Towers was left with far too much time to direct a right-wing cross the way of Newton, whose glancing left-footed finish left Misiewicz powerless.
Spartans were fortunate not to head into the interval further behind.
In added time, Barlone’s lofted through ball sent Newton clean through on goal. With sufficient time to pick his spot, the forward looked certain to double his side’s advantage only to wide of Misiewicz’s left hand post.
Kicking-off the second half, Spartans had the air of a side with purpose. And, rejuvenated by an attack-minded approach, they restored parity on 49 minutes.
Robbie Dale’s corner was drilled low towards the edge of the 18-yard box, which Neal Hooks left for Horner to strike. The midfielder’s daisy-cutter was only parried by Castle, gifting Maguire the chance to lift the ball home, much to the delight of the visiting dugout.
A quiet period followed. The home side appeared to tire, with the Spartans back four – marshalled by Purewal and Buddle – nullifying the threat posed by the attacking trio of Barlone, Newton and Towers.
Indeed, the Leicestershire outfit had the look of a completely different side in the second half, with little sign of the attacking resolve demonstrated in such abundance throughout the first.
As the game surpassed the hour-mark, Spartans took command, appearing the fitter, more resourceful of the two sides.
On 71 minutes, Matthew Wade spurned a superb opportunity to put the visitors ahead, firing high and wide after substitute Ian Watson had pulled the ball back from the byline.
Watson – introduced with half an hour left on the clock – sought to switch flanks with Dale, the visitors looking to perplex the Barwell back four.
Dale himself appeared to benefit from the tweak in formation, enjoying far more of the ball, and becoming something of an outlet for the strong-minded Spartans.
On 87 minutes, the turnaround was complete. Damen Mullen – a replacement for Horner – struck a free kick from 40 yards low into the path of Maguire. After some neat interplay between the two, the Barwell rearguard failed to deal with Mullen’s cross-come-shot. After something of a scramble, the ball fell for defender Buddle to power home.
On the eve of his 20th birthday, it was quite a moment for the defender – one of Spartans’ outstanding performers on the day.
Watson could have added a touch of gloss to the scoreline in the dying seconds, clearing the crossbar with a first-time effort after a neat through ball from Maguire.
As it turned out, Spartans were comfortable after edging in front – a jaded-looking home side unable to put together one final attack.
Referee Matthew Wilkes called time on the game, wrapping up Spartans’ third success on the road in a month.
Their display had been embodied by character, a gritty determination, and a greater level of fitness than the home side – combining to ensure a deserved three-point haul at Kirkby Road.
Spartans’ man of the match: Dan Maguire.
Blyth Spartans: Misiewicz, Airey, Lancaster, Buddle, Purewal, Horner (Mullen, 60), Wearmouth (Watson, 60), Hooks, Maguire, Wade, Dale. Subs not used: Kendrick, Cummings.
Spartans are at home this Saturday to Nantwich Town, kick-off 3pm.