Blyth Spartans striker Dan Maguire clearly loves Christmas as he crashed home his fifth and sixth goals of December to ensure his side recovered from the Boxing Day defeat at Whitby Town with a determined performance against Barwell.
The 2-1 win was the third time this season Spartans have taken three points despite being at a numerical disadvantage after midfielder Paul Robinson was dismissed in the first half for a clash with Barwell full back Jack Edwards.
Picking through the first half for highlights was a lot like going through the scraps left on the Christmas turkey carcass.
A desperately lacklustre first period saw two real chances created, one for each side.
On seven minutes Robbie Dale’s quick free kick found Robinson 25 yards from goal and the former Whitley Bay man struck the ball first time with his right foot, and despite it seemingly heading past the post Liam Castle dived full length to parry the ball to safety.
The increasingly frozen Croft Park crowd had to wait until ten minutes before the break for the next chance, and it fell to the visitors.
The impressive Nigel Julian cut in from the left and curled a right foot effort just past Michal Misiewicz’s far post.
The final action of the half saw Robinson sent off after he clashed with Barwell left back Jack Edwards, a decision that provoked an angry response from the Spartans faithful.
In a lightning quick start to the second half that was the polar opposite of what had been endured in the first period, Spartans took the lead within three minutes of the restart.
Dale released the overlapping Joe Kendrick into the left hand channel and the Irishman whipped in a vicious cross. Castle got a weak hand to the ball and that left Maguire to finish well from the edge of the box.
One could have become two minutes later as Damen Mullen released Maguire in on goal but the heavy nature of the pitch prevented the striker from getting a clean touch and the chance was wasted as Castle smothered his effort.
Maguire was in red hot form and after being released in on goal again – this time by Danny Parker – he lifted the ball over the advancing Castle only for Jamie Hood to clear as the striker waited for the ball to drop to him.
Those pair of missed chances cost Spartans as Barwell snatched an equaliser that seemed against the run of play.
Substitute Daniel Spencer fired a low effort from the edge of the area that bounced in front of Misiewicz and the Spartans keeper could only parry on to the post and the loose ball ran to midfielder Thomas Weale who suitably applied the finish.
If there is one accusation that can’t be thrown at Spartans this season it is that they lack heart and passion.
They showed that in abundance again in the closing stages and it should have been no surprise that it was that man Maguire who scored a wonderful winner.
Kendrick fired a precise pass into Maguire 20 yards from goal. His first touch was impeccable and allowed him to drive at Hood who forced Maguire on to his left foot, but that didn’t prevent him crashing home goal number 14 of the season from the edge of the area.
There was still time for one last chance and it was to produce a miss of the season contender.
Hood struck a rising effort that smashed off the crossbar and fell to Luke Barlone ten yards from goal. With the Green Army holding their heads in their hands the striker dinked the ball over the crossbar with an empty goal to hit.
A rare stroke of luck for Spartans but luck that their commitment, determination and unquestionable spirit more than earned.
Spartans’ man of the match was Dan Maguire.
Blyth Spartans: Misiweicz, Buddle, Parker, Purewal, Kendrick, Hooks, Hubbard, Mullen (Watson 78), Dale, Maguire, Robinson Subs not used: Wade, Grant, Wearmouth, Horner.