IF ever there was a game of two halves then this was it as Blyth Spartans FC displayed their Jekyll and Hyde nature once again at Croft Park on Tuesday night.
Following a first half dominated by the hosts in which Neal Hooks and Nicky Deverdics fired Blyth into a 2-0 lead, the tide turned in favour of the visitors after the interval with oceanography student Nick Rogan pulling a goal back for Workington to set up a nervy finale to the game.
Spartans managed to hang on for all three points but manager Mick Tait has certainly experienced more comfortable nights in the Blyth dugout.
He said: “I’d like to see us play well for more than 45 minutes, we allowed them to build up a lot of pressure on us in the second half and we had to defend really well.
“We managed to switch the ball quickly in the first half and cause them all sorts of problems but we just didn’t do that after the break.”
The expansive passing game which Tait eludes to led to Blyth’s opening goal after just three minutes when a sweeping move which involved Michael Tait and Robbie Dale down the right hand side was finished by Hooks when he stroked a first time effort past Aaran Taylor from 15 yards.
Straight after the restart Workington’s Gareth Arnison looked to be through on goal before an expertly timed tackle from Chris Swailes denied the striker a goal scoring opportunity.
The home side then took control of the contest and only the woodwork prevented them from scoring a second when Michael Tait’s glancing header hit the inside of the post and fell to Paul Brayson who blazed over when under pressure from Kyle May.
A brilliantly disguised pass from Dale presented Brayson with another opportunity but the normally lethal marksman fired his effort high over the crossbar.
Blyth did manage to gain a two goal cushion in the 18th minute when Deverdics twisted and turned in the area before unleashing a shot which found the bottom corner of Taylor’s net.
The hosts continued to dictate proceedings without creating any further clear-cut chances before half-time.
Prior to the break Workington gave their opponents a brief glimpse of what was to come in the second period when an improvised effort from Arnison dropped just wide of Dan Lowson’s far post.
Warning signs of a comeback from the away side were evident within the early stages of the second half, with Arnison dragging a shot just wide of the upright before Workington captain David Hewson found himself with time and space in the Spartans area but failed to keep his effort down.
The visitors did finally manage to halve the deficit on 67 minutes when Rogan cut inside two defenders to fire an accurate shot into Lowson’s bottom corner from the edge of the area.
Michael Tait still can’t put his injury problems behind him and he was forced out of action in the 68th minute, being replaced by John Alexander.
Tait senior believes the introduction of Alexander worked well in the context of the game.
He said: “John managed to get behind their back four and he relieved some of the pressure we were being put under.”
Alexander almost made an immediate impact when he surged into the area and flashed a shot agonisingly wide of the far post.
At the other end Hewson had a golden opportunity from close range to restore parity for his side but his shot on the turn sailed over Lowson’s crossbar.
Although the space in which Workington were allowed to operate in was not to Mick Tait’s approval he heaped praise on the way his side defended and in particular Alan White, who continued his excellent form of late with another fine performance.
Tait said: “Alan White is a very experienced defender and has played in the football league for most of his career.
“He was unfortunate that he joined us when we weren’t doing so well but he’s shown over the last two games how good he is and I doubt there is many better than him at this level.”
Blyth travel to Cheshire to face Vauxhall Motors on Saturday and Tait believes his side need no motivation, other than the reminder of their last visit to Rivacre Park when Spartans were on the receiving end of a 5-1 score line in an FA Cup qualifier back in September.
He said: “I will mention it but to be honest the players know themselves that they have a point to prove.
“We have a chance to right those wrongs on Saturday and we’re certainly capable of doing that.”
Blyth Spartans: Lowson, Groves, Cave, Tait (Alexander), Swailes, White, Hooks, Turnbull, Brayson (O’Mahoney), Deverdics, Dale
Man of the match: Groves