Spartans have league leaders looking over their shoulders

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THE shoulder charge has long been a part of football. However Blyth Spartans FC manager Mick Tait is employing an ‘over the shoulder’ charge.

With his side racking up four consecutive victories in the Blue Square Bet North and closing the gap on the top sides, Tait had this to say: “The top six will be looking over their shoulders at our excellent run and accumulation of points. We are charging at the moment.”

Tait was pleased to beat visitors Stafford Rangers 3-2 in wet conditions at the weekend with his side hanging on in the latter stages of the game.

“It was always going to be unlikely that we could reach the heights of our magnificent performance away at Gainsborough in midweek where we won 2-0, but could have scored a hatful.

“The Croft Park pitch, following a heavy frost and thaw, was not conducive to free-flowing football.

“We knew the first half would be better for good football but in the second period, when the pitch would cut up it would turn into a battle. And that’s exactly what happened.”

The home side conceded in the ninth minute when the referee awarded a penalty after Blyth midfielder Neal Hooks handled in the box.

“I thought the decision was a bit harsh,” commented Tait. “The ball hit a Stafford player’s hand before reaching Hooks

“However, we tried to come back playing the passing game that has served us so well recently and it was coming off, but not 100 per cent.”

Michael Tait equalised before Spartans took the lead when Hooks scored with a header from a Stephen Turnbull cross.

Tait said: “Stephen has been getting some good deliveries into the danger area in the last month or so, either inside or behind defenders, making it very difficult for them to deal with.”

Robbie Dale extended Blyth’s lead on 63 minutes with a stunning goal.

Dale is playing some of his best football since joining the club, showing self belief allied with work rate, and a fine balance of selfishness and selflessness at the appropriate times.

Tait said: “Robbie is an excellent finisher and as soon as I saw him on the edge of the box in that position I knew he’d score.

“We have been playing him out wide this season where he is quality too.”

Rangers’ Levi Reid pulled one back with 20 minutes remaining.

“We got the jitters late on,” said Tait.

“We didn’t really adapt our game in the second half. We stuck with short passing when we really should have been passing more long.

“We were getting bogged down and struggling to control the ball. When that happens play slows up and it’s harder to hurt the opposition.”

Blyth’s players put in solid performances across the pitch but man of the match Neal Hooks caught the eye.

It seemed that wherever the ball was Hooks was within 15 yards of it – collecting it and orchestrating the Spartans’ play.

Tait has moved to sign Stuart Wright, a left back or left sided midfielder, who has been training with the club for two months.

Wright has spent three years playing in the USA and one year in Canada.

Tait is also awaiting international clearance to come through for a Dutch player.

Meanwhile forward John Alexander had his appendix removed on Wednesday after feeling unwell on the Tuesday and anticipates undertaking some light training during the course of the week in an attempt to be fit for the weekend while midfielder Liam O’Mahoney is keen for first team football and may be moving on.

Tait said this week that his players had been ‘playing out of their skins’ recently.

They will certainly need to do so again when The Bloods visit and Tait must be hoping that he has bodies available from his somewhat skeletonised squad.