BLYTH Spartans FC manger Mick Tait’s hopes of a miracle have been ebbing away recently, and Saturday’s surprise defeat at struggling Stafford Rangers served to reflect cruel reality over the chances of heavenly intervention.
Following his side’s 2-1 defeat, Tait said: “We’ve run out of steam over the last few weeks.
“Until then we were in the FA Trophy quarter-finals and pushing for a league play-off place, but it was always going to be a miracle to keep on achieving with such a small squad.
“We’ve had injuries and I’m not in a position to replace like with like so that means our structure is affected.
“It took time earlier in the season to get our balance right and when we did we were playing extremely well, but we’re struggling now.
“I chose to keep a smaller squad when we had to make budget cuts, rather than diminish the quality of the squad overall.
“If we’d kept a bigger squad but lessened that quality we’d be much further down the league table.”
Stafford started Saturday’s game brightly with forward Ben Mills outstanding, but Tait was quick to spot the irony in relation to Mills’ impact and his squad’s size issue.
“Mills was excellent and a real handful,” he said.
“All Rangers’ play went through him but it didn’t help that stand in central defender Alan White – up against Mills – played the match in agony with an achilles injury.
“Really, he shouldn’t have been on the pitch.”
Tait thought Blyth had more quality than the hosts but that they never clicked in to gear.
Nevertheless the Spartans went in 1-0 at half-time thanks to a Stephen Turnbull goal from six yards out at the back post.
Stafford started the second period as they had the first – taking the game to Blyth.
“They had bags of enthusiasm,” said Tait.
“They had some new players with fresh legs who were trying to prove themselves, but we conceded two terrible goals.
“The first saw some shocking defending when two of our defenders were left for dead, and the second goal was not much better, although it was a great finish by Mills.
“We did have a few chances later on but they then played with 11 men back so it was hard for us.
“Simply put, we were just not good enough. One team wanted to win it and the other didn’t!”
Up against teams lower in the league, Tait sees a pattern emerging.
As well as at Stafford, Blyth lost at Redditch, struggled at Hyde as well as at home to Stafford.
Is it a lack of application? Tait thinks so.
“We need to match the spirit of the opposition better,” he said.
“I told the players after the game at the weekend that it takes more than ability to be a footballer.
“There are times when you need to roll your sleeves up and dig in.
“Hopefully my players will have been shocked and embarrassed on Saturday and will respond.
“But as manger I take responsibility for them and if they don’t react positively I’ll go out and find players willing to apply themselves more.”
With top of the table Nuneaton visiting Croft Park on Saturday, the marrying of ability and application will be vital to Blyth’s aspirations of seeing a return to form and in consolidating a position in the top eight.
Quantity may have to match quality in order to achieve a result and the possible return of Michael Tait to the squad could be the boost needed.