A game with monumental pressure on both sides saw Witton Albion crack with a shambles of a defensive performance that played its part in handing three points to a grateful Blyth Spartans.
Errors handed Dan Maguire a brace and an own goal by Albion skipper Jon Shaw gifted Spartans three of their five goals.
But they did show enough quality to suggest they would have won the game regardless. Something shown by a goal of the season contender for Dan Hawkins and a clinical finish by Craig Lynch, his first in Blyth colours.
There were changes from Tuesday’s home draw with Matlock Town as Hawkins replaced Damen Mullen and Stephen Turnbull came in for Jarrett Rivers.
Despite the pressure on both sides to get the win, the game started in a lacklustre fashion. A low-key, almost pre-season friendly atmosphere enveloped Wincham Park and it was not until the 15-minute mark that there was a chance of note, and it fell to the hosts.
Winger Josh Hancock cut in from his right wing position and eased his way past Alex Nicholson before playing in Alex Titchiner. The striker’s first touch was perfect and took him in behind the Spartans back four but nerves seemed to get the better of him and he lashed over from 12 yards
Spartans hit back with their first chance moments later and despite being renowned for a more stylish brand of football, it came from a route one ball from Hawkins that caught out the Albion back four. After holding off the physical attentions of John Shaw, Maguire forced Andy Robertson into a sharp stop down to his left.
The hosts took the lead in the23rd minute with a goal that summed up the opening. Titchener found space on the right and his cross found the head of Michael Simpson, however, he failed to make sufficient contact to force the ball goalwards, but his header did, somewhat fortunately, fall to Josh Hancock who prodded goalwards but was denied by Nick Thomson. But Luke Clark was alert to the rebound and forced it over the line to give Albion the lead.
Titchener was proving to be a constant menace for Spartans’ back four and the former Fleetwood striker should have doubled his side’s lead moments later.
A lightning quick break from a Spartans free kick found him one-on-one with Hawkins. He forced his way past the Spartans right back but hesitated to get his shot away and Thomson managed to pounce on the loose ball and the danger was gone.
Spartans got back on level terms, slightly against the run of play with a goal that was down to the sloppy play of Albion keeper Robertson.
After collecting a simple back pass he dallied on the ball and allowed Michael Richardson to steal it from him. The former Newcastle United midfielder then rolled it back to Maguire and he rolled it into the net.
Four minutes later when another defensive error handed Spartans the lead. Albion right back Liam Goulding matched the indecision and allowed Robbie Dale to rob him of possession before finding Maguire who was left with a goal as simple as his first.
In a half low on class and quality there was little to enthuse about for football purists, that was until three minutes before the break when Hawkins provided Wincham Park with one of the goals of the season.
A loose ball fell to the full back 25 yards from goal and there seemed little danger as he crashed a volley that dipped into the bottom right hand corner of the net.
Remarkably, with the game edging towards the interval, the hosts inflicted another blow on themselves, with Spartans players simply stood in amazement as Albion captain John
Shaw rolled a backpass past his own keeper and into the net.
Spartans extended their lead with just over 20 minutes left on the clock with a goal of the highest quality as they cut apart the Albion back four with an incisive passing move. Nicholson and Maguire combined well down the left before the latter set up Lynch and the former Sunderland youngster expertly rolled the ball into the far corner.
Thomson produced a magnificent stop to deny Titchener a goal his endeavour deserved.
Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Hawkins, Bramley, Parker, Hooks, Turnbull, Richardson (Wearmouth 72), Maguire, Wade (Lynch 66), Dale (Davis 80). Subs not used: Rivers, Cummings.