Spartans unbeaten in nine as Stamford are put to the sword

Michael Richardson slides in Blyth Spartans' third goal in the 4-1 win over Stamford AFC. Picture by Bill Broadley
Michael Richardson slides in Blyth Spartans' third goal in the 4-1 win over Stamford AFC. Picture by Bill Broadley
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For the second time in a week Blyth Spartans entertained the Croft Park faithful by scoring four goals.

This time Stamford were the victims as Tom Wade’s side coasted home with a display of lethal finishing, although they were helped out by one of the most comical own goals seen at Croft Park in many a year.

The win stretched Spartans’ unbeaten run to nine games in all competitions.

Blyth had the first real chance in the seventh minute, although it came after some pressure from the away side. Jarrett Rivers skipped into the right hand side of the Daniels area before laying back to striker Dan Maguire who tried his luck with a first-time right foot effort which was comfortably saved by Andrew Stevens.

A quite opening was finally broken on the half an hour and in some style as Spartans took the lead.

Robbie Dale found the run of the overlapping Damen Mullen, who was given time to break into the Stamford area. His cross was partially headed clear by Lewis Carr but only as far as Matthew Wade and the midfielder struck his second goal in five days with a wonderful right foot volley from 20 yards that left Stevens motionless between the posts.

Keeper Nick Thomson was forced into action for the first time ten minutes before half-time as he denied Ryan Robbins when the Daniels striker was played in on goal.

There was then a shout for a penalty by the Spartans faithful, but not for the first time during the game they were left annoyed by the official.

Dan Maguire broke through into the Daniels area and was pulled down by Carr, and the majority of those inside a blustery Croft Park appealed for the penalty only for the referee to wave away the vociferous protests.

Maguire was at the heart of the action again minutes before the break as he almost doubled Spartans’ lead.

The striker collected a return pass from the lively Rivers and managed to hold off two defenders before he fired a left foot drive from ten yards that Stevens forced around the near post.

Wade was forced into a half-time substitution as Jordan Watson pulled up with what looked like a hamstring injury. That was diagnosed at half-time and Dan Hawkins replaced the Northern Irishman during the break. That meant the former Bishop Auckland man playing at right back with Alex Nicholson moving to centre back to partner Ryan Hutchinson.

Blyth started the second half on top and they almost doubled their lead three minutes in when Rivers produced a magical run into the area as he ghosted past three challenges only to see Stevens stay on his feet and parry away the effort.

But the lead was doubled, in somewhat comical circumstances, as Lewis Carr put through his own net on the hour mark, although the assist should have perhaps gone to the Croft Park pitch. Under pressure from Maguire, Carr attempted a pass back but the ball bobbled over the foot of the Daniels keeper and into the net.

Five minutes later Spartans had their third with another goal of the highest quality.

Rivers, in space midway inside the Stamford half, found the run of Hawkins and the full back was given time to pick out a fine cross to the far post and that allowed Michael Richardson to slide home from a narrow angle.

Within a minute the visitors had pulled one back. Daniel Clements broke down Spartans’ left and cut inside the challenge of Hawkins before firing a low drive inside the near post and past the despairing dive of Thomson.

If that had created any doubt in Spartans’ mind then that was dispelled with eight minutes remaining.

Stephen Turnbull effortlessly turned away from a challenge in midfield before playing the ball out wide to Hawkins. The full back took a touch before firing a wonderful ball in behind the back four that allowed Maguire to beat Stevens to the ball and lift a chip over the head of the keeper.

One feature of the Spartans performance was the non-stop running of Richardson and the midfielder was given a standing ovation when he was replaced by Steven Turnbull just after Maguire’s goal.

It was almost five up for Spartans with four minutes remaining as Dale produced a bit of magic. The winger danced into the area but he was denied by a brave block from Stevens as the Spartans captained looked for his 21st goal of the season.

However Spartans declared at four and when referee Clayton brought proceedings to an end, Wade and his players left the pitch to a rapturous ovation. The quality of passing and finishing that was on display showed why, although games in hand are still to be accounted for, Spartans are very much in the play-off chase and with every win, belief and confidence grows.

They now face a true test of their play-off credentials as Ilkeston travel to Croft Park on Tuesday night.

Blyth Spartans: Thomson, Nicholson, Mullen, Watson (Hawkins 46), Hutchinson, Stephen Turnbull, Richardson (Steven Turnbull 83), Dale, Maguire, Wade (Hooks 70), Rivers Subs not used: Wearmouth, Lynch.

On Saturday Spartans are away to Stourbridge.

Attendance: 462.