Unimpressed Armstrong backs Spartans in FA Trophy replay

Blyth Spartans manager Alun Armstrong. Picture courtesy of Blyth Spartans
Blyth Spartans manager Alun Armstrong. Picture courtesy of Blyth Spartans
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Blyth Spartans manager Alun Armstrong was far from impressed with what he saw from his side in the second half of their 1-1 Buildbase FA Trophy draw at Goole on Saturday.

But he is still backing Blyth to progress into the next round with a victory in Tuesday night’s replay.

Matthew Wade had put the visitors ahead on 28 minutes with an unbelievable curling effort into the top corner to set Spartans on their way.

However, Bobby Johnson equalised from the penalty spot seven minutes into the second half following a foul by Andrew Cartwright on Luke O’Brien.

Both Sean Reid and Daniel Maguire then went close to scoring winners for Blyth late on, but the Vikings held on to set up a midweek replay trip to Croft Park.

And Armstrong admitted that he was not impressed with what he saw from his side following the restart, but insisted that his players will put things right at the second attempt against Goole.

The 41-year-old said: “We wanted to come to Goole and win the game but, looking back at it, the second half performance was nowhere near what we are capable of.

“The first half I thought we controlled the game and we should have had the game won by the break.

“We seem to love giving penalties away at the moment, but we could have nicked the game late on when Nipa [Maguire] had a shot saved or if Reidy has been just that bit closer with his header.

“It was unfortunate that we couldn’t win the game, but we’ll go again on Tuesday and, hopefully, we can get what we need to in order to progress.

“The pitch didn’t suit us as it was heavy when you got out there. So, we didn’t play anywhere near enough football that we’re capable of and I think that suited them.

“I hope we can put that right in the replay, though.”

With defender Nathan Buddle and midfielders Robert Dale and Matty Pattison missing through injury, Armstrong was forced into a number of changes for the game.

However, despite being unable to win the game, the Blyth boss still thought his makeshift side had the edge on their Evo-Stik Premier League Division One North opponents.

He added: “We’re still on a decent run of not losing, but it’s still disappointing to be conceding goals.

“In reality, I thought we were the better team, especially since I had to rest a few as they had niggles and what not, but I hope we’ll have them back for Tuesday.

“Buddle’s got a bad back, Patta’s is his ankle and Robbie’s is his foot, so we’ll see how they are ahead of the game on Tuesday and we’ll take it from there.

“I think the lads that came in to replace those missing did alright. I think we would have got a little bit more quality from Patta and Robbie, but I think we had enough on that pitch to win the game.

“We’ve got to improve our second half performances, though, as they don’t match our first half performances at the moment.

“When we’re winning a game, we seem to get stuck in a situation of do we push forward or sit back and let them in it?

“We just don’t know what to do and get caught in the middle, so we need to sort the mindset of the lads and let them know that we have to keep going.”

Due to a replay being needed, Blyth avoid making a trip to Warrington in the Evo-Stik Premier League on Tuesday, allowing them to interrupt a run of four scheduled away trips by bringing the tie back to Croft Park.

When asked if there was a slight positive that Tuesday’s game had switched from an away trip to a home game, Armstrong said: “Without a doubt. It doesn’t help that the games are going to pile up and our trip to Warrington will most likely still be on a Tuesday night, but I suppose having another home game to break up the run of away trips is a plus for us as sitting in a coach doesn’t help the players’ legs.”

On Saturday Spartans started in style and looked set to soar when Wade put them ahead with a scintillating 20-yard effort that gave Goole goalkeeper Jody Barford no chance.

While the away side were unable to build on that impressive opener, Armstrong was full of plaudits for the midfielder’s fine finish.

He said: “I had a great view of the goal as I was stood right behind it. It was a great finish, but, just prior to that, we were chatting about whether he had a trampoline on his foot and he ends up putting one in the top bin.

“Wadey did OK, but he was struggling with a dead leg so I had to get him off at half-time. It was a great ball into the top corner, though, and there was no stopping it.”

Wade was one of two Blyth players replaced at the break, alongside Alex Nicholson.

Armstrong explained that he was forced into a second change for different reasons, but chose to focus on the positive of new signing Damen Mullen making his first appearance since re-signing from Morpeth Town.

Armstrong said: “I had to take Alex off as well because I could see a few of their lads trying to wind him up once he got a yellow card, and the last thing we needed was to go down to ten men. It was another enforced change, but it was good to give Damo [Mullen] some minutes.

“It’s been no secret that I’ve wanted to bring him back and it’s taken longer than I’d have liked, but he’s here now and he gives us something where I can rotate the lads in midfield. There’s competition for places, even more so now.”

With a second meeting with Goole inside four days now scheduled for Spartans, Armstrong believes he has seen enough of the Yorkshire-based side to back his players to put right Saturday’s mistakes and progress into the next round of the Buildbase FA Trophy.

Armstrong said: “I’m always confident going into games as we have enough quality in that dressing room to win the game.

“We’ll be playing on our pitch so we’ll be able to play the type of football we want and we should win the replay comfortably.

“However, they will come and give it a good go, like they did on Saturday, and we’ll have to match that.

“If we don’t match it – and I’ve said it plenty of times before – we have to earn the right to play football and match their work ethic, because we have enough quality to win the tie.

“I need to keep putting that in the lads’ heads as we don’t seem to be doing that second half.

“We drop off a little and the work ethic isn’t as high, so we need that intensity for the full 90 minutes and that’s what we’ll be looking to do on Tuesday.”