Armstrong salutes unselfish Spartans
Blyth Spartans boss Alun Armstrong was delighted with the show of togetherness from his side on Saturday after unselfish assists from Luke Armstrong and Sean Reid helped them to a 4-0 win over Skelmersdale United.
Armstrong junior had already assisted Daniel Maguire’s opening goal, before he kindly gave up a shot at a near-open goal to roll the ball to his strike partner to slot in his 25th league goal of the season.
Jordan Watson headed home Blyth’s third after the break, before Reid repaid the favour by putting the ball on a plate for Armstrong to prod home late on.
And the Spartans manager was delighted to see his team putting team glory before any personal triumphs, due to that being a remit assigned to them by himself and the management team at Croft Park.
The 42-year-old said: “It’s brilliant to see the team playing for each other and those two goals epitomised that.
“Luke did exceptionally well for the second goal when he got a hold of it and rounded the keeper. To be honest, from there you’re expecting someone to shoot, but he did well to just roll it to Nipa [Maguire] to put it in the empty net, and that’s great to see.
“Reidy did exactly the same and that’s fantastic, because it just shows that there’s a real togetherness and it’s not about them. It’s about the whole team and that’s what we ask of them, so we’re glad they’ve taken that on board.”
Despite a resounding win, Blyth were never really forced to step up out of second gear. However, Armstrong revealed he “couldn’t grumble” about his side or the result.
He added: “I think it was a controlled performance. I think it was a game the lads knew that they had to win and it was almost like a training game.
“It was attack versus defence really, with the amount of possession that we had. Inevitably, it was going to be tough to get the opening goal, but we never looked back once we got it and you could see that with the chances we created.
“It was just the final pass, the final shot, that was letting us down first half. In the end, I couldn’t grumble with the lads.
“I always had one eye on the next game and they probably did as well, so I can’t complain with a 4-0 win and a clean sheet.”
Even though Spartans were dominant from start to finish on Saturday, Skelmersdale’s defence held firm until the 36th minute. Once Maguire’s first goal went in, though, Armstrong began to relax and knew Blyth would go on to score a few more.
He said: “I’ve said it many times that we’ll score goals. We’ve just got to be patient as teams will come and try to frustrate us.
“That’s what we’re going to get and Skelmersdale set up in a way to try and do that.
“We just have to be a bit more precise with the final ball and get that final bit of quality that we’re sometimes lacking.
“I think once Nipa put the first one in, you could sense the whole place just relaxed after that and we all knew we’d go on to win the game quite comfortably.”
But it wasn’t all good news for the home side on Saturday as both Robert Dale and David McTiernan were both forced off through injury.
Armstrong revealed that the Blyth captain was taken off as a precaution and McTiernan was not going to be risked after a knock on the neck with 16 minutes to go.
Armstrong said: “Robbie had been skiing this week and it was touch and go whether I was going to play him or not. I spoke to Robbie and he said that he wanted to play, so I gave him it and he felt a bit of tightness in his hamstring.
“My first thought was to get him off straight away as I wasn’t going to risk him.
“I thought Macca [McTiernan] rolled his ankle. He rolled it in the first half, but he got a good whack on the neck and he’s got a bit of a jarred neck.
“I’m not risking anyone when the game is won, so I made the change so we could just see the game through and look ahead to Tuesday.
“It was meant to be Luke and Nipa that came off together, because I wanted to save them for the Nantwich game.
“Macca got hit, though, so I just had to tell Luke to be careful for the rest of the game and, in the end he got a goal, which is great for him.”
With eight games to go, Spartans can make a real signal of intent to go up to the Vanarama Conference North as Evo-Stik Premier League champions with a win over second-placed Nantwich Town, and Armstrong is hoping his side can reproduce their heroic performance away at Warrington for Tuesday’s crucial clash.
“Tuesday is a big game, but we’ve just got to go there and do what we normally do,” he said.
“They’ve got to come at us and, as everyone has seen, we’re a different team when teams come at us.
“Teams open up and we can get at people. It’s when teams come and just sit, like Skelmersdale did, that we need to be a little bit more patient.
“I’m looking forward to Tuesday, but I’m looking to the lads to give me a similar performance to the one at Warrington.
“They put in an unbelievable amount of effort, worked unbelievably hard, we created a number of chances and, to be fair, Warrington were really good that night.
“Warrington did their homework that night and I’m expecting that Nantwich will have done as well. If we can get the effort and quality like we did on that night, then I’m sure we’ll be alright.”