Another Blyth Spartans late show wrapped up an eleventh straight Evo-Stik Premier League win with a 4-2 victory over Corby Town.
But Blyth boss Alun Armstrong believes the turning point came in Saturday’s game thanks to a crunching tackle from Jordan Laidler prior to his side’s second goal.
Daniel Maguire finished calmly to score for his ninth consecutive game early on, but Stefan Moore produced a spectacular equaliser from 35 yards to level the scores just before the break.
Maguire then headed home his 20th goal of the season in between strikes from Sean Reid and Luke Armstrong as Spartans sealed another crucial three points within the last 20 minutes of the game.
However, Armstrong said it was Laidler’s tackle that lifted the atmosphere around Croft Park and, ultimately, helped Spartans on their way to a 12th successive success in all competitions.
He said: “There was one turning point for me, when Jordan Laidler did an absolutely fantastic sliding tackle. It was about 30 yards out and all of a sudden the whole place lifted.
“It wasn’t just the lads, the atmosphere around the whole ground lifted. We picked the tempo up after that and then it was good night really.
“It was great from then on, but I still had a chat with them after the game as we cannot resort to that type of football. That’s not us.
“We have to make sure we keep playing like how we were towards the end of the game and everything will be fine.”
With Corby pegging Blyth back just before the interval, the visitors took heart from that and pushed on in the opening exchanges of the second half.
However, Spartans finally listened to the half-time advice that Armstrong gave them soon after and never looked back.
The 42-year-old added: “It never looked like it was going to be a 4-2 game at the break as we didn’t play anywhere near the levels we can do in the first half.
“We suffered a bit of a hangover from extra-time on Wednesday night. However, we shouldn’t have done because we had fresh legs in there.
“We got sucked into hitting long, hopeless balls up to the front two and they aren’t the kind of forwards that thrive on that.
“Then the midfield couldn’t get anywhere near the second balls, so I had to tell them to relax at half-time and to play the way we play.
“Yes, Corby were working their socks off and you could see exactly why they’ve picked up recently. They’ve won a few games and caused problems for every side they’ve come up against in recent weeks, so we had to be better in possession than what we were.
“We had to deal with the ball better, make better angles for people and move it quicker. That’s exactly what we did in the second half, bar the first ten minutes where I thought we were flat.”
Having subbed off star striker Maguire when he was on a hat-trick during Wednesday’s 5-2 extra-time triumph against Blyth Town in the Techflow Senior Cup semi-final, Armstrong did the exact same thing after Maguire’s second goal against the Steelmen.
But the former Stockport County, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town striker insists there was method in Maguire’s withdrawal.
Armstrong said: “He is what he is, Nipa; he harassed them to death. He was feeding on scraps in the first half, him and Luke [Armstrong], it was horrible to watch and I even felt sorry for them at one point.
“He still got his goal though. As soon as he got his second one, I thought ‘right, get him off and save him for Tuesday’.
“He knows me. I’ve worked with him long enough that he knows what I think of him and he knows what I’m trying to do with him.
“At the minute, yes, it’s great for him to get all those personal accolades. However, we have to make sure we get that big one at the end of the season.
“There’s a massive game on Tuesday night and, as soon as we looked comfortable, I took him off to save him for Spennymoor.”
With Spartans being installed as the champions-elect by many fans around the Evo-Stik Premier League, every game takes on added significance as they get closer to securing top spot and promotion to the Vanarama National League North.
However, Armstrong described the challenge of a resurgent Corby side as one of the most important games of the season for him so far.
Armstrong said: “It was a huge game for us and I made sure the lads knew that in the dressing room beforehand. It was the biggest game of the season for me so far.
“They were on form, we were on form and we had to make sure we got the three points. The lads take on board what we’re saying to them at the moment and we can’t ask anything more of them.
“I even said to them that this game was more important that the game before it, the game before that, the game before that and so on.
“We go into Tuesday and that’s a massive game as well, but every game is massive until we get where we want to be.”
Asked if he would take a draw against Spennymoor Town ahead of Tuesday’s showdown, Armstrong responded: “No, not with the way we’re playing right now.
“You’ve seen how I like to play football and that good attacking play. I’ll not be setting up any differently for the game at Spennymoor.
“I’ll go and attack them and see what they’ve got.
“People expect Spennymoor to be up there. They’ve got a big enough squad and they’ve got a massive budget, so they really should be up there.
“I’m not really concerned about any other side though. I’m more concerned about our lads and what they do on a game-by-game basis.”