Best away show of season as Spartans beat Stafford

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BLYTH Spartans recovered from a midweek defeat at Hednesford in the best possible fashion by putting in one of their most impressive away performances of the season with a 4-2 win at Stafford Rangers.

An all round team performance saw goals from Dan Maguire, Robbie Dale and two penalties from Craig Hubbard give Tom Wade’s side all three points against Rangers, who became Spartans’ third league double of the season along with Stocksbridge Park Steels and Matlock Town.

Wade brought front man Andy Jennings back into the line-up in place of Ryan McGorrigan and Hubbard replaced Neal Hooks in the centre of midfield.

Damen Mullen returned to the back four at left back and that allowed Joe Kendrick to move into the heart of the defence alongside skipper Wayne Buchanan.

It was Rangers who started the quicker and they were causing Spartans problems with the pace and power of Fabrice Kasiama and Luke Bottomer.

It was three minutes in when they got their reward from the penalty spot as Stephen Turnbull clipped Michael Carr in the box and referee pointed to the spot.

Danny Quinn took the kick and fired right down the middle to put his side ahead.

It was a lead they nearly doubled on nine minutes as Jimmy Turner fired wide at the far post when it seemed easier to score.

Slowly but surely Spartans found their feet and started playing some good football on a pitch that should not really have allowed them to do so.

Just after the 20-minute mark, Dale fed Lee Mason on the edge of the box and the former Hartlepool United man blasted an effort just wide of the near post.

That was a trick Hubbard repeated minutes later as he crashed an effort into the side-netting from the right hand side of the area.

Just before the half hour mark, Spartans got the reward for their pressure.

Turnbull took a corner from the right and he found a towering header from Buchanan that found it’s way to the edge of the six-yard box and Maguire continued his impressive form by finishing with a clever overhead kick.

The nineteen-year-old nearly had another five minutes before the break as he sprinted away from Luke George and into the left hand side of the box before firing just past the angle of post and crossbar.

That same crossbar was rattling on the verge of half-time as Maguire held the ball up well and laid off to Dale. The winger’s first time volley had Adam Alcock beaten but crashed off the woodwork and away to safety.

The home side should have had the lead in first half injury time as goalscorer Quinn volleyed wide of Cook’s far post from ten yards out, but the sides went into the break on level terms.

Spartans had been the better side with the front pairing of Maguire and the physical presence of Jennings causing all sorts of issues, with the threat of Kasiama being snuffed out comfortably by Kendrick and Buchahan.

Spartans flew out of the blocks in the second half and had the lead within three minutes.

Maguire was released down the right and teased left back Brown before curling a wonderful ball to the near post that saw Dale get in front of his marker Turner to fire home.

That goal meant Dale took over as Spartans’ top scorer with nine for the season.

Five minutes later and the lead was extended, and once again it was from the penalty spot.

A Slaughter cross into the box saw Maguire being held by Turner and the spot kick was correctly given. Hubbard stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom left hand corner.

Remarkably, Spartans were awarded another penalty just before the hour mark, although given that they have been given 14 this season now may be is was not so remarkable.

A superb first touch from Jennings took him beyond the defence but his run was halted by Alcock, and once again a spot kick was given.

Hubbard stepped up again and made it four by opting for the same corner as his first penalty, sending Alcock the wrong way.

That means the former West Auckland midfielder now has five successful penalties this season for Spartans and has three in his last two games.

Jennings had been impressive all afternoon and his power and aerial ability had been a real nuisance for the hosts.

The former Billingham Synthonia striker nearly got a goal that his performance more than deserved and what a goal it could have been.

A long ball to the left hand side of the box saw Jennings turn and strike a first time volley against the crossbar and away to safety.

He was replaced by McGorrigan minutes later and it is fair to say that Spartans lost a little bit of edge after Jennings had been replaced.

The home side got a route back into the game 13 minutes from time as a Kinsella free kick from the left flicked off Turnbull’s head and crept inside Cook’s far post.

It was a consolation goal but only because the Spartans back four put in solid performances to see off any danger Rangers could put their way.

The last chance of the game came ten minutes from time as Mason released McGorrigan one-on-one with Alcock but the Gateshead loanee’s finish was far too casual and he only found the chest of the Rangers keeper.

Spartans comfortably saw out the game and took home a deserved three points.

Spartans man of the match: Craig Hubbard.

Blyth Spartans: Cook, Slaughter, Mullen, Kendrick, Buchanan, Mason (Berj 82), Turnbull, Hubbard, Jennings (McGorrigan 72), Maguire (Airey 81), Dale Subs not used: Grant, Donnelly.

Attendance: 326.