Alun Armstrong finally recorded his first victory as Blyth Spartans manager at the third time of asking with a 3-0 win over Mickleover Sports at Croft Park on Saturday.
Spartans had not won in five games in all competitions since their 1-0 triumph over Marine on September 13, but goals from Luke Armstrong, Matthew Pattison and Jarrett Rivers saw them claim an invaluable three points.
The win helped them climb back up to fourth place in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
And following his strong words about their woeful performance in the 3-0 reverse against Warrington Town in midweek, 41-year-old Armstrong was delighted with the response he received from his players as he claimed the first win of his managerial career.
Armstrong said: “It feels brilliant to have my first win and it was justified. I thought we were outstanding in the first half and were everything we weren’t against Warrington.
“I told them exactly what I thought – everyone’s seen that – and I asked them for a response. As I said to the lads, I’ll be honest with them.
“If they put the effort in, they’ll get all the praise like they have for this result. If they don’t, then they’ll get the rollicking that they deserve.”
Armstrong’s decision to come out and criticise his players following Tuesday’s disappointing defeat split the Spartans supporters, with half praising his honesty and half stating that he was wrong to lay into his players so soon into his managerial reign.
However, the man himself has stated that he will continue to be honest with his players, be it good or bad – as he feels that he will get more from them that way and Saturday’s result has proved that.
Armstrong said: “I’ve said before that I’ll be honest and I’m not going to lie to people. What would be the point in that?
“They’re not going to get any better if I just paper over the cracks and say ‘it’s alright, we’ll do it next time. Unlucky lads’. What’s the point in that?
“I’ve got to tell them where I think they are and I’ve got to tell them the truth, otherwise we won’t get any better. If we’re big enough – and we should be – we’ll take it on the chin, move on and work on it.
“I worked on something in the training session on Thursday night where the lads weren’t allowed to pass the ball backwards. It was something as simple as that, yet we’ve reaped the rewards from it against Mickleover.
“I will be harsh on the lads if they don’t put the work in; you have to be to get the response and that result showed me what the response was.
“Some of the fans maybe thought I was a bit harsh on the lads, but you come and watch that game there and you see what you get.
“That’s what I’m looking for and that’s the standards that the lads have to start producing week in and week out. If they don’t, then we need to fix it.
“After that result, the lads can go home with their heads held high. I’ll heap loads of praise on them as I thought every single one of them was outstanding and I can’t fault them.
“If they take that when things are going well, then they have to expect a bit when it doesn’t goes so well, as you can’t have it both ways.”
Despite coasting to a 3-0 lead within the first half-hour, Armstrong still knew that Spartans had a job to do after the break and was pleased with what he saw from his side in the second half as well.
“To be fair to them, the first 45 minutes were really good and we should have been 6-0 ahead at half-time,” he said.
“That’s not taking anything away from the lads, but we missed a penalty, the keeper’s saving things, shots are getting deflected away and no one could have complained if we had been 6-0 ahead.
“You’ve got to be very careful at half-time in those type of games, though, as you know they’re going to come out in the second half and have a go.
“I knew we couldn’t keep that up for 90 minutes, because we’d had a lot of the ball and our intensity was really high.
“We knew they were going to have a spell, so I just told the lads to go and see it through, keep them out and win the game. So, my main objective for the second half was just to keep a clean sheet and I thought the lads did exceptionally well.”
While every member of the side covered themselves in glory against Mickleover, the Spartans manager reserved special praise for midfielder Matthew Wade after the 24-year-old returned to the starting line-up for the visit of Sports.
Armstrong said: “I have to give special praise to Wadey. I thought he was outstanding.
“Some people might question me for saying that, but the ugly stuff he did in the game was different class. He’s pinching the ball off the front man’s feet, he’s intercepting passes and stopping the balls going through to their forwards.
“People don’t see that, though, and think you just have to look pretty on the ball. The stuff he did off the ball was fantastic, so I think he fully justified the decision to put him in there.”
The gaffer’s praise didn’t end there either as he laid the plaudits on Wade’s central midfield partner and second goalscorer Matty Pattison.
The former Ipswich Town and Middlesbrough striker said: “That’s the best I’ve seen Patto play. He was doing things that I wanted him to do and that he’s capable of.
“He was running at people, he’s not coming back and playing backwards or sideways balls. He’s getting the ball, running at the opposition and playing people in.
“He was rewarded with the great goal that he scored and we need to get that from him consistently.”
Having brought an end to the club’s recent run of four defeats and a draw with a convincing win, Armstrong is now looking forward to taking his side to Matlock on Tuesday as he hopes they can build on Saturday’s success and the result can inspire the start another winning spell for Spartans.
Armstrong said: “Obviously I’m pleased with them for a great win and I’m really pleased for the fans to get a result for them too. We’ve got the three points, so now we can move forward and start looking to the next game.
“Now I know what I’ve got, it’s up to me to start keeping the results coming. We’ll keep getting results if they keep playing like that.
“It’s all about high energy, keeping the ball and moving the ball quickly, but with a purpose. There’s no point playing backwards or sideways all the time, we need to get the ball forward as much as we can.
“When we score, we look like a totally different team. The confidence goes up and everyone wants the ball, so it’s imperative we get the first goal.
“I’m quite positive in that sense. After that, I’m really looking forward to Tuesday – as the lads can go out with their heads held high and, hopefully, they’ll produce another great performance against Matlock.”