Blyth Spartans produced yet another goalscoring masterclass as a 5-1 win over Hednesford Town saw the Croft Park side extend their winning run to nine in a row.
Man of the match Jarrett Rivers struck twice within the first 22 minutes, but an unfortunate own goal from Paul Woolston gave Hednesford a way back into the contest on the half hour.
Luke Armstrong was on hand to force home a third with 56 minutes on the clock, before Robert Dale got in on the action 13 minutes later. Daniel Maguire then extended his goalscoring run to six consecutive games with 15 minutes to go as Blyth increased their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier League to 12 points.
Stephen Turnbull’s departure and Damen Mullen’s injury – picked up during the 2-1 win at Warrington Town on Tuesday – meant that the home side were forced to try a new partnership in the centre of midfield as Sean Reid and Jordan Laidler received the nod in the middle.
And if anyone had their doubts about whether or not two midfield changes would disrupt the flow of a side that had won each of their last eight games, then those worries were dispelled within the first two minutes as a fantastic ball from Dale ended with Spartans taking the lead.
Luke Armstrong plucked the ball out of the air beautifully and drove at goal before cutting inside and out to put an advanced Dan Crane at sixes and sevens 12 yards out. Armstrong showed great awareness to roll the ball to Rivers in support, who was composed enough to fire into an empty net.
The home side could have been further ahead just prior to the 15-minute mark when Rivers drilled in a corner that picked out Reid 12 yards out and he powered a towering header at goal on to be denied by the man on the near post booting the ball off the line.
As the 20th minute arrived, Blyth really should have doubled their lead after an unbelievable ball from Laidler released Maguire down the right. Spartans’ top scorer rolled the ball back to Rivers, who was in a similar spot to his earlier goal. The 23-year-old looked destined to find the back of the net again, but fired wide when he really should have scored.
The winger would not dwell on that miss for too long though as he doubled up just two minutes later. Dale faked a shot at the edge of the area, before playing through a perfectly weighted ball into Rivers who made no mistake and rolled the ball in under the body of a helpless Crane.
It took until 28 minutes for Hednesford to register their first chance of the afternoon. Danny Glover was picked out well at the back post but headed well wide.
Town would be a lot more fortunate with their next chance on the half-hour mark as they somehow managed to squeeze one in.
Vinny Mukendi could only find the base of the far post with his header. Having dived across to try and make the save, Paul Woolston was unlucky to see the ball bounce out and into the back of the net off his back.
That perhaps undeserved goal did not do anything to dampen Spartans’ spirit on a cold and wet afternoon, though, as Dale went close to re-establishing a two-goal cushion just 60 seconds later. However, the Blyth captain fired his free kick just over the bar.
More great play from Armstrong saw Rivers free in the area with the ball at his feet once again soon after following a challenge from Dan Preston. Unfortunately, though, Rivers could only find the side-netting with his strike.
Maguire had tormented Hednesford’s backline throughout the contest and was nearly rewarded for his efforts on 36 minutes. Rivers broke and then played him in, but he was denied by a fantastic save by the hand of a rushing Crane.
The second half saw Spartans continue to dominate and it took two top-rate saves from Crane to deny the home side from scoring their third in the 48th minute. He tipped Dale’s low hard free kick behind, before palming Ryan Hutchinson’s near-post header around the same upright from the resulting corner.
Maguire made the most of a defensive slip to run at goal on 54 minutes, with Rivers offering support on the right. The striker played in Armstrong on the left instead, but Crane was able to get his body behind the shot to thwart the 20-year-old.
The Hednesford stopper could only stand and watch as a delicate chip by Dale eventually led to another Blyth goal four minutes before the hour mark.
Dale was only denied a spectacular finish by the crossbar before Maguire saw his rebound strike blocked on the line. Luckily for the home side, Armstrong had followed in as well and was able to stab the ball home.
The talismanic Spartans skipper might have been disappointed to miss out on a spectacular finish by the width of the crossbar, but he only had to wait another quarter of an hour to produce a finish of the highest order.
Having beaten Hednesford’s offside trap, Dale glided past the desperate challenge of Crane and was presented with an open net. Not content with a simple tap-in, the 32-year-old nonchalantly stroked the ball over the line with the outside of his foot and ran off to celebrate with the Spartans supporters behind the goal.
Maguire was next to get his name on the score-sheet on 75 minutes following an intricate attacking move from the home side. Having had the ball played to his feet in the area, Maguire curled the ball low across Crane and inside the far post to wrap up another formidable win for Spartans this season.
A buoyant Blyth side will now look to compound Stourbridge’s misery at losing 2-1 to Grantham Town when they travel to the West Midlands next Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Atkinson, Watson, Laidler, Hutchinson, Buddle (Pell 46), Rivers (Wrightson 77), Reid (Cartwright 80), Maguire, Armstrong, Dale. Subs not used: Bell, Pattison.