Blyth Spartans recorded an emphatic 3-0 victory over Rushall Olympic on Tuesday to keep the league title race with Darlington 1883 alive.
The game marked captain Robbie Dale’s 500th appearance for Spartans, and he nearly marked it with an early goal.
Within two minutes of the start when he tried to curl a shot over the visiting keeper Kieran Preston, but his effort was saved.
Blyth had started brightly and nearly took the lead after ten minutes when Damen Mullen picked out fellow midfielder Matty Dale, but the latter’s volley cleared the Rushall bar.
The Pics almost scored after 14 minutes but centre back Jack Duggan headed wastefully wide.
Spartans continued to press and Michael Richardson attempted an audacious 40-chip towards goal, but his effort flew harmlessly wide.
However, the home side did score after 20 minutes when a sloppy back-pass by Daniel Wilkinson allowed Daniel Maguire to take advantage of hesitancy by Preston and calmly roll the ball in to the net.
Only two minutes later Blyth extended their lead after a flowing move.
Dale sent a 30-yard ball to find Richardson who fooled his defender to pick out Sean Reid and the midfielder turned neatly to fire low across Preston and into the bottom corner.
Blyth had to react sharply at the other end to deny Andre Brown before Marlow Walters drove wide of Blyth keeper Adam McHugh’s post.
A superb tackle by Spartans’ Dillon Morse was needed to deny Brown as he looked to take advantage of a defensive error.
After the break there were a series of half chances for both sides. A Brown shot was bravely blocked by Nathan Buddle before Maguire and Reid came close for Blyth.
Alex Reid blazed over for the Pics before Brown found space to shoot – but only straight in to the hands of McHugh.
On 60 minutes Dale went close for Blyth. A brilliant Maguire ball found Richardson whose shot was saved by Preston, but the ball sat up for Dale to head goalward, but Preston was up for the challenge, acrobatically clawing the ball away to safety.
Blyth went on to boss the rest of the game.
Wade headed just over the bar before Richardson extended Spartans’ lead on 64 minutes, tapping home from close range.
Dale, Nicholson and Maguire all had efforts which failed to find the target and in added time a rare attack from Rushall saw McHugh called in to action, diving to save a Kris Taylor drive.
Blyth Spartans: A McHugh, A Cartwright (A Nicholson 65), J Watson, N Buddle, D Morse, D Mullen (N Hooks 70), M Richardson, S Reid, D Maguire, M Wade, R Dale (W Kneeshaw 80). Subs not used: P Robinson, D Parker.