A rampant Blyth Spartans ran out 4-1 winners against an equally impressive Matlock Town on Saturday to extend their 100 per cent winning run in 2017 to six games.
Luke Armstrong had put Blyth ahead in the 48th minute of an entertaining encounter before Matlock’s Marcus Dinanga scored his 14th goal of the season less than a minute later to restore parity.
An outstanding point-blank save from Paul Woolston to deny Edward Cribley just after the hour mark proved to be the turning point as substitute Robert Dale and Jarrett Rivers doubled up within a minute to swing the game in Blyth’s favour.
Having set up both wingers for their goals, Daniel Maguire was then rewarded for his efforts with a stoppage time strike to wrap up a valuable win with his 100th goal for the club.
And a favourable set of results around the league helped extend Spartans’ lead at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier League to eight points.
Blyth had hit Mickleover for seven in their last game and looked to get straight back on the goal-scoring trail within the first 60 seconds against the Gladiators. Maguire shot from the right, but a block in the box took the sting off the ball for a grateful Philip Barnes.
Maguire was at his troublesome best once more just four minutes later when he beat the offside trap and got in down the left. He played a low cross towards Rivers on the penalty spot, but put the ball too far behind the winger and the chance was gone.
When Rivers finally got his feet on the ball, he caused all sorts of bother in the seventh minute as he squirmed his way past right-back Liam Marsden and into the box. Shooting low towards the near post, a scrambling Barnes was just able to get across and tip it around the post.
Spartans were well on top in the first 15 minutes, but a shout of handball from Stephen Turnbull soon after nearly resulted in an opener for the visitors. Cribley played on while Turnbull appealed and ran into the area, before shooting across Woolston from a narrow angle. Thankfully though, it ran wide of the far post.
Turnbull was once again in the thick of it on 21 minutes when his corner was flicked on by Maguire at the near post. Ryan Hutchinson struck a fierce drive at goal but Barnes pulled off a good save to palm it over the bar.
Matlock were struggling to carve out their own clear-cut chances, but they were nearly gifted a fortunate goal just two minutes later after Damen Mullen got a block in on Niall McManus’ cross. The ball ballooned up off the makeshift left-back and appeared to be looping into the Spartans’ net, but Woolston did well to readjust and catch the ball above his head.
Both sides continued to produce some scintillating football as the first half reached its conclusion, but neither side were able to produce a killer blow. That was until stoppage time, when a mistake from Nathan Buddle nearly saw Matlock take the lead.
Cribley dispossessed the centre-back and raced into the area, toeing the ball across to Dinanga as Woolston advanced off his line. Before Town’s top-scorer could find the net, however, Buddle had recovered to ricochet the ball off the striker and behind for a goal kick.
If both sides had struggled to create any real chances in the first half, then it was the complete opposite within the first five minutes after the break.
First, an 18-yard shot from Sean Reid on 48 minutes looked to require only a simple stop from the keeper, but he made a horror show of it. Spilling the ball into the path of Armstrong and the young striker happily blasted the ball home over the helpless Barnes.
The home side’s lead was to last a mere 60 seconds, however, as Matlock’s top scorer pulled the Gladiators level with a fantastic individual effort. Picking the ball up out wide on the right, he feinted not once but twice to beat Buddle. With the goal at his mercy, he fired across Woolston and into the bottom corner.
A frantic start to the second half continued when Rivers picked the pocket of Marsden on 52 minutes just outside the Matlock area. He tried to pick out Maguire with a simple knock back on the by-line, but the ball was cut out before it could reach the striker.
Two Turnbull free kicks either side of the hour mark nearly put the hosts back ahead, but Hutchinson could only header his cross in wide. The midfielder opted to shoot from 25 yards soon after but he was just off target when looking for the top corner.
If Blyth had been cursing their luck for not finding the net, then they were counting their blessings for their on-loan goalkeeper on 66 minutes after Dinanga was picked out free in the area.
The forward laid the ball off to Cribley just a few yards from goal, but Woolston was able to produce a fantastic point-blank stop from his shot. That resulted in a goalmouth scramble, but a desperate clearance from Buddle saw the ball away to safety.
That save proved to be all-important for Blyth as they re-took the lead with 11 minutes to go.
A great sweeping move saw substitute Dale in the area with the ball at his feet. After putting the defender on the back foot and cutting inside, the winger found the back of the net via a deflection, despite only being on the field for a mere nine minutes.
Having watched one winger find the back of the net off a Maguire assist, the Croft Park faithful were back on their feet within a minute of celebrating Dale’s goal. Maguire fed Rivers on the right and the 23-year-old produced an unstoppable rising effort from 14 yards, to smash the ball home and assert the dominance of a rampant Spartans side.
Maguire had a helping hand in both late goals, so it was only fair that he was able to find the net himself in added time. Great work from Rivers led to him cutting the ball back to the striker, who gratefully tapped in to score his 14th goal of the season and make himself Spartans’ latest centurion.
With six victories from six so far, the next test to Spartans’ winning start to the year will come at Ilkeston next Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: Woolston, Atkinson, Mullen, Turnbull, Hutchinson, Buddle, Rivers, Armstrong (Laidler 74), Maguire, Reid, Wrightson (Dale 70). Subs not used: Cartwright, Pell, Wade.