Blyth Spartans moved five points clear of Workington in the Evo-Stik Premier League with a 1-0 win over llkeston on Tuesday night.
The winning goal came courtesy of captain Robbie Dale’s 100th strike at Croft Park just before the interval.
Blyth started on the front foot with Aaron Wearmouth whipping in a cross from the right which Ilkeston keeper Jamie Hannis collected before Robbie Dale could capitalise. Wearmouth was then found by Dale and his 20-yard effort was easy for Hannis to deal with. The busy Wearmouth then crossed from the touchline but just failed to pick out Michael Richardson six yards out.
Following the first 15 minutes of Spartans domination, the visitors then had a spell of sustained pressure.
JJ Blake drifted past three Blyth defenders and his left foot shot from 18 yards brought out an excellent one-handed save from Adam McHugh in the home goal.
Blake then fired over from a free kick after Lee Ndluvu was fouled 25 yards out.
A further free kick fell dangerously into space in the Blyth penalty box but there was no Ilkeston player able to take advantage.
On the half hour mark, as if a switch had been flicked, Blyth went on to press forward for the remainder of the half.
Dillon Morse passed to Wearmouth on the wing. He slotted a neat ball through to Dale who crashed his shot off the far post.
Good interplay between Richardson and Wilson Kneeshaw saw the former Darlington striker in space in the box but he was quickly closed down by defender Eli Bako and denied a shooting opportunity.
Ilkeston keeper Hannis was again called in to action when a flicked header by Dale found Richardson 25 yards out and centrally placed, but the midfielder volleyed first time and Hannis got down swiftly to collect.
In a rare Ilkeston attack, Joe Doyle sliced wide before Blyth took the lead on the stroke of half-time.
A Wearmouth shot was cleared with the ball falling to Dale whose shot was blocked by Hannis. Richardson was quick to the rebound but his goal-ward bound back heel was parried by Hannis, and when Richardson then attempted to retrieve the ball once more four yards from goal, the overzealous Hannis fouled him.
Dale crashed the resulting penalty high in to the roof of the Ilkeston goal.
After the restart a dangerous Wearmouth cross was cleared before Nathan Buddle headed narrowly over from a Dale free kick.
Ilkeston responded through Daniel Udok, who shot wide from 25 yards.
Matthew Wade came close to extending Blyth’s lead when his close range header was cleared for a corner.
The visitors were starting to create more chances and only a desperate last minute tackle by Buddle denied Udoh the chance to shoot.
Ilkeston defender Matt Baker then screwed his shot agonisingly wide of McHugh’s goal.
Twice Blyth had to employ well timed tackles – from Wade and Morse – to deny Dexter Atkinson.
With ten minutes remaining Kneeshaw came close to scoring when the ball fell to him, somewhat unexpectedly, and he turned and shot but Hannis was able to save with ease.
On 88 minutes, Hannis was on hand to deny Kneeshaw again when, following a prolonged period quality passing in midfield, the striker struck the ball beautifully but the Ilkeston keeper pulled of a stunning save in reaching high to palm the ball onto the cross bar and away to safety.
It was an engaging game of football, deservedly won by Blyth, between two sides who liked to play with the ball on the ground and in the right spirit.
Blyth Spartans: A McHugh, D Morse, J Watson, N Buddle, R Hutchinson, N Hooks, A Wearmouth (S Reid 75), M Richardson, W Kneeshaw, M Wade, R Dale. Subs not used: D Parker, P Robinson, A Davis, F Otte.
On Saturday Spartans entertain Ramsbottom United in a 3pm kick-off.