Blyth Spartans’ Robbie Dale once again enjoyed a starring role in their 3-2 home win over Whitby Town on Tuesday evening.
The Croft Park captain served up one of his most complete performances with the club to ensure Tom Wade’s side made it two wins in two games in the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League.
Not that the plaudits should be limited to Dale, who stood effortlessly in the role of headline act, but nods of approval also went to the industrious midfield duo of Matthew Wade and Stephen Turnbull, the young back four who grew in stature and confidence as the game went on and to Dale’s fellow winger Arran Wearmouth, who looked a constant thorn in the side of the visitors.
And then there is the returning Dan Maguire. A first start since late April, a first 90 minutes of what is technically his second spell at the club and a performance of industry, class and the never-say-die spirit that has made him a fans’ favourite at Croft Park.
Whitby Town boss Darren Williams was afforded the luxury of naming an unchanged line-up after the Seasiders’ comprehensive opening day win at home to Stourbridge.
His Spartans counterpart Wade was forced into three changes. Goalkeeper Adam McHugh replaced the injured Nick Thomson, Dillon Morse made a full debut in place of the unavailable Danny Parker and Maguire came in for the injured Paul Robinson, a move facilitated by a switch in midfield involving Michael Richardson and Wearmouth.
The game set off a lightning pace under the ash grey skies and on a pitch sodden from a constant downpour that had continued for much of the day, but which made for a better game.
With the first chance came the first goal as Maguire put Spartans ahead.
Twelve minutes were on the clock when Wearmouth danced inside from the right before unleashing a low drive towards the near post that was too hot for Shane Bland to handle and the Seasiders number one could only parry to Maguire, who applied the finishing touch from close range.
Midway through the half came the equaliser from the penalty spot.
Michael Roberts was released into the left hand side of the Spartan area and was upended by full debutant Morse. The former Spennymoor Town man then picked himself up and crashed the spot kick inside McHugh’s right hand upright, leaving the Spartans keeper with no chance.
From that point on it was all Spartans as the Seasiders goal lived a charmed life.
But Dale and Alex Nicholson were left frustrated by Bland as he ensured the sides went into the interval on level terms.
There was to be no respite for the visitors back line with the opening exchanges of the second half.
Maguire saw a shot saved by the legs of Bland within a minute of the restart, Nicholson fired over from the edge of the box and Dale smashed an angled drive into the side-netting.
But it was the visitors who went ahead against the run of play.
A free kick was awarded 25 yards from goal and Roberts stepped up to double his tally for the night with a rising shot that McHugh could only fumble into his own net.
The lead was to last only six minutes as Dale came to the forefront.
The equaliser came from a free kick, albeit one that was courtesy of a questionable award from the match official, not his only one of the night.
With Dale and Turnbull over the kick it seemed likely that the latter would be the one to try his luck. But it was as Dale who smashed a low drive through the Seasiders wall and inside Bland’s near post to set Croft Park alight with relief and jubilation in equal measures.
The winger was at it again moments later as his jinked into the Town area and forced Bland into a smart stop at his near post. The ball rebounded off the keeper and hit Maguire, who then saw the ball drop agonisingly wide of the post.
With 14 minutes remaining Dale won the game for Spartans as he rounded off a fantastic move that had its foundations down the right hand side.
Nicholson was afforded too much time to send a pinpoint cross in towards Dale who rose above a challenge to nod home from around ten yards out.
The closing stages were, as expected, hectic.
Maguire could and should have sealed the game with two minutes left after being released in on goal but he was again denied by Bland.
The visitors forced a number of corners in four minutes of injury time and from one of them came a big chance to snatch what would have been an equaliser that could have been seen as harsh on Spartans.
A quickly taken corner allowed Seasiders substitute Liam Shepherd to cut across the edge of the box before unleashing a drive that took a deflection. McHugh, atoning for his earlier error, produced a flying save to secure all three points for Wade’s men on a remarkable night at Croft Park.
Next up is another home fixture for Spartans as they entertain another of the division’s undefeated sides in Buxton on Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Nicholson, Morse, Watson, Hutchinson, Turnbull, Richardson, Wearmouth (Mullen 77), Maguire, Wade, Dale. Subs not used: Bramley, McNamee, Hooks, Reid.