Kneeshaw hits all five goals in Blyth Spartans' win over Ramsbottom
It was the Wilson Kneeshaw show at Croft Park on Saturday as the Blyth Spartans striker ensured the foot of the Evo-Stik Premier League still reads Rams '“ bottom.
Spartans’ Greater Manchester opponents were no match for the free-flowing, top-of-the-table side, nor their lively frontman Kneeshaw, who multiplied his Blyth goal-record by six in one afternoon.
His five goals, all as a result of sharp, crisp passing moves, were the difference between two teams; one far the superior.
Spartans lined-up with their attacking full back Alex Nicholson back in the starting line-up, as was Sean Reid, replacing Dillon Morse and Arran Wearmouth respectively.
Basement club Ramsbottom United were without a win in six prior to the rout, and looked in no shape to end that run after just 30 seconds as Blyth almost took the lead.
Big centre half Kevin McGrath’s weak back pass was almost intercepted by former Darlington man Kneeshaw but keeper Grant Shenton cleared.
However, Blyth were back on the front foot four minutes later as they stormed into an early lead.
Reid, back playing in midfield after an appearance in defence against Workington, broke down the right, sliding a delightful pass into the path of the onside Kneeshaw. He raced away from the Ramsbottom defenders and calmly placed the ball to the keeper’s left to make it 1-0.
Skipper Robbie Dale went close with an effort on ten minutes, but it was no surprise when Kneeshaw doubled his tally and Blyth’s lead two minutes later.
Reid was again involved, measuring a superb ball with his left foot towards the on-rushing Michael Richardson wide on the right. Charging into the box, he curled in a cross into the box which, after a fresh air swing of a leg from United assistant player-manager Phil Edghill, Kneeshaw finished with aplomb.
Ramsbottom had just two chances of note all game and the first came on 21 minutes. Right back Robbie Bromley was the architect as he swung a well-shaped ball into the box to find the head of Michael Oates. Stretching and diving to reach the delivery, Oates could only direct it just wide of Adam McHugh’s goal.
It was a warning, though, for a Spartans side who were stroking the ball about with ease.
United’s second opportunity came two minutes prior to the break as Danny Wilkins’ cross from the right evaded everyone in the middle before falling to Jake Cliffe. The midfielder was the opposite of composed as he directed the ball well over from five yards with his left boot.
The hosts were unfortunate to go into the break just two goals to the good, but Nicholson went about rectifying that shortly after the restart. But a dipping volley with his weaker foot could only find the hands of Shenton in goal.
The stopper was again on hand to deny Blyth 13 minutes into the second half, saving well from Richardson’s effort, before he pulled out another stop a minute later – again from a Richardson strike.
United’s attempts to score themselves were feeble at best in the second period, and they went closest through Wilkins with a dragged effort from the outside of the box with ten minutes remaining.
And the afternoon was to get far worse for the visitors in the final stages. Blyth’s third and Kneeshaw’s match-ball claimer came on 82 minutes, though the forward will be sending his thanks to the captain. Dale, toying with Bromley, got to the byline before pulling the ball back for the striker who tapped home.
The action was far from over though, as Spartans next capitalised on some poor Ramsbottom defending to make it a rout.
A superb one-two between Richardson and substitute Wearmouth left full back Andrew Smart – who fittingly modelled the cleanest kit on the pitch come full-time – for dead and a ball forward was collected and coolly finished, again to the keeper’s left, by Kneeshaw.
With two minutes left, Jordan Watson saw his opportunity to get forward, and though his cut-back evaded Spartans’ four-goal hero, referee Will Finnie stopped play and pointed to the spot, sending Edghill off in the process for holding Kneeshaw inside the six-yard box.
Skipper Dale stepped up but Shenton was on hand to deny Spartans’ top-scorer low to his left.
Any fans who left early missed Kneeshaw and Blyth’s fifth that came two minutes into added time.
Paul Robinson, off the bench, slid a delightful pass through to Dale who found Kneeshaw in the centre and the pacey striker placed the ball under Shenton for his fifth of the day and topped off a brilliant afternoon for Tom Wade’s men, who remain at the summit of the Evo-Stik Premier League.
Blyth Spartans: A McHugh, A Nicholson (D Morse 85), J Watson, N Buddle, R Hutchinson, N Hooks, M Richardson, S Reid (A Wearmouth 62), W Kneeshaw, M Wade (P Robinson 73), R Dale. Subs not used: A Davis, D Parker.