It was a case of what might have been rather than what should have been for Blyth Spartans as they were handed only their second league defeat of the season at Stourbridge on Saturday.
The clinical nature of finishing from the home side sealed a deserved three points, with Spartans left to rue their inability to take chances and reflect on allowing the opposition to score easy goals.
On a sunny September day in the Midlands, the sides swapped chances in the opening exchanges.
Dan Maguire was prevented by a last-ditch challenge from Chris Knight within the opening 30 seconds before Glassboys striker Justin Richards brought a save, albeit a comfortable one, out of Spartans keeper Fabian Otte.
Further chances came and went for both sides, with Spartans looking more comfortable in possession, but their hosts looking to have more of a cutting edge.
Stourbridge took the lead midway through the half and it came from the penalty spot after Jordan Watson upended Matt Dodd in the box, although Spartans were insistent that the transgression had taken place outside of the area.
The referee was to be unmoved on his decision and Dodd picked himself up before coolly dispatching the ball past Otte.
Boosted by the goal, the hosts flowed forwards. Richards almost grabbed his second inside ten minutes of his first but fired well over from just inside the area, then winger Chris Lait sliced a shot wide of the far post.
Spartans’ riposte came with a number of chances before the break, but barring one that struck the crossbar, they never seriously trouble the hosts’ backline.
Michael Richardson brought a routine save out of Lewis Solly with a shot from distance and Maguire fired wide after good work from Robbie Dale.
The closest Spartans came to an equaliser was Arran Wearmouth’s superb curling effort that smashed off the crossbar.
The second half began as the first had ended, with Spartans creating chances but frustrated by their inability to take them and by some dogged defending from the Glassboys.
Maguire went through on goal but a combination of defender Dan Scarr and keeper Solly saw him the chip the ball just wide of the far post.
Minutes later there was another chance for Spartans and this time it was Solly alone who caused their further frustration with a fantastic double save.
Richardson had the initial chance from ten yards but Solly saved well before smothering Maguire’s follow up.
That double stop was to prove monumental. A Spartans equaliser would have been reward for their lively start to the second period, but Solly seemed to reinvigorate his team-mates and from then on it was all about the hosts.
The lead was doubled on 67 minutes and it was no surprise that it was one of the duo who snatched the goal that ultimately killed off Tom Wade’s side.
Leon Broadhurst was given time and space to smash a 30-yard effort at goal that Otte could only parry. Richards was unmarked and tapped home the rebound.
The third goal soon followed. This time it was Hawley who got his name on the scoresheet as the former Carlisle United and Preston North End forward used his experience to give Dillon Morse and Ryan Hutchinson a 90-minute working they would do well to learn from.
And it was a poor clearance from the latter that fell to Hawley to give him a sight of goal. Again he was afforded too much time and curled a shot from the edge of the box, leaving Otte with no chance and giving the hosts a much-deserved win.
The final whistle saw Tom Wade keep Spartans out on the pitch. Firstly to begin the inquest into the defeat and secondly to ensure that the impressive band of Spartans faithful were at least thanked for their unwavering support.
It has been an excellent start to the season for Spartans that few predicted back in the closing stages of pre-season, but the defeat will serve as a reminder that the Evo-Stik NPL premier division is a tough place where nothing can be taken for granted.
Next up for Spartans is a home fixture against newly promoted Mickleover Sports on Saturday.
Blyth Spartans: Otte, Cartwright, Watson (Nicholson 60), Hutchinson, Morse, Turnbull, Richardson (Reid 62), Wearmouth, Maguire, Wade, Dale. Subs not used: McHugh, Bramley, McNamee.