Blyth Spartans 4-1 Matlock Town
Matlock looked set to return from the league leaders with a well earned point, that was until Blyth’s talisman club captain Robbie Dale intervened.
The scores were level with eleven minutes to go when substitute Dale, thrown on eleven minutes earlier, put the Spartans in front for a second time. Less than a minute later Jarrett Rivers blasted in a magnificent third and the game had dramatically turned against Matlock who conceded a fourth goal in stoppage time with their confidence well and truly shattered.
The final outcome was harsh on Matlock who played their part in a thoroughly entertaining game. The 682 who witnessed it probably saw the 2016/17 Evo-Stik NPL Premier Division champions. Blyth have strength, pace, skill and the depth in their squad that should ensure they will atone for narrow misses in recent seasons to take the title.
As for Matlock they are facing their toughest spell of the season, this being their third successive league defeat.But encouragingly this was a much better all round performance than the ones served up in the losses to Corby and Workington.
With Adam Yates ill, Nico Degirolamo and Dwayne Wiley retained the central defensive positions, new loan signing Andy Wright replaced the suspended Joe Doyle-Charles in midfield, Marc Newsham taking the skipper’s armband.
Blyth, who hit seven in winning at Mickleover seven days earlier, set off at a frantic pace and Matlock did well to repel the early storm.
Dan Maguire had a first minute shot that was defleted safely through to Phil Barnes before soon afterwards he broke clear on the left but took the wrong option, the move breaking down when his cross was behind Rivers.
Rivers switched flanks to cause trouble when he eased past Liam Marsden and Barnes was down swiftly to claw the ball away from the near post.
But Matlock were gradually finding their feet and they came close to shocking the home crowd in the 16th minute. Niall McManus, who worked tirelessly throughout without much luck, found Ted Cribley who pulled his shot narrowly beyond the far post.
Blyth replied five minutes later when from a left wing corner, Ryan Hutchinson’s fierce strike was expertly pushed over the bar by Barnes.
Both sides were now playing some excellent football and it was perhaps surprising the scoreline remained blank until the interval. Marcus Dinanga had a shot charged down and Cribley placed a free header wide before in first half stoppage time, the Gladiators had a golden chance to take the lead.
Cribley robbed Nathan Buddle and had a clear chance of a shot. Instead he chose to feed Dinanga but with goalkeeper Paul Woolston out of position, Buddle atoned for his error, his interception ricocheting off Dinanga to loop harmlessly over the bar.
The crowd did not have long to wait for goals in the second half though. Blyth went in front on 47 minutes when Barnes could only parry an eighteen yard strike from Sean Reid and manager’s son LUKE ARMSTRONG smashed the loose ball into the roof of the net from close range.
But two minutes later DINANGA equalised with one of his trademark strikes, collecting possession on the right to fool Buddle twice before unleashing a superbly struck shot low into the far corner.
Both sides looked menacing now and it was Matlock who came close to snatching the lead on 66 minutes when the unmarked Dinanga found Cribley whose shot was superbly saved at point blank range by Woolston ,Blyth frantically scrambling the ball clear.
Dale, and Blyth, took full advantage of that escape.
With eleven minutes remaining they swept forward with a fine attack, full of movement and running, the ball eventually reaching DALE on the left of the penalty box. His shot took a deflection to find its way past Barnes and the trail of destruction had begun.
Matlock were still cursing their misfortune when Spartans attacked again, this time down the right and RIVERS, found by Maguire, ripped the net with a rising fifteen yard drive that gave Barnes no chance.
A shell shocked Gladiators side conceded what can only be described as a poor fourth goal in stoppage time. Rivers was given a free run into the box, nobody got a tackle in and he set up MAGUIRE to net easily, this being the striker’s 100th goal for Blyth.
Blyth are undubtedly the strongest and best side Matlock have faced in all competitions this season.That late barrage was hard on the Gladiators but they must now get their league campaign back on track against Halesowen this weekend.
BLYTH SPARTANS: 1 Paul Woolston 2 David Atkinson 3 Damen Mullen 4 Stephen Turnbull 5 Ryan Hutchinson 6 Nathan Buddle 7 Jarrett Rivers 8 Luke Armstrong(14 Jordan Laidler 74) 9 Daniel Maguire 10 Sean Reid 11 Adam Wrightson (16 Robbie Dale 68) Other subs: 12 Andrew Cartwright 15 Richard Pell 17 Mathew Wade
MATLOCK TOWN: 1 Phil Barnes 2 Liam Marsden 3 Jake Green 4 Andy Wright 5 Nico Degirolamo 6 Dwayne Wiley 7 Niall McManus 8 Michael Williams ( 16 Alex Pursehouse 68) 9 Marc Newsham (14 Curtis Morrison 63) 10 Marcus Dinanga 11 Ted Cribley Other subs: 12 Jamie Yates 15 Kevin Grocott 17 Cenk Acar
REFEREE: Craig Dean (Peterlee) ATTENDANCE: 682 BEST GLADIATOR: Niall McManus