A BLISTERING second half display helped Blyth Spartans prove their promotion credentials with a 4-0 win at struggling Hyde United last night.
A Sean Reid brace just moments after the break helped settle the visitors nerves following a scoreless first half in which they struggled to break down a resolute Hyde defence, before further strikes from Paul Robinson and Wilson Kneeshaw sealed the points for the Northumberland outfit.
For Hyde this was a disastrous first match at Ewen Fields for new manager Darren Kelly and takes the Tigers miserable second half of the season run to just two wins from 25 games, leaving them just two points and one place above the relegation trapdoor.
This win was Blyth’s fifth in a row and extended their lead at the top of the Evo-Stik Premier Division to seven points, although Darlington do possess four games in hand on their title rivals.
Darren Kelly made one change from the side that lost 3-0 at Frickley in his first game in charge, bringing in Luke Trimble for Big Khamsuk to create a five man defence whilst the Spartans made three changes from Saturday’s astonishing 4-3 win at Ilkeston on Saturday, highlighting their strength in depth.
The opening exchanges were tight with Blyth dominating possession as if they were the home side but without the incision to break down their stubborn hosts whose 5-4-1 formation highlighted their priority was to defend rather than attack.
Spartans captain and last season’s Evo-Stik supporters’ player of the season Robbie Dale was playing in a free role for the visitors, often picking up the ball in his defensive half before trying to find a pass to unlock the defence.
On 10 minutes he chipped long for Michael Richardson who spotted Kieran Harrison out of his goal but his attempted lob was held by the Hyde number one.
The Tigers had chances too in the first half, talismanic striker Scott Spencer lined up a free-kick 30 yards out but he was unable to find his 21st goal of the campaign, firing into the arms of Adam McHugh.
On 23 minutes linesman Robert Jackson announced via the referee that he was unable to continue and a call to arms was put over the tannoy for a replacement from the stands.
One man was found and after a 10 minute stoppage while the spectator-come-official got changed and briefed ahead of his new role, play eventually resumed.
In what was officially the first of 12 minutes of stoppage time Hyde had the best chance of the first half, Spencer hooked over his head into the path of right-back Adam Jones who fired just wide with what was actually the hosts best opportunity all evening.
In the fourth additional minute Richardson found himself with a clear shooting opportunity at Harrison’s goal but he showed no composure and skewed well wide ensuring both sides went into the break at 0-0.
The second half began much later than advertised but that didn’t stop Blyth from seizing control of the game almost instantaneously after the restart. Dale started the move with a deflected pass that found Richardson who rounded a Tigers defender and slipped to Reid who tucked the ball past Harrison to give the visitors the lead in the first minute of the second half.
It was a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ start to the second period from Tom Wade’s men who went two up just three minutes later when Reid found the net again. Damen Mullen took a corner short to Dale whose cross was blocked but fell kindly for Mullen to whip into the danger area and after Richardson’s flick-on the ball was touched in by Reid to double his and his side’s goal tally.
Whatever Wade had said to his troops at the interval had worked wonders, his side were now purposeful in their play and on 58 minutes they made it 3-0. Mullen’s long diagonal pass found Richardson who teed up Robinson to slam home beyond Harrison.
Substitutions for both sides littered the remains of the game and Blyth slightly took their foot of the gas after establishing their three goal lead.
They should have made it four but Richardson and the recently introduced Kneeshaw somehow contrived to miss after Dale had laid across the face of goal after skipping around Hyde captain Andrew Pearson with consummate ease.
The Spartans rounded off the scoring with 22 minutes to play with a swift breakaway goal. Richardson, who seemed to play a crucial involvement in all of the visitors’ goals, carried the majority of the way upfield before playing a smart pass to Kneeshaw, seemingly without looking at his teammate.
The Spartans number 16 made no mistake, rifling home his team’s fourth goal beyond Harrison. There was very little the on-loan Crewe stopper could do about any of the Blyth goals, the Northumberland side were ruthless in-front of goal as you would expect from the league leaders.
Hyde made a token effort to net a consolation goal late in the piece, when substitute Zeekell Parkes briefly injected some life into his side but after he’d done well to work an opening he was inadvertently tackled by his strike-partner Spencer.
It was that kind of evening for Hyde as they succumbed to another defeat.
The saving grace for the Tigers is that the two sides directly below them also lost on Monday night, Stamford at Stourbridge and Whitby Town away at Ilkeston, but Darren Kelly will know he’s got his work cut out if he’s to prevent the Tigers from slumping to a third straight relegation.
It’s a case of how the other half live for Blyth who now have 20 wins from 26 games and although Darlington have games in hand you’d probably want to be the side with the points already on the board. In 2014-15 the Spartans were a division lower than the Tigers.
In 2016-17 they may well be two steps higher.
Hyde: Harrison, Jones (Khamsuk ’89), Fitton, Bianga, Pearson (c), Trimble, Bevins, Holmes (G. Spencer ’83), S. Spencer, Reeves, Boyle (Parkes ’59).
Subs not used: Vince, Head
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Cartwright, Watson, Buddle, Morse (Parker ’76), Mullen, Richardson, Robinson, Reid (Kneeshaw ’64), Wade (Hooks ’72), Dale (c).
Subs not used: Wearmouth, Nicholson
Goals: Reid (46, 49), Robinson (58), Kneeshaw (68)
Referee: Mr Benjamin Speedie
By Jordan Davies at Ewen Fields