Blyth Spartans 3 Stocksbridge PS 0

Blyth had to beat Stocksbridge and the weather to ensure 2014 began a happy New Year

Football action

Blyth had to beat Stocksbridge and the weather to ensure 2014 began a happy New Year.

They made light of both.

A monsoon of driving wind and rain swept Croft Park, from south to north, before and throughout proceedings.

Yet Spartans negotiated matters with some comfort against struggling but previously improving Steels, and could have won much more handsomely than 3-0.

Victory leaves them sixth in Evo-Stik Premier, one spot outside the play-offs.

And though a small squad has played more games than those clubs above them in the table, whether or not they sustain a promotion challenge, they have set themselves up for a promising New Year and beyond.

It almost took just 24 footballing seconds of 2014 to get them on their way, Craig Hubbard stabbing wide after an impressively front-footed opening by Neal Hooks and Dan Maguire.

Battling into the breeze, it took Blyth a while to threaten again but, to their credit, they did so – through Paul Robinson and Robbie Dale – a good deal more so than the Steels.

For them, Matt Hamshaw was twice denied by Michal Misiewicz, but five minutes after half-time and with the wind now in their sails, Spartans took control.

Maguire fed Dale down the left, he cut in and squared to Robinson, who steered a left-footed shot back across and beyond Stocksbridge goalkeeper Jack Ward.

Now it was one-way traffic; Dale, Maguire repeatedly and Arjun Purewal all went close.

At the other end, Brett Bowden-Lovell headed a Hamshaw free-kick straight at Misiewicz, but that merely interrupted a series that continued with chances for Maguire to chip wide with Ward AWOL and then back-head at the visiting keeper.

On 74 minutes, however, the Spartans striker got his reward. Matthew Wade sprang clear and saw his low, right-foot effort saved by Ward, only for Maguire to slide in the follow-up.

Hamshaw, again, was blocked at the opposite end and, later, Danny South guided a free header wide from close range.

But by then Blyth had the points in the bag, with Hooks squeezing a shot across Ward and in on 83 minutes.

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