New boss Alun Armstrong enjoyed a “great” start to his Blyth Spartans career – as he helped halt the club’s losing streak with a draw against Spennymoor Town.
Armstrong took to the home dugout at Croft Park for the first time ahead of Tuesday’s 0-0 Evo-Stik Premier League draw with Spennymoor, which ended a run of three successive losses in all competitions.
And despite suffering a bout of nerves during the game, the former Stockport County, Middlesbrough and Ipswich Town striker “thoroughly enjoyed” his managerial debut.
Armstrong admitted: “It was really nerve-wracking, to be honest with you. I was excited, but the nervousness crept in during the last five minutes when people started to get tired.
“Mistakes started to happen, but I suppose that’s football management for you. I did enjoy it though, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
“It’s a bit different to what I’m used to, but I thought it was great.”
The 41-year-old had only met his players for the first time prior to the game, but he had no complaints with the effort and determination they showed for him and has backed his players to build on that result for the rest of the season.
Armstrong added: “I thought the lads deserved what they got and I don’t think Spennymoor caused us too many problems, bar a couple of half-chances.
“It’s been a hell of a week for the lads. To go through those three games, Tom leaving and me coming in has been a massive upheaval for them. It was the first time I’d met the players before the game and I couldn’t have asked any more of them.
“I thought the lot of them, all the way through, worked their socks off and they thoroughly deserved what they got. My main focus was to stop the rot and that’s exactly what we did.
“I’ll make no bones about it, Spennymoor will be up there at the end of the season. They’re a good side and they’ve got some great players.
“Without a doubt though, we’ll be up there as well.”
Having seen Spartans’ defence leak goals prior to his arrival, Armstrong set about plugging the gaps and his plans played out perfectly – as Blyth kept a clean sheet for the first time since their 5-0 demolition of Sutton Coldfield Town.
Armstrong explained: “I’ll get to work on the forward play and our attacking movement, but I just wanted to make sure we stopped conceding goals. After shipping nine goals in three games, we had to make sure we got back to basics, stopped conceding goals and started working as a team.
“Keeping a clean sheet was my main focus before the game. I’d gone through the team in the last couple of days and watched the highlights from our last few games to see the goals we’d conceded.
“There were just too many gaps, a lot of individual errors and some people not working hard for each other in those games. So, I just thought we’ll go back to 4-4-2 – as everyone knows their role and there’s no point in complicating things.
“All I asked was for the lads to do their job, play for each other and keep a clean sheet. If we can defend first, then we can work on everything else and that’s what we did.”
Despite the positivity that came from avoiding defeat in his first game as Blyth boss, Armstrong was left frustrated when a calf injury forced top scorer Daniel Maguire to go off in the first half against Spennymoor. However, he is hoping that others can step up while “Nipa” sits out on the sidelines.
The 41-year-old said: “I’m gutted for Nipa – as he’s an integral part of my plans. I do like playing two up top, because – having played up there myself – I know how hard it is as a lone striker running around.
“It’s a calf injury and, normally, you’re looking at 3-4 weeks. I don’t know how Nipa feels, but I don’t want to rush him back – as, like I say, he’s integral to the team.
“I thought he looked really sharp and him and Luke worked really well together. We’ll have a look at it in a couple of weeks and see how he is.
“We’ve got enough to cover at the minute. We’ve got Robbie, who can play up there and it also gives Luke the opportunity to maybe get a good run of games and show what he can do.
“It’s football management though, isn’t it? Unfortunately, these things happen and you just have to find a way to deal with it.
“I don’t want to bring people in who aren’t as good as what we’ve got, so we’ll just deal with these things as they come.”
Article: Glen Maxwell (@glenmaxwell)