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Worcester City 2 Blyth Spartans 1
7:30pm Sunday 26th February 2012 in Blue Square Conference North Table & Results By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
NOT having won in 2012 was a statistic Worcester City didn’t like being reminded of.
As far as they were concerned, following successive draws, they were three games unbeaten in Blue Square Bet North rather than without a victory in seven.
Nevertheless, the only way to shake off that tag was to secure three points and they finally achieved that against Blyth Spartans.
Never mind the Northumbrians being bottom of the table and winless on their travels this season, City desperately needed to stop the rot to keep their slim play-off hopes alive.
Psychologically, getting this monkey off their backs might free them to concentrate on climbing the league ladder rather than wondering where the next win will come from.
After all, they are now unbeaten in four fixtures and suddenly everything is looking rosy again at St George’s Lane.
That they despatched the Spartans with relative ease while playing confident, attacking football was a bonus.
Following the drab goalless draw at Solihull Moors, City were back in the creative groove and the result should have been far more comfortable than it was.
Strikes from Matt Birley and Michael Taylor aside, Carl Heeley’s men hit the bar twice and fashioned several other openings that should have put them out of sight long before Joe Kendrick’s fine free-kick 10 minutes from time.
In Taylor, City have also unearthed something of a rough diamond following a man-of-the-match performance from the 23-year-old.
Although deploying a player used to making his mark as a late substitute from the start alongside leading marksman Mike Symons was a gamble, it paid off handsomely.
Could Taylor’s turn of pace and desire to pressure defenders be effective from the kick-off?
Would he have the stamina to last more than the 30 minutes he was accustomed to this term?
On this display, the answer is emphatically yes, but Heeley may be wary of expecting too much from Taylor too soon and risking him from the first whistle every week.
Unorthodox the former Earlswood Town goal-getter certainly is, yet that is what makes him a threat to opponents.
They don’t know what he’s going to do next and, in the nicest possible sense, you sometimes wonder whether Taylor does himself.
His 51st-minute goal was superbly taken, latching on to Birley’s perfectly-weighted pass and beating both Blyth skipper Wayne Buchanan and keeper Robert Birdsall to the ball to prod home.
Moments later, he also reached a seemingly lost cause on the touchline level with the edge of the box and tried an audacious lob with the outside of his right boot that bounced up on to the bar and away.
While Taylor was running himself ragged up front, Kevin O’Connor and Tom Thorley were back to what they do best — pulling the strings in midfield.
When these two play well, City tend to follow suit and Saturday was no different.
O’Connor popped up all over the pitch, while Thorley roamed and was only denied a goal by the bar, which could still be rattling now such was the force behind his shot.
City may only have beaten a team who are virtually certain to be relegated but they are off the mark in 2012 and firmly back on track.