IT MAY HAVE been a blustery day in South Yorkshire on Saturday, but Scarborough Athletic’s promotion hopes were not blown off course, as they swept away hosts Armthorpe with a comfortable 4-1 victory.
Rudy Funk’s side, spearheaded by the attacking gusto of Ryan Blott and Curtis Bernard, consolidated their third-place in the table with the win, but are perfectly poised with games in hand, and teams around them to play, to take top spot, as the second half of the season nears.
For the trip to the Doncaster suburbs Funk reverted to a more familiar starting line-up, following the forgettable loss in the North Riding Senior Cup in midweek against Guisborough.
There was however an unfamiliar spot for Gary Hepples, slotting in at left-back with Dave Kemp injured and Paddy Miller preferred in the spot he destroyed Selby last week on the wing.
Daz Winters, Tony Hackworth and Matt Draper returned in defence, with Joe Naylor, Luke Fletcher and Jimmy Ghaichem across the centre of the park. Blott and Bernard were the architects of the win up front, while in goal Kevin Martin returned in place of Ed Eley.
As Boro settled in the early stages the home side had a couple of half-chances – Craig Wilkinson missing the best of them after beating the offside trap, but he curled his shot wide.
Boro then upped the ante, and began attacking Armthorpe’s young back-line.
Bernard’s pace was the catalyst of many forays forward, and one break saw him confronted with Armthorpe keeper Jamie Green 30 yards outside the area. Bernard rounded the keeper, took a couple of touches to steady himself and shot on goal – but former AFC Emley keeper Green had managed to retreat and blocked the shot.
But Green could do nothing at all about Boro’s opener on 15 minutes.
Ghaichem’s superb right-wing centre was met by Bernard’s head, and the ball looped over Green into the net.
Blott and Naylor tested Green again as Boro drove forward looking for a second. Then Blott’s drive from Naylor’s lay-off gave Green a scare, as he fumbled the powerful shot, managing to gather the ball just before it crept over the line.
Armthorpe’s Ricky Sharp was booked for a blunt force tackle on Ghaichem, and Miller also saw yellow for Boro for a foul as the game became scrappy.
Before half-time Blott had one more chance to score, blasting inches over after Naylor’s superbly weighted pass.
Blott was clearly in the mood to score, and after just 20 seconds of the second period he stung the hands of Green again, who pushed the ball round for a corner.
From that corner, taken by Miller, Hackworth shot goalwards from a tight angle, and fellow centre-back Matt Draper touched the ball over the line for his first Boro goal.
Armthorpe brought on two subs in quick succession in an attempt to remedy the flow of Boro’s attacks, and indeed they could have pulled one back, but Stuart Preston shot wide after a slick move down the right presented him a golden opportunity.
With the majority of the game being played in the middle third, Boro freshened up their side with Bill Law replacing Ghaichem on the right.
Law was involved straight away, feeding Blott on the wing.
The frontman turned inside, and dinked a ball to Bernard inside the area. Faking to shoot with his right, he came back onto his left and curled the ball past Green for Boro’s third goal.
Naylor was rested for the final 20 minutes, with Nick McNamara coming on for his first league appearance since his return to the club.
With 15 minutes left the home side were given a small crumb of hope when Winters fouled Joe Lumsden in the box and was booked. Chris Davies took the responsibility from the spot and beat Martin to reduce the arrears.
However, just four minutes later Boro were again three in front. It was Blott again who came deep and played an inch perfect through ball to Bernard. The top scorer drew Green from his line and shot past him for his third. A perfect hat-trick – one with each foot and a header.
Martin had to stay alert at the other end to foil Preston’s header with a smart reactionary stop, and Boro saw out the final few minutes to take the three points and keep pressure on Retford United and Bridlington Town above them.