Darlington ended 2020 in style by hitting bottom-of-the-table Blyth Spartans for six.

They made light work of a team heading for relegation, leading 2-0 with only quarter of an hour gone and could have won by a greater margin, but there will be no complaints after this rout.

The goals were shared by five players: Erico Sousa, Adam Campbell, Jarrett Rivers, Tyrone O’Neill (2) and Dan Maguire as Quakers recorded a long-awaited home league win.

Not since January had they taken the points on home soil, but this win was not in doubt from the moment Sousa struck after ten minutes, and thereafter it was a matter of how many Alun Armstrong’s men would score.

The manager, who made six changes from the starting XI which drew 0-0 with Spennymoor Town on Boxing Day, said: “We could have scored more, especially in the first half when we wanted to put the game to bed.

“I changed it around and could have changed it even more with Theo Hudson, but you can change it too much and have a negative effect.

“You worry at first because Blyth started brightly, but then the lads got to grips with it.”

Heartened by their Boxing Day draw with Gateshead, a result that ended a five-match losing run, Blyth began positively and almost took the lead inside the second minute with JJ O’Donnell shooting on the turn after a corner, but Melvin Minter pushed the effort wide.

And then Darlington took firm control.

Sousa wasted Darlington’s best chance in the 0-0 draw with Spennymoor, but made no mistake yesterday, giving his team an early 1-0 lead.

He had three attempts within as many minutes as Quakers carved open up the opposition, off-target with the first two, but it was third time lucky for the tricky playmaker, driving at the heart of a back-peddling Blyth defence before striking low into the bottom corner.

Armstrong admitted: “Erico had missed an easier chance before that, I was fuming with then because he should’ve side-footed it into the net.

“But the lads did the job today and I’m so pleased with the six goals. We could’ve got more but it was a good performance.’

Soon it was 2-0 and easy for Darlington. A cross from the right was headed back across by O’Neill to Campbell, who had time and space to take a touch, read the Echo, do the crossword and then pick his spot with a calm finish beyond Brendan Pearson.

Quakers were rampant at this point, passing their way through a static Blyth back-line and Joe Wheatley should have done better than miss the target when he was in on goal.

But lovely combination play between O’Neill and Sousa led to the third goal. Rivers was played into the danger area, and from a tight angle picked his spot against his former club for 3-0.

Armstrong added: “Putting Jarrett into midfield today, I knew with his energy and quality on the ball that he would be a problem for them.

“He helped out Will and Wheats massively. That was the secret to it.”

It should have been 4-0 when Rivers’ ball ahead of Campbell gave the striker a great chance, but his effort was wide of the near post.

In the closing stages of the half, Melvin Minter made a good save when rushing off his line to deny Paul Blackett as Blyth demonstrated they had not given up, and Pearson did similar to stop Sousa at the other end.

Blyth made a couple of substitutions at half-time and another after the restart as manager Micky Nelson, the former Hartlepool United defender, sought to instigate a second-half fightback.

Pearson pushed wide a Wheatley free-kick, and also dealt with a Rivers drive after the Darlington man cut inside as Quakers looked for a goal to kill off Spartans.

Nelson’s side stayed competitive and a corner routine from the training ground almost resulted in a goal, Connor Thomson shooting wide.

But the killer fourth goal came midway through the second half and again it came after a series of passes to work an opening. Darlington played their way into the final third, presenting O’Neill with an opportunity and he dinked the ball over Pearson.

It was his first strike since returning to Quakers on loan from Middlesbrough.

Darlington finished the match with six former Blyth players on the pitch, and two of them combined to make it 5-0; Rivers’ good work leading to substitute Maguire sliding home.

O’Neill scored the best goal of the day, a sublime overhead kick completing the scoring.

Lifted by this performance to 18th, Darlington will hope to start 2021 on Saturday at Spennymoor Town with another impressive showing.

The only disappointment of the day was Minter being recalled from his loan by Harrogate Town following an injury to one of their goalkeepers.

Darlington 6

Blyth Spartans 0

Goals: Sousa (10, 1-0), Campbell (15, 2-0), Rivers (29, 3-0), O’Neill (70, 4-0), Maguire (85, 5-0), O’Neill (86, 6-0)

Referee: Liam Marshall

Darlington (4-3-3): Minter 7; Atkinson 7, Storey 7, Reid 7, Watson 7; Wheatley 8 (Liddle 76), Hatfield 7, Rivers 8; Sousa 8 (Maguire 68, 7), O’Neill 8, Campbell 8 (Hudson 71). Subs (not used): Saltmer, McMahon

Blyth Spartans (4-3-3): Pearson 7; Evans 6, Cunningham 5 (Sakellaroboulos 46, 5), Elsdon 5, Charlton 5 (Amantchi 46, 5); Griffiths 6, Heslop 4 (Cain 58, 5), Agnew 5; Thomson 5, Blackett 6, JJ O’Donnell 6. Subs (not used): Young, McKeown.