Blyth edge cup tie

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BLYTH Spartans FC are through to an FA Cup third qualifying round tie with Whitby Town after a hard fought win over Bedlington Terriers at Croft Park on Saturday.

A dull and goalless first half was followed by an exciting second period as strikes from Wayne Phillips and Neal Hooks fired Blyth in to a 2-0 lead before former Spartan Ian Graham pulled one back for the visitors in added on time.

There was still time for yet more drama as in the dying seconds Blyth’s Wayne Buchanan brought down Terriers’ Steven Richardson in the area, but appeals for a penalty were waved away by the referee.

The away side kept possession well in the opening 25 minutes and created half chances through Craig Hubbard, Anthony Shandran and Stuart Elliot, but none caused too much concern for David Knight in the Blyth goal.

Spartans then came close when a Chris Emms free kick deflected off Bedlington’s Richard Flynn before being turned over by Kevin Morton.

On 37 minutes Emms was forced out of the contest through injury, and his replacement Lee Mason almost made an immediate impact but could not keep his effort down when at full stretch after a through ball by Hooks.

Just after the break Mason had another opportunity to open the scoring with a glancing header that just sailed wide of the upright.

At the other end, Shandran powered his way past Carl Jones only to drag his left footed strike past the far post.

In Bedlington’s next attack Shandran threatened again but this time Jones got the better of him with an exceptional block to deny the in-form striker.

Blyth were almost ahead just after the hour mark when Hooks sent a free-kick crashing off the underside of the crossbar with the follow-up by Dan Groves being headed off the line by Elliot.

The noise levels rose around Croft Park as for the first time the game began to resemble a cup tie, but the home support would have to endure a few nervy moments before seeing their side take the lead.

Shandran was at the heart of things again, as first he tested Knight with a powerful effort before crossing for Hubbard at the back post who could not keep his header down.

Blyth’s first goal arrived on 74 minutes when a deep cross from Groves found Phillips, who took a touch before poking the ball past Morton.

The relief around the ground was evident, but Terriers were by no means out of the contest and almost hit back with a quick reply when Hubbard weaved his way into the area before being denied by the feet of Knight.

Blyth then set up what looked to be a comfortable finale with a second on 81 minutes. Graeme Armstrong supplied Hooks with a perfectly weighted pass and the Blyth midfielder beat Morton at the second attempt with a delicate chip.

Armstrong then almost put the result beyond any doubt but his header was cleared off the line by James Novak.

Well in to added-on-time, a sloppy pass from Blyth’s Adam Forster gave Hubbard the chance to tee up Graham to finish past Knight from close range.

It appeared only to be a consolation before Bedlington were denied a chance to equalise from the penalty spot when Buchanan’s challenge on Richardson in the area was deemed to be a fair one by the referee.

Bedlington can rightly feel aggrieved but can also take heart from a spirited performance.

As for Spartans – the FA cup dream is still very much alive after getting through a tricky cup tie against strong Northern League opponents.

Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Cave, Jones (Coulson), Slaughter (Purvis), Buchanan, Forster, Hooks, Armstrong, Emms (Mason), Phillips.

Bedlington Terriers: Morton, Stewart, Novak, Snowdon, Flynn, Elliott, Douglas (Richardson), Hubbard, Bowey (Graham), Shandran, English (Convery).

Attendance: 835.