Blyth Spartans beat Ashington in Senior Cup semi-final replay

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Damen Mullen’s 76th minute penalty put Blyth Spartans through to their first Northumberland Senior Cup final in three years after a thrilling replay against local rivals Ashington on Tuesday night.

The Colliers took the lead through Andrew Johnson in the 12th minute, and that was a lead they held on to until the interval.

However, a rejuvenated Spartans came out in the second half and a quickfire double from Nathan Buddle and Ash Davis gave Tom Wade’s side a foot in the final before former Spartan Glen Taylor pegged them back.

However, Mullen’s spot kick finally killed off Gary Middleton’s side and set up a date with Newcastle United Reserves.

There was one change for Blyth from Saturday’s home defeat against FC United of Manchester as Ryan Cummings came in for Arjun Purewal at right back.

Ashington lined up with two former Spartans paired in attack with Marc Walton and Glen Taylor looking to knock out their former side after coming so close in the first game at Woodhorn Lane.

It was the Colliers who set the pace in the open quarter of an hour, and after Glen Taylor had seen an effort cleared off the line they took a deserved lead through the impressive Johnson, who proved to be a thorn in the side for Spartans all game.

The winger latched on to a neat through pass from Kyle Downey and expertly flicked the ball into the far corner past a stranded Conor Grant.

On 23 minutes the home side were given a golden opportunity to get back on level terms, although it was one that they would squander.

Dan Maguire was brought down in the area after going past Colliers keeper Karl Dryden and referee Richard Clark pointed to the spot, although only showed Dryden a yellow card.

Robbie Dale stepped up to take the penalty but could only send it high over the bar, much to the frustration of the Green Army.

That miss was almost punished in the best possible way by Ashington as Scott Blandford crashed a ball across the face of the Blyth goal with Glen Taylor just failing to make sufficient contact to force the ball over the line.

The striker was denied again four minutes before the break as Grant pulled out an impressive point blank stop after the Ashington man latched on to Walton’s knock down.

That save ensured the Colliers only went into half-time with a one-goal lead, albeit a deserved one.

With the words of Tom Wade and Colin Myers ringing in their ears, Spartans looked more determined in the opening stages of the second half.

A fantastic volleyed cross-field pass from Neal Hooks found Dale on the right and the winger cut inside Blandford before striking left footed just wide of the far post via a deflection from the foot of Colliers defender Ben Christensen.

Parity was restored on 53 minutes as Buddle somehow adjusted his body to head home a Paul Robinson free kick from around ten yards out.

Things got even better for Spartans just four minutes later as they took the lead.

Robinson was again involved as his far post corner caused havoc in the visitors defence, and when the loose ball ran to Davis, the former Whitley Bay striker made no mistake in crashing home from close range.

With 25 minutes remaining the Colliers thought they were back on level terms but Walton’s header from a David Carson cross was chalked off for a disputable offside flag.

Five minutes later, though, they did get an equaliser, and again it was from a right wing cross.

This time it was full back Lance McGlen who put the ball in and Glen Taylor made no mistake, planting his header inside Grant’s near post.

A topsy turvy affair took another twist with just under 15 minutes left as Spartans got the decisive goal from the penalty spot.

Dale jinked into the box and was brought down and again referee Clark pointed to the spot. This time Mullen stepped up and made no mistake, crashing into the roof of the net despite Dryden going the right way.

Despite heavy pressure and an increasingly aerial approach from the visitors, there was to be no denying Spartans a place in the final.

They will head to St James’ Park to face Newcastle United Reserves on Tuesday, April 22, just 24 hours after they are scheduled to face Whitby Town at Croft Park in their final Evo-Stik Northern Premier League home game of the season.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Cummings, Watson, Parker, Buddle, Hooks, Mullen, Robinson, Dale, Maguire (Horner 55), Wearmouth (Davis 30). Subs not used: Wade, Purewal, Kendrick.

Ashington: Dryden, McGlen, Blandford, Oliver, J Taylor, Christensen, Carson, Downey, Walton, G Taylor, Johnson. Subs not used: Norris, Scott, Glass, Carr, Barnard.

Attendance: 620.