Blyth Spartans into FA Cup First Round in dramatic style

Leek Town players fall to the floor after Blyth Spartans' 4-3 FA Cup win. Picture by John Hague
Leek Town players fall to the floor after Blyth Spartans' 4-3 FA Cup win. Picture by John Hague

Just what is it about Blyth Spartans and the FA Cup?

There was plenty of Blyth spirit on display as Tom Wade’s side put a woeful first half performance behind them and battled their way past a determined Leek Town side in a sensational tie at Harrison Park.

The game saw three penalties awarded. One of those was missed by Town striker Andrew Kinsey in the sixth minute of injury time and meant Spartans were rewarded for a wonderful second half display.

A two-goal half-time deficit was turned around in a game that must rank alongside the most memorable in the club’s illustrious FA Cup history.

However, for 45 minutes it looked as if it would be the Staffordshire outfit who would be ball 58 in Monday night’s draw as they dominated the first half.

Inspired by forwards Kinsey and Liam Shotton, they were completely in control.

A turgid opening ten minutes saw the play from both sides look as poor as the Harrison Park pitch that was battered by rain prior to kick-off.

However, on the quarter of an hour mark the hosts had the first chance as Niall Maguire burst forward from the right back position and dragged a shot wide of the far post after going past Jordan Watson.

The pressure was ramped up and there was a real let off for Spartans three minutes later. A long ball over the top saw the ball fall to Shotton who rounded Ryan Hutchinson before firing past Peter Jeffries, but an alert Watson cleared off the line and the rebound fell to Kinsey who fired over with the goal gaping.

But there was no let off on 21 minutes as the hosts grabbed the lead they deserved. A ball into the area saw Alex Nicholson take too long to clear and Matt Bell stole the ball before poking into the far corner via the upright.

The pressure was relentless and there was another let off on the half hour mark as Shotton pulled back from the byline for Jordan Johnson, but the midfielder could only find Jeffries’ far post with his low drive and Spartans scrambled the ball to safety.

A second goal seemed inevitable and it duly arrived ten minutes before the break. A ball in behind released Johnson and this time he made no mistake as he calmly went past Jeffries and rolled the ball into the empty net.

That was a lead that Town took into half-time at a bouncing Harrison Park.

Spartans looked dead and buried with heads down as they headed into the dressing room.

Words were said and they had the desired effect as Spartans reacted in sensational fashion.

Within 30 seconds of the restart they pulled a goal back. Dale danced past two men before seeing his cross deflected on to the near post. The rebound fell kindly to Neal Hooks and he tapped home from close range.

The perfect start got better on 51 minutes as Stephen Turnbull picked the perfect time to grab his first goal of his third spell at the club. Taking a pass from Danny Parker he powered towards the edge of the area before firing low past a despairing Ben Chapman via a slight knick off Town captain Sam Hall.

The first flashpoint came soon after as Turnbull clashed with Anthony Danylyk with 20 players getting involved in the scuffle. Cool heads were shown by the officials and yellow cards were shown to the original transgressors.

Twenty minutes into the second half the turnaround was complete. Daniel Maguire’s instinctive first touch and irrepressible strength saw him burst away from two defenders on the left hand side before skipping past Danylyk who could not help but bring him down. Dale stepped up to take the spot kick and rolled calmly into the net, sending Chapman the wrong way.

That maintained his record of scoring in every round of the FA Cup so far.

With 16 minutes left the tie seemed to be settled. Dale broke away from the halfway line and rolled to Jarrett Rivers on the edge of the area and the winger found the top corner with a sensational first time effort to see the immense band of the travelling Green Army celebrate.

Those celebrations were short lived as the hosts were awarded a dubious spot kick and it would not be their last.

Jordan Watson was adjudged to have climbed over Kinsey when clearing a Bell cross. Kinsey stepped up and lashed the spot kick into the top left hand corner.

Despite the helter skelter nature of the second half, surprisingly the final 12 minutes were relatively calm. That was until referee Joseph Johnson decided to add on a further six minutes of injury time.

Spartans ran the clock down well and in a professional manner until the last of those minutes.

Town substitute broke in on goal and looked set to send the tie into a replay at Croft Park, but a last ditch Jordan Watson challenge saw him clear the ball only to see the official award a second spot kick. A trip to Northumberland was on the horizon for the hosts but Kinsey fired over the bar and with it went his side’s chances.

The referee blew the whistle moments later to set off ecstatic scenes on the pitch and in the stands for everyone connected with Spartans.

They take their place in Monday night’s FA Cup First Round draw and will be ball number 58.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, Watson, Parker, Hutchinson, Rivers, Hooks, Turnbull, Maguire, Mullen, Dale. Subs not used: Wearmouth, Dixon, Wade, Bell, Quinn.

Attendance: 1,067.