HUNDREDS of Blyth Spartans supporters made the journey down the coast to see their side progress to the fourth qualifying round of the FA Cup with a 2-1 victory over Whitby Town on Saturday.
On a glorious October afternoon the seaside resort was awash with so many green and white flags, banners and scarves that you could have mistaken The Turnbull Ground for Croft Park.
In weather more suited to the beach than the football pitch it was the hosts who required the buckets and spades to dig themselves out of a hole as Blyth took a two-goal advantage in to the break thanks to strikes from Michael Tait and Chris Emms.
Substitute Jake Faichney pulled one back for Whitby on 81 minutes to set up a frenetic finale but Steve Cuggy’s side managed to hold on to book their place in Monday’s draw.
Richard Offiong’s Spartans debut almost got off to a dream start when on three minutes his curling shot clipped the top of Tom Courtney’s crossbar and went over.
At the other end Matty Tymon crossed for Callum Martin who couldn’t direct his header past Blyth goalkeeper David Knight.
The visitors took the lead on 13 minutes when an inviting Neal Hooks free-kick found Tait in the area who nodded past Courtney from ten yards for his first goal since his return to the club.
Spartans then piled on the pressure with the delivery of Hooks causing all sorts of problems for Whitby in their own 18-yard box.
Firstly, from a corner, Carl Jones almost opened his Spartans account with a volley destined for the bottom corner which was cleared off the line by Alex White.
Then Hooks delivered for Tait again, but this time his header was cleared from the danger area by Kevin Burgess.
Great vision from Graeme Armstrong almost put Emms one-on-one with Courtney before a last ditch tackle from Burgess denied the Spartans player a sight at goal.
When Emms did find an opening on 42 minutes he made no mistake with a fine strike from 16 yards after a header down from Tait – to fire Blyth into a two goal lead.
Another dangerous set piece from Hooks caused a goalmouth scramble in which Whitby eventually cleared their lines under relentless pressure from the visitors.
In an otherwise mild tempered affair emotions almost boiled over just before half time when a tangle between Tait and Burgess resulted in players from each side getting involved in a game of push and shove before order was resumed with a yellow card for the two original culprits.
Tait was forced out of action at half-time with a facial injury and was replaced by Richie Slaughter.
The hosts came into the game more in the second period with a cross from Martin being glanced wide by Mark Robinson before Martin himself turned in the area to fire over Knight’s crossbar.
Blyth’s play lacked cohesion and their inability to retain possession led to Whitby having the better of the play.
A decent free-kick from Robinson was well saved by Knight before Burgess headed over from a cross by Martin.
Blyth were limited to long range efforts at the other end with Phil Cave firing wide with a fierce strike from 25 yards.
When the visitors did get into a position to find a killer pass it went to waste with both Offiong and Dan Groves passing up the chance to tee up others.
With nine minutes remaining Whitby pulled a goal back through Faichney, who guided his effort past Knight from close range after a flick on from Burgess.
After a dominant first half display, Blyth made hard work of it in the second 45 and almost paid the price for not taking earlier chances when Whitby’s David McTiernan ought to have forced a replay on 89 minutes but failed to find the target from eight yards.
Victory for Spartans earns the club £7,500 in prize money and puts them one win away from the first round ‘proper’ of the FA Cup.
Blyth Spartans: Knight, Groves, Cave, Tait (Slaughter), Jones, Buchanan, Forster, Hooks, Offiong, Armstrong (Anzuvei), Emms (Mason).