Jeffries penalty save earns Spartans replay against Darlington

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Blyth Spartans were grateful for the heroics of goalkeeper Peter Jeffries in their FA Cup tie against Darlington 1883 on Sunday.

The keeper made an outstanding penalty save from the Quakers’ Terry Galbraith and earned his side a replay at Croft Park.

Although Jeffries took the plaudits, Spartans put in an organised display with a team performance in a game where the 0-0 scoreline was misleading, with both sides having chances and the woodwork being struck on three separate occasions.

An opening spell dominated by the blustery wind that enveloped Heritage Park gave way to chances for both sides.

Eleven minutes were on the clock when a headed clearance from the impressive Nathan Buddle saw Spartans break at pace through Jarrett Rivers. The winger rolled the ball to Robbie Dale but he could only send a low drive past the far post from the edge of the area.

Moments later the Quakers had their first chance as a jinking run from the ever dangerous Stephen Thompson saw him whip a cross in from the left but former Spartan Graeme Armstrong failed to make contact at the far post.

Midway through the half Spartans had a more than credible shout for a penalty turned down.

Dan Hawkins tussled in the area with Gary Brown but referee Michael Gillespie waved away loud appeals from Spartans players and supporters.

With just over ten minutes left of the half, there was a golden chance for Tom Wade’s side.

The pressing of Hawkins forced an error and allowed the former Bishop Auckland man to roll to Dale just inside the box, however, he could only send a first time left footed effort well over the bar.

The home side had a great chance to get in front just five minutes before the interval as an impressive free kick from Galbraith caused problems in the Spartans back four. The ball found its way to Brown who failed to make significant contact from inside the six-yard box and Jeffries pounced on the loose ball.

A lively start to the second half saw the first chance fall to Spartans.

Dale broke into the right hand side of the area and his cross fell to Ryan Hutchinson who saw his goalbound volley blocked by a brave challenge from Brown.

The hosts came storming back and put the Spartans backline under some serious pressure.

The tricky Adam Mitchell broke in behind the back four and seemed set to score only to be denied by a fantastic sliding tackle by Buddle.

Seven minutes into the half there was a debatable penalty awarded to the hosts, much to the annoyance of the Spartans bench.

Midfielder Neal Hooks nicked a ball from Quakers substitute Ryan Noble who went down and referee Gillespie pointed to the spot.

Terry Galbraith stepped up to take the kick and his rising effort seemed set to nestle in the top right hand corner but Jeffries dived full length to tip the ball away to safety.

The hustle and bustle of the game settled down with the most notable action coming off the field as a fire alarm rang around Heritage Park.

As the play livened up the alarm bells rang in the Spartans defence as Noble raced in behind and hit a hard, low drive that smashed off Jeffries’ far post and away to safety.

With the clock ticking inside the final ten minutes Noble repeated that trick as he pounced on a loose ball in the Spartans area but his angled drive rattled the same post as his earlier effort.

There was controversy as the full-time whistle approached as Hawkins contested a challenge with Chris Hunter and caught the Quakers man on the shin. With the home supporters crying off for a red card to be shown, match official deemed a yellow to be sufficient.

As the match made its way into injury time, Spartans came within a whisker of a winner that would have been harsh on the Quakers.

Some Dale magic saw him dance into the right hand side of the area and his pull back found substitute Arran Wearmouth. Without taking a touch the winger smashed a low effort that struck the far post and that miss confirmed the two sides would meet again at Croft Park on Tuesday night.

If both teams play in this fashion again it is hard to see how the deadlock will remain unbroken for too long into the replay.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, I Watson, J Watson, Buddle, Hooks, Hutchinson (Maguire 74), Bell (Wearmouth 62), Rivers (Mullen 83), Dale, Hawkins Subs not used: Cummings, Robinson, Sayer, Grant.

Attendance: 1,051.