Mole goals set up Gateshead tie in FA Cup

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IN a pulsating night of football, two-goal-hero Jamie Mole fired Blyth Spartans FC into the first round proper of the FA Cup to set up a mouth watering tie with local rivals Gateshead at Croft Park a week on Saturday.

Following Saturday’s goalless draw at the Butchers Arms Ground, some may have believed that the hard work had already been done ahead of Tuesday night’s replay against Droylsden.

But the visitors had other ideas and made Blyth’s passage to the next round about as uncomfortable as possible.

Steve Hall’s 63rd minute strike levelled the tie after Mole had put Blyth ahead in the first half.

Hall then squandered a golden chance to put his side in front on 69 minutes before Mole’s second of the night prompted jubilant scenes around Croft Park.

Blyth then saw out the remaining 16 minutes to the relief of the home support.

Victory for Spartans did, however, arrive at a cost with reliable central defender Carl Jones having to be replaced right at the end of the first half after pulling up with a hamstring injury.

This means he will not face his old side a week on Saturday and leaves manager Steve Cuggy desperately short of numbers at the back, with Wayne Buchanan already suspended for the cup clash.

With Sunday’s FA cup draw presenting the winners of this fourth qualifying round tie with a home game against Gateshead in the next round, all the pre-match talk at Croft Park centred around the potential visit of Ian Bogie’s side.

On the pitch, however, attentions were soon focused on the task at hand as Droylsden went close on three occasions in the opening nine minutes.

Firstly David Knight saved at the feet of Danny Rowe before the follow-up from Dale Johnson was blocked by Buchanan.

In the Bloods’ next attack Rowe fired over from close range, which left the Croft Park faithful wondering how their side were not behind at this early stage.

They were soon rubbing their eyes in disbelief in relation to events at the other end of the pitch as John Hardiker’s misplaced pass presented Mole with the opportunity to beat Paul Phillips from inside the area, and the striker duly obliged with a fine finish.

Blyth could then have been two ahead within the space of three minutes when Wayne Phillips crossed for Lee Mason, but he failed to direct his header on target.

Mole almost bagged a first half brace when he raced through on goal after a miss-kick by Droylsden’s Nat Kerr only to fire over from 16 yards.

Blyth’s Mason was proving to be a thorn in Droylsden’s side with his penetrating runs placing the visitors defence on the back foot.

Just after half-time Mason drove at Droylsden’s backline before unleashing a shot which deflected off Hardiker and narrowly missed the corner of Phillips’ net.

Mason was involved again on 56 minutes when he got onto the end of a free kick from Neal Hooks with only a stunning save from Phillips keeping out a goal bound header.

The visitors drew level when Hall profited from a fortuitous break in the Spartans box and finished past Knight from close range.

Rowe then fired a free kick against Knight’s upright as the away side piled on the pressure.

Blyth very nearly contributed to their own downfall with just over 20 minutes remaining as Knight miss-kicked after a back pass from Hooks which fell to Hall – who turned past the goalkeeper only to hit the post when it appeared easier to score.

Droylsden were made to pay the price five minutes later when a great through ball by Hooks was latched onto by Mole – who rounded the goalkeeper and finished in style before racing away to celebrate.

Blyth could have extended their advantage in the closing stages with both Phillips and Mole coming close with efforts that just missed the target.

The visitors caused a few late scares for the hosts with high balls into the box but Spartans defended resolutely and saw the game out to book their place in the next round of the FA Cup.

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

Attendance: 678.