IN a heated affair at Sam Smith’s Park Blyth Spartans FC progressed through to the final of the Northumberland FA Senior Cup with goals from Neal Hooks and Stephen Turnbull.
This was always going to be a competitive fixture with former Blyth manager Paul Baker in charge of a Newcastle Benfield side which also included ex-Spartans players Andrew Grainger and Kenny Boyle.
A decisive moment came on 34 minutes when Benfield’s Adam Scope was sent off after receiving a second yellow card, and with the hosts already a goal behind this more or less killed off any dreams they had of an upset.
Spartans manager Mick Tait, however, still had to wait until the 92nd minute to see his team put the game beyond any doubt when Turnbull found the net to make it two-nil and send Blyth into a final showdown at St James’ Park where they will face either Ashington or Newcastle United Reserves.
After enjoying the lion share of possession within the opening exchanges, the visitors took the lead in the tenth minute when a long ball by Wayne Buchanan was misjudged by Benfield’s Richard Paxman which allowed Hooks the chance to finish superbly with a lofted effort past Grainger from 20 yards.
The home side made a positive response to going behind with Shaun Bell flashing a volley just wide of Dan Lowson’s post before Brian Dodsworth crashed an effort against the upright – the closest Benfield came to scoring all night.
Then there were six minutes of madness from Scope as he was booked for a reckless challenge on Turnbull before fouling the same player with a cynical shirt pull, giving referee Paul Curry no option but to brandish a second yellow card.
Blyth looked to make their numerical advantage count and piled on the pressure before the break with Paul Brayson and then Nicky Deverdics squandering good opportunities to double their side’s lead.
Just prior to the interval a delightful ball from Turnbull found Brayson in the area who was denied by Grainger from close range before the rebound was put agonisingly wide by Michael Tait.
In truth, the second half was a non event with the hosts unable to muster the energy or the guile to penetrate the Spartans back line, and the visitors seemingly content to frustrate their opponents by keeping the ball from them.
Although he may share the same initials, Rob Dale has some work to do if he aspires to be the next Rory Delap, as his attempt at a long throw on 54 minutes left a lot to be desired.
The energetic Dodsworth looked to get in behind the Spartans defence on numerous occasions but the experienced duo of Chris Swailes and Alan White at the back for Blyth were on hand to snuff out the danger every time.
To the relief of the majority within Sam Smith’s Park, Blyth sealed victory when Brayson teed up Turnbull in the area who made no mistake from eight yards.
Right at the death Blyth could have scored a third when Brayson rounded Grainger only to fire his effort in to the side netting.
Blyth Spartans: Lowson, Buchanan, Cave (Groves), Tait, Swailes, White, Hooks, Turnbull, Brayson, Deverdics (Alexander), Dale.