Spartans fighting on two fronts

Central defender and assistant manager Chris Swailes  believes Blyth Spartans can continue their run of fine form when they entertain Droylsden in the FA Trophy on Saturday.
Central defender and assistant manager Chris Swailes believes Blyth Spartans can continue their run of fine form when they entertain Droylsden in the FA Trophy on Saturday.
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VETERAN central defender Chris Swailes believes Blyth Spartans FC can continue their excellent form in both the Blue Square Bet North and FA Trophy, providing they steer clear of injuries and suspensions.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s hugely anticipated FA Trophy third round clash with Droylsden at Croft Park, assistant manager, Swailes admitted that Blyth’s run of four league victories in a row has given them renewed hope of reaching the play-offs and adds another dimension to what has already been a fascinating season.

“We lost a couple of games after the new year and probably thought the cup was our last chance of achieving anything this season,” he sasid.

“But winning our last four games has closed the gap on the teams above us and hopefully we can put even more pressure on them in the next few weeks.”

Blyth are currently seventh in the Blue Square Bet North, five points behind AFC Telford, occupying the last play-off position.

With Swailes, pictured, looking forward to a busy February in which Croft Park hosts four out of Blyth’s six league fixtures, there is room for optimism.

He addded: “We’ll be going in to these home games with a lot of confidence.

“Our league form is great. We’ve really got back into our stride and believe we can beat anyone in this division on our day.

“A cup run is always a bonus and it gets more important the further you get in the competition.

“Injuries and suspensions are always a worry, particularly with the amount of games we have coming up and the possibility of replays in the Trophy. If we are lucky enough not to pick any more up, then we can fight on two fronts.”

Blyth’s clash with Droylsden is the Spartans’ biggest game of the season so far, and with each side claiming away victories against each other and with the Bloods just a place below Blyth in the Blue Square Bet North, it is sure to be a fierce encounter at Croft Park.

“They’ll be encouraged from when they beat us at home recently,” he said.

“They’re a good side and they’ll be fighting to get up in to the play-off positions, just like us.

“The draw has been kind to us, we have had four home draws in a row and hopefully we’ll be in the hat for the next round.

“The crowd probably don’t realise what a massive part they can play, they’re tremendous supporters.”

Swailes is no stranger to big cup games, having played in the quarter-final of the League Cup in 1996-97 for Ipswich Town against eventual winners, Leicester City.

Swailes was an unused substitute at Wembley when Bridlington won the FA Vase in 1993, and although he admits that to finally play on the hallowed turf would be a dream come true, he realises a Wembley final is still a long way off.

Swailes, who celebrated his 40th birthday in October, said: “I haven’t really had the best of times in cup competitions throughout my career. The teams I played for didn’t have any great runs in the FA Cup.

“Wembley is a ground every player wants to play at but we’re just concentrating on the task at hand.

“Nobody at the club is setting their sights on the final, it’s not in any of the players’ minds at the minute.”

Swailes and his partner in the centre of defence, Wayne Buchanan, are the only players to have played every minute of every game for Blyth this season.

Blyth’s success so far has been built on a steady backline that is well marshalled by this experienced duo.

He addded: “The back four has been excellent, confidence has been building with the more clean sheets we have kept.

“But it’s not just the defence, we are very good at defending from the front and this means we aren’t being put under as much pressure.”