Super second half show sends Spartans past Darlington in FA Cup

Frustration seems to have been the background noise for Blyth Spartans’ FA Cup tie with Darlington.

In Sunday’s first game stalemate both sides were frustrated by the woodwork, and the Quakers threw a missed penalty into the bargain.

In the first half of the replay at Croft Park on TUesday evening, the Green Army vented their concerns at their side’s lacklustre display, yet still the Quakers failed to find the net.

That cost them as a sizzling second half show from Tom Wade’s side sent Spartans into the second qualifying round thanks to a brace from Dan Maguire and a memorable goal from captain Robbie Dale.

The Quakers started the game in a positive manner and were afforded too much time on the ball.

That allowed the likes of the influential Tom Portas and Stephen Thompson to dictate the game, and a foul on the latter gave them their first chance on 12 minutes.

Terry Galbraith took the free kick from the right and it found Liam Hatch at the far post and the former Gateshead man placed a shot into the roof of the net only for the assistant’s flag to cut short his celebrations.

Darlington continued to dominate possession and territory and on the half hour an intricate through ball by Thompson released winger Adam Mitchell into the left hand side of the area, but the former Sunderland youngster sent his first time left footed drive past Peter Jeffries’ far post.

Ten minutes before the break Spartans finally created a chance, and but for the brave defending of Hatch and former Croft Park favourite Gary Brown they would have taken the lead.

The pace of Jarrett Rivers got the winger to the byline and his pull back found Dale, who was denied on his initial effort and on the rebound by the Quakers centre backs.

That chance was temporary respite for Wade’s side as the visitors came within an inch or two of taking the lead.

A whipped Mitchell cross saw Graeme Armstrong get in front of Alex Nicholson and loop a diving header over Jeffries and against the crossbar, although the Spartans keeper did seem to get a touch on the ball.

Three minutes before the interval Spartans gave some notice of what was to follow in the second half as Quakers keeper Peter Jameson produced the save of the match.

Again Rivers and Dale combined but after the latter pulled the ball down and volleyed from eight yards he could only watch as Jameson got a strong wrist on the ball to clear to safety.

So after 135 minutes of goalless but chance-ridden football, surely there would be something to trouble the scorers in the second half.

There would be and it was Spartans who finally got the goal that Croft Park had been waiting for.

Jordan Watson chipped forward to find the head of Dale, who flicked on to release Maguire into the area, where the striker took a touch before crashing a right foot effort from just inside the box into the roof of the net for Spartans first goal in 420 minutes of football.

The Quakers were rattled and on 65 minutes Croft Park rose to its feet to admire a brilliant solo goal from Dale.

However, for all of Dale’s trickery the part played by midfielder Dan Hawkins should not be ignored. The former Bishop Auckland man pinged a crossfield pass to release Dale into the right hand side of the box.

Showing all of the coolness and composure that have been the hallmark of his ten years at the club, Dale skipped past Hatch and former team-mate Brown before casually rolling the ball past the helpless Jameson.

Spartans were unrelenting in their pressure as they laid siege to the Quakers goal.

A flurry of chances within literally seconds of each other saw Dale and Hooks denied before Rivers saw his low drive cleared off the line by Brown.

Martin Grey’s side looked punch drunk and only a shot by substitute Nathan Fisher that stung the palms of Jeffries was worthy of note.

The third seemed inevitable and it duly came five minutes from time as Maguire grabbed his second and Spartans’ third with a wonderful curling effort from the edge of the box.

The final whistle saw Spartans players and management applauded from the pitch after a memorable second half performance.

How it could have all been so different had it not been for the brilliance of Jeffries at Heritage Park or the lack of a calm nature in front of goal by Darlington forwards in the opening half of the replay.

That will all be forgotten now as all that will be remembered is a stunning second half show that set up a trip to Skelmersdale United in the second qualifying round a week on Saturday.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson, I Watson, J Watson, Buddle, Hooks, Rivers (Wearmouth 86), Robinson (Hutchinson 84), Maguire, Hawkins, Dale. Subs not used: Wade, Grant, Sayer, Cummings, Mullen.

Attendance: 652.