Blyth Spartans hit back for FA Trophy win

Blyth Spartans AFC.
Blyth Spartans AFC.

A wonder strike from defender Ian Watson secured Blyth Spartans’ safe passage through Saturday’s Buildbase FA Trophy tie against Stalybridge Celtic - as they came from behind to win 2-1, after a flurry of late drama.

The visitors caught Spartans out in the 69th minute by opening the scoring, when Connor Hughes broke forward and made the most of a lucky break in the box to slot into an empty net.

Substitute Sean Reid then headed home from a corner for the hosts ten minutes later, to put Blyth back on terms with their lower league opponents.

However, Watson decided the tie on 84 minutes - as he unleashed a world-class strike from 25 yards that found the top corner of the net, which sent Croft Park into delirium and Spartans into the next round of the competition.

With Blyth sat in fourth place in the Vanarama National League North, Alun Armstrong made the decision to rest a number of players for the visit of Stalybridge in the Buildbase FA Trophy.

The two sides switched places in the English pyramid last season, but Celtic certainly weren’t at Croft Park to make up the numbers.

They gave as good as they got, but despite near misses at both ends, including a Celtic effort which hit the post after 15 minutes, and some strong claims for a Spartans’ penalty after half an hour for what looked like hand ball, it remained 0-0 at the break.

Blyth pressed in the second half, but it was the visitors who took the lead when Hughes ran through on goal, rode a challenge and tucked the ball into the net.

Blyth responded with a 79th minute equaliser, Reid nipping in at the front post to flick a header in from a corner.

And on 84 minujtes Spartans completed the turnaround, even if the winning goal came from an unlikely source.

Dale played the ball into the path of Watson from the left and the left-back drove an unbelievable 25-yard effort into the top corner that Slinn was powerless to get anywhere near.

Armstrong’s side will have been relieved to avoid a replay at Stalybridge, meaning they have a full week to prepare for the visit of Vanarama National League North leaders Salford City on Saturday (3pm kick off.)