THE players of Blyth Spartans FC will be looking for history to repeat itself against Altrincham in the second round of the FA Trophy this weekend.
Spartans won a memorable Trophy match in the first ever meeting between the two clubs 28 years ago at Croft Park.
In 1983 the Robins arrived with a massive reputation and with several star players of non league football at their disposal.
They had been the beaten finalists at Wembley in the previous season’s competition and were clear favourites prior to kick-off.
One man who had experienced many great days in cup action during his time at Blyth was legendary central defender Tommy Dixon.
He had been a key member of the famous FA Cup side that had shocked the football world in Spartans’ historic 1978 FA Cup run, and he would play a crucial part in this third round FA Trophy tie.
Recalling the 1983 meeting, Dixon said: “Altrincham were a good team and we knew it would be an extremely tough game.
“They were the favourites but there was also pressure on us because we were carrying the reputation of our cup run.”
The game got off to an explosive start with Altrincham’s Graham Heathcote receiving his marching orders in the first minute for a reckless challenge on Blyth’s Bobby Scaife.
Dixon said: “It was a big decision for the referee, sometimes you would get away with tackles like that in those days.
“The atmosphere was tremendous before kick-off and this lifted the crowd even more.
“But there was still a lot for us to do. They had the players who could sit back and stifle us and then try and catch us on the break. We had to be wary of that.”
The game was goalless at half-time and Dixon had to be at his best after the break to prevent Altrincham’s Phil Gardner from scoring.
After this Blyth began to pile on the pressure in search of a breakthrough, which duly came in the 60th minute, courtesy of a superbly taken goal from former Spartans manager Harry Dunn.
Bobby Scaife sealed a 2-0 win for Blyth eight minutes from time in front of a crowd of 2,089.
There were jubilant scenes around Croft Park on the full-time whistle as players and supporters alike rejoiced at knocking out one of the favourites.
Blyth’s Trophy run came to an end at the quarter-final stage when they were beaten in a replay by Northwich Victoria.
Dixon believes Blyth have a great chance of progressing in this season’s FA Trophy by beating Altrincham on Saturday.
He said “Nobody likes going to Croft Park, it’s always been a difficult place for any visiting team. That was proven against Fleetwood in the last round and that result should give the team great confidence.
“Mick Tait’s been doing a good job, the team have been playing well and I wish them all the best for Saturday.”
The current Altrincham team are second bottom of the Blue Square Bet Premier but have had an unbeaten start to 2011, winning their last two league fixtures.
Blyth’s present day fans’ favourite, Robbie Dale, believes the Robins will be a different proposition to the Fleetwood Town team which Spartans defeated in the last round.
He said: “I think it will be a different game. Altrincham will be a more physical side and the hardest thing will be breaking them down.
“We’re not scared of playing anybody, we showed that against Fleetwood.
“It’s bigger than a normal league game and the crowd will be up for it. We need to win and get a run going again.
“They (Altrincham) were struggling when the draw was made but they’ve picked up a few good results lately.”
Dale believes Blyth can be this year’s surprise package in the FA Trophy.
He added: “It’s wide open this season, whoever is in form can win it.
“Our win against Fleetwood was probably the shock of the last round but it just shows what can happen.”