Spartans at fever pitch as club targets FA Cup glory

Croft Park-Home of Blyth Spartans Football Club.
Croft Park-Home of Blyth Spartans Football Club.

FA Cup fever is beginning to grip Blyth as Spartans fans dream of the run extending even further.

When Blyth Spartans walk out onto the Croft Park pitch to face Conference side Altrincham in the FA Cup First Round on Sunday, they can reflect on many key moments in their run so far.

Many will remember Jarrett River’s late winner at Mickleover Sports in the Third Qualifying Round or the Robbie Dale-inspired fightback from a two-goal half-time deficit in the fourth and final qualifying round.

However, going all of the way back to September’s first qualifying round tie at Darlington, there was a moment that defined the spirit that has been shown in the ties since.

Quakers midfielder Terry Galbraith stepped up to take a penalty that if successfully converted would have seen Spartans fall at the first hurdle in a competition that is held dear by everyone at Croft Park. Spartans keeper Peter Jeffries produced a wonderful save as he dived full length to tip Galbraith’s well struck spot kick on to the post and the ball was cleared to safety.

A replay was required and successfully negotiated by Spartans and Jeffries believes that tie was key to his side making their to the First Round proper.

“It was the best penalty save I have ever managed to pull off I think,” he said. “Everything came right on that day and it set the tone for our run which has been far from easy. We battled hard and kept a clean sheet against a very good Darlington side. It gave us belief and the confidence to kick on.”

For Jeffries, the game will be a new experience. “I haven’t really played that many games in the FA Cup even though I have been playing for eight or nine years now. I think I have had one or two wins until this season. It’s been a special run and the atmosphere around the club has been amazing.”

Sunday’s tie promises to see one of the biggest turnouts at Croft Park for three or four years with a town thirsty for more FA Cup memories.

Jeffries stressed just how important the Green Army are for the Spartans players.

“It’s massive isn’t it? We are all buzzing in the dressing room and it’s all anyone at the club is talking about. Hopefully we will get a big crowd in and make it a special day for everyone at Blyth Spartans.

“The supporters are massive for the players and they will be loud. They have to realise just how important that backing is because they really do pull us through at times.”

Spartans manager Tom Wade issued a rallying call to the Green Army.

Wade wants to make sure that the Cheshire outfit know that they aren’t preparing to face just 11 players, but also a town thirsty for FA Cup success.

“This isn’t just about the 11 lads in green and white who are on the pitch, or even the squad and the management. This cup tie gives us a chance to get the Green Army to Croft Park in their numbers and show Altrincham they aren’t only having to beat the players. They have to get past a town and a noisy set of supporters who will help us give everything they have. This has been a good cup run but we aren’t ready to finish it.” yet and as a club we have to work together as players, as a club and as supporters to give our town the cup run they deserve”

A run of four consecutive away draws has finally been broken as Spartans came out of the bag alongside the Robins and Wade is delighted to finally return to Croft Park after a tough run.

“Obviously every non-league club in the draw wanted a Football League club and we were no different. However if that doesn’t happen they you want to get a home draw, which we have. It’s up to us but we know it won’t be easy. It’s two famous giantkillers battling it out and it should be a great game.”

Blyth Spartans’ FA Cup clash kicks off at Croft Park at 2pm on Sunday. Entry is £10 adults and £5 concessions.

The change of date has been made to allow the BBC to cover the game as part of their Final Score programme.