IN the wake of Halloween, bring on the Bogie men. Blyth beat Droylsden at the second time of FA Cup asking last night, and now host Gateshead in the first round ‘proper’ a week on Saturday.
That constitutes the opportunity to draw a bumper crowd to Croft Park, and a chance for the Spartans to exact revenge for February’s defeat to the Tynesiders in the FA Trophy quarter-finals.
Perhaps just as or even more importantly, victory yesterday might also kickstart Blyth’s season.
It ought to, for amid a pulsating, action-packed encounter, perhaps wanting for quality but full of incident, Steve Cuggy’s men showed character and commitment and, in spells, the odd wave of attacking verve.
In new-boy Jamie Mole, they appear to have uncovered a goalscorer too.
He was the difference, and though Blyth began wholeheartedly, Droylsden enjoyed the earliest openings.
Inside six minutes Warren Peyton’s slide-rule pass sent Danny Rowe clear, and after he was denied by David Knight, Dale Johnson’s follow-up was blocked by Wayne Buchanan.
Moments later Rowe stabbed Johnson’s low cross over and when Dan Gardner’s effort was also blocked, Peyton lifted a shot high over the crossbar.
By then all Blyth had mustered was a seventh-minute strike that, taken early by Mole, whistled wide from distance. But the new signing from SPL club Hearts soon made amends.
On 17 minutes the visitors appeared to have mopped up a Spartans foray with some comfort, only for John Hardaker’s sloppy back-pass from the left-back area to leave Mole with only goalkeeper Paul Phillips to beat, which he promptly did, to open his Blyth account.
A gift then, and the home side ought to have made even more of it.
Seconds later Wayne Phillips burst to the left-hand byline and his cross begged to be headed in at the back post, only for Lee Mason to nod over. Instead, Droylsden re-composed, and reasserted, themselves. Knight saved from Rowe and Steve Hall, who also saw a shot deflected over by Dan Groves, while Luke Holden fired over and Buchanan blocked another effort from Johnson.
Still though, Blyth might have made half-time further ahead. Mole curled over, and breaking upfield two versus one, Carl Jones needed only to prod a pass to Offiong, but collapsed hamstrung for his efforts. Four to six weeks, they reckon.
Nonetheless, after the interval Blyth kept up their late first-half pressure. Mason headed wide and had a shot deflected behind, before Mole headed off target.
Eight minutes after the restart Droylsden came belatedly back to life, Gardner testing Knight from distance. But the hosts now looked altogether more comfortable. Emms fired at Phillips, who then conjured a stunning save to thwart Mason’s header from a Neal Hooks free-kick.
Typically, not long after that near-certain second, Droylsden hit back. On 62 minutes the ball squirmed about Blyth’s box, their defence appeared to pause; Hall didn’t, slotting under Knight.
Seven minutes later Rowe thumped a long-range free-kick off the foot of Knight’s post, and the Blyth goalkeeper then mis-kicked a clearance to Hall, who somehow bypassed the open goal to strike the other upright.
Spartans seemed shell-shocked. Yet somehow they hauled themselves up off the ropes, and on 74 minutes won it.
Collecting possession centrally, Hooks advanced into the inside right channel. Slipping a pass outside and around Droylsden’s backline, he left Mole with much still to do.
But making light of the narrowing angle, the former Newburn Boys Club starlet skipped past Phillips and drilled in the winner. A sublime, nerveless finish.
There remained time for Mole and Armstrong to go close, and for Jordan Gerrard to test Knight and Gardner to stab wide at the other end, but Blyth deservedly hung on, and go on.
Bring on, Gateshead.
BLYTH SPARTANS: Knight, Groves, Jones (Slaughter 45), Buchanan, Cave, Emms, Hooks, Phillips, Mason (Forster 85), Mole, Offiong (Armstrong 67).
DROYLSDEN: Phillips, Vaughan, Logan, Kerr (Brown 46), Hardaker, Peyton (Killeen 85), Gardner, Hall, Rowe, Johnson, Holden (Gerrard 80).
Referee: Anthony Backhouse (Cumbria)