Blyth Spartans 1-0 Garforth Town
FA Cup First Qualifying Round
Saturday 8th September
The attendence at Croft Park broke the four hundred mark for the first time this season and fans saw a first half goal from Spartans striker Phil Airey put his side through to the Second Qualifying Round of the FA Cup and give Spartans a hard fought 1-0 win over Garforth Town.
Airey came back into the Spartans lineup after missing the league win at Stocksbridge Park Steels during the week and replaced Neal Hooks, who was cup tied after appearing for Spennymoor in the Preliminary Round. Tom Berj and Jordon Mellish made their returns from injuries and took their place on the bench as Spartans went looking for a win in a competition that has provided some of the most memorable moments in the club’s proud history.
Despite being heavy favourites for the game, Spartans nearly fell a goal behind as early as the first minute when Garforth winger Moke broke down the inside right channel and crashed a shot against Conor Grant’s near post. The first chance of the game for the home side fell to Lee Mason who ran onto a lovely Joe Kendrick ball over the top. The Spartans winger controlled the ball well with his chest but hit his effort straight at O’Neill in the visitors goal. With boiling hot temperatures at Croft Park the pace of the game was slow and chances were few and far between. It took until after twenty minutes when in-form Robbie Dale came within a whisker of a spectacular opener when he latched onto a pass from Craig Farrell and Dale smashed a well struck volley just wide of the far post from all of twenty five yards.
Tommy Cassidy was forced into a substitution on the half hour mark when Shaun Vipond went off injured and was replaced by Tom Berj. A couple of minutes later and Spartans were ahead as Shaun Utterson broke up a Garforth attack and played the ball into centre midfield to Dale. He played a wonderful first time ball that caught the visitors defence square and allowed Phil Airey to go one on one with O’Neill. A good first touch was followed by a clinical finish from Airey, who in the process scored his third goal in his last four appearances for the club. Garforth came within a whisker of an equaliser shortly before half time when Sherry robbed Berj of the ball in centre midfield and struck a wicked effort that crashed off Grant’s crossbar. However the ball was cleared and Spartans went into the interval a goal to the good.
Within five minutes of the restart Airey had a chance to double his own tally for the day and Spartans’ lead when he took down a crossfield pass from Dale but couldn’t get his volley on target. As the temperatures sored the play got slower and it was notable during the second half what impact this had on the players. In reality it was a second half of few chances and for all their possession the visitors never really looked like threatening Grant, who barely had a save of any note to make in the second period. Spartans manager Cassidy rang the changes and Mellish and Davis replaced Hodgson and goalscorer Airey in quick succession.
Five minutes from time Lee Mason had another chance for his first goal of the season as he latched onto a poor kick from O’Neill in the visitors goal and cut inside but curled his shot narrowly wide of the goal. The referee was busier in the second period than anyone else and he showed a red card to Garforth’s Kirk for a second bookable offence. His foul on Davis saw a yellow card given and added to his earlier one for an elbow on Farrell saw him sent off. The last chance of the game fell to Spartans and some lovely interplay between Utterson and Farrell saw Ashley Davis come close to his first competitive goal for the club but his shot went just wide.
Tommy Cassidy commented post-match that cup football is more about the result, rather than the performance and Spartans showed that by doing enough to get themselves into the Second Qualifying Round and will find out their opposition for the next round on Monday.
Spartans Man of the Match: Sam Hodgson
Blyth Spartans: Grant, Utterson, Kendrick, Vipond, Buchanan, Jones, Mason, Hodgson, Dale, Farrell, Airey Subs: Turnbull, Mellish, Hunter, Berj, Davis Goalscorer: Airey 31
Garforth Town: O’Neill, Williams, Smith, Kirk, Normaschild, Sherry, Moke, Ibrahim, Burgess, Kendall, Donaldson Subs: Oniama, Redfurn, Liburd, Williams