Blyth Spartans went down 2-0 to north east rivals Gateshead in the 1st Round proper of the FA Cup on Saturday. The Spartans put in a spirited showing, especially in the second half, but were beaten by the better side.
“Obviously I’m disappointed,” said Blyth manager Steve Cuggy. “It didn’t turn out to be the rip-roaring cup tie it might have been. Our game plan was to hold on as long as possible and then push on but that idea went out of the window when we conceded after 14 minutes”.
Indecision by stand in central defender Dan Groves allowed Jon Shaw to put the visitors ahead and condemned Blyth to chase the game.
Cuggy added: “Dan is usually so reliable but he reacted well after the incident. He is committed to the club and didn’t hide. He held his hands up and admitted the error and deserves a pat on the back for showing real character. But you can’t afford to give a team like Gateshead that kind of helping hand and from there on we weren’t able to knock them out of their stride. They were able to pass the ball around with ease.”
Blyth had goalkeeper David Knight to thank for seeing them through to half time with only one goal in it. The on-loan keeper made several assured saves although at other times in the game he seemed strangely indecisive when coming to collect through balls.
After the restart Blyth took the game to the opposition and Graeme Armstrong came close to equalising on two occasions.
“We needed to get a goal in that phase of the game,” said Cuggy. “We needed a touch of luck although to some extent you make your own luck”.
Gateshead extended their lead after 54 minutes when a slick move saw Micky Cummings drive the ball past Knight low into the corner of the net.
Richard Offiong replaced Lee Mason for the Spartans mid way through the half.
“We needed fresh legs,” explained Cuggy. “Lee had done well but we decided to go with three up front in an attempt to get back in the game”.
Nevertheless, and after using the two other substitutes, Blyth never really threatened Gateshead with any sustained pressure. Midfielder Neal Hooks – usually so influential in midfield, failed to make much of an impact due to tendonitis of the knee.
Gateshead boss Ian Bogie, speaking to Cuggy after the game highlighted one of the differences between the clubs.
“Ian emphasised to me that I shouldn’t be too down,” said Cuggy. “He talked about them being full time and the contrast to our game at Hyde earlier in the week when he travelled to watch us. He realised that we had to travel to Manchester, play the game and not get home till the early hours – and then for the players to work that day. A very different scenario to how Gateshead are able to train and do things. Having said that I think our general fitness levels are really good.”
Looking to the future Cuggy suggested the cup run was “a nice distraction which has brought in some valuable finance”. His eyes are now firmly focused on league points, starting with the visit of Vauxhall Motors this Tuesday night.
He also confirmed that 31 year old centre-back or right back, Darren Timmons has joined the club from Whitley Bay. Cuggy will have good options at the back when Wayne Buchannan and Carl Jones return to the squad and has three strikers vying for places (forward Richard Offiong was released at the weekend) so it is in the midfield area where he is looking to strengthen.