Blyth Spartans manager Steve Cuggy spent last week brushing up on his joinery.
“We needed to go in to our FA Cup tie at Whitby without any square pegs in round holes so I had to consider how to do that and it resulted in a somewhat different formation for us, “he said.
His reflections resulted in a solid unit, showing few cracks but which had a slight wobble by the end of 90 minutes.
Cuggy suggested: “I was very pleased with our first half performance and we deserved to go in at half time two goals up. There was a massive goalmouth scramble just before the end of the half which, had we scored, could have meant game over. We were in control for the first 70 minutes but in the last ten Whitby threw everything at us which you would expect from them in a Cup game. But our back four held firm.”
The Spartans went ahead after 13 minutes in the 3rd Qualifying Round tie when a perfect pass from Neal Hooks found the surging Michael Tait, on loan from Harrogate Town, who flicked a neat header past Tom Courtney in the Whitby goal.
“Michael made a great run top get in to the box. We know he can get goals from midfield which is the reason we wanted him back at Blyth,” said Cuggy.
Chris Emms added to Blyth’s lead three minutes before half time. “It was a difficult finish by Chris – on the half volley. The goal will give him a boost because, although he was on fire in pre-season, he got injured and as he’s starting to get games under his belt now his form is improving,” Cuggy suggested.
He continued: “We gave Tait the licence to go forward and Emms’ best position is just behind the front two. Playing them to their strengths paid off for us.”
At half time Cuggy was preoccupied with ensuring his team finished the game with a full compliment on the pitch. “Tait had taken a bad kick in the face in the first half. He was bleeding and angry at the interval so I decided to replace him with Ritchie Slaughter.”
The Seasiders took the game to the visitors after the break but it wasn’t till nine minutes from time did they break down the obdurate Blyth defence.
“They had nothing to lose at that stage,” said Cuggy. “They were hitting high balls in to our box up to their centre half up front. Our midfield could do nothing about it with balls sailing over their heads!”
Jake Faichney stooped to head past Knight in the Spartans’ goal to mark the start of sustained pressure. Blyth brought on Lee Mason for Emms to provide fresh legs and captain Graeme Armstrong was withdrawn in the dying minutes to rest a back problem with Sebastian Anzevlu coming on to shore up the middle of the pitch.
Of debutant striker Richard Offiong Cuggy said: “He started well and hit the bar early on. He gives us another outlet up front with Graeme [Armstrong]. He hasn’t played for three months and I’m sure he has lots more to come.”
In the final quarter of the game there were fledgling signs of a partnership and understanding being forged between the two.
The Spartans make the long haul down to Gloucester this weekend and Cuggy hopes to have Glen Taylor fully fit although fellow striker Phil Bannister is still struggling to throw off a ligament injury.
The Blyth boss will be hoping he can dovetail Cup success with a revival of form in the Blue Square Bet North.