Blyth Spartans have been handed a “tough draw” in the Emirates FA Cup second qualifying round, but manager Tom Wade hopes that their competitive clash with Morpeth Town draws the big crowd that it deserves.
Spartans were rewarded for their 3-1 win over fellow Evo-Stik Premier League side Frickley Athletic with another home tie, this time against FA Vase holders Town.
The Northern League side have already claimed a cup scalp in the last round – with a comprehensive 4-2 victory over Colwyn Bay – and Wade is hoping that fans of both sides will turn out in their numbers to cheer on their team in what he expects to be a “mouth-watering” clash.
When asked what sort of crowd he was expecting for the game, Wade replied: “You’ve got to look at about 1000, I would have thought. Morpeth’s crowds have gone up recently and it’s only seven miles away, so I’m expecting to see more through the gates from an away side than normal.
“It’s a one for the ground-hoppers locally as well – as it’s probably the most mouth-watering FA Cup tie of the weekend in the North East. It’s a great tie and I would be disappointed if we played it in front of less than 1000 people, because it’s the FA Cup and it’s what we’re all about really.
“Morpeth Town have a great cup record and our performances speak for themselves, so it will be a very competitive game and I just hope there’s a big crowd at Croft Park to watch it.”
While Spartans might be two levels higher than Morpeth, Wade is under no illusions that the visitors will not just roll over at Croft Park on September 17.
Wade added: “It’s a tough draw. There’s a lot of connections between Morpeth and Blyth and a lot of players have moved both ways, so there’s a number of ex-Blyth players there now.
“Ken Beattie [Morpeth Town’s chairman] is a close personal friend of mine. He’s a good bloke and he’s a big business man in the area, so it is a tough tough draw for us both.
“Morpeth are going to come here pretty confident as FA Vase holders, which means we’re not out-and-out favourites. We should be, because we’re at home, but they’ve got a good side and I know it’ll be a hard game for both sides.
“They won the Vase at Wembley, so they’ll have no fear about coming here. They’ve got some really good players and it will be a hard game, but home advantage really has to be the key thing for us.”
Former Spartan Paul Robinson grabbed a brace in the last round against Colwyn Bay, but his ex-manager thinks he is just one of a number of Town players that could be a thorn in Blyth’s side in the second qualifying round clash.
Wade said: “I think Robbo’s a good player, it just didn’t work out for him at Blyth. He’s a lovely guy and he did great for us.
“They’ve got a number of players who could cause us problems though. [Sean] Taylor is a good player and Liam Henderson played for Spennymoor when they beat us in the FA Cup last season.
“He ran rings around us that day, but I’d like to think we’re better now than we were last season.”
The last competitive meeting between the two sides came in April 2015, when Blyth ended a 21-year wait for a Senior Cup triumph with a 2-0 win over Morpeth in the final. However, Wade doesn’t think that result will have any sort of bearing on their Emirates FA Cup showdown.
When asked if he would take confidence from that Senior Cup win, Wade answered: “No, to be honest. I think even Morpeth would admit we totally outplayed them that night on a fantastic pitch.
“We were a confident side and we were playing well at the time, but we have a better side now and I think they have a better side now too. They’re just putting their side together, so I think this game is a bit early doors for both clubs.
“If we got them in a later round, I think it would have had the makings of a top game. It’s a bit too early for both sides though and a good side is going to go out, unfortunately.
Blyth have made history on numerous occasions with their giant-killing heroics in the Emirates FA Cup over the years, but Wade – who led Spartans to the Third Round just two seasons ago – is relishing being the Goliath of the tie for a change and has backed his players to rise to the occasion.
Wade said: “We’ve beaten sides three/four levels higher than us, so we know we’re there to be shot at and we understand that. We accept that and we just want to enjoy the game.
“It’s funny, because we’re usually the underdogs. It’ll be good though.
“Sometimes, you have to stick your chest out, believe you’re a good player and have that little bit of arrogance. The balance is not having too much, but it doesn’t hurt to think ‘I’m a good player and I play in a good side’.
“You have to take home advantage on board and, sometimes, put your head on the block by admitting we’re a good side and we’re going to do our best to try and win it.”