By Glen Maxwell
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Emirates FA Cup Second Qualifying Round
Saturday September 17 2016
Blyth Spartans 2-4 Morpeth Town
A clinical Morpeth Town put Spartans to the sword in the Emirates FA Cup – as the FA Vase holders eventually claimed the tie late on, despite a second half fightback from the hosts.
A brace from Michael Chilton and Luke Carr’s curled effort saw Morpeth go in three goals to the good at half-time, before Daniel Maguire’s header gave the Croft Park support some hope in the 52nd minute.
An own goal from Chris Swailes saw Spartans get to within one goal of a replay, but substitute Liam Henderson struck in the last minute to seal another Emirates FA Cup upset for the Northern League side this season.
All of the build-up had focused on a fierce local derby and Morpeth – who had seen off Colwyn Bay 4-2 in the last round – had appeared to live up to the billing within the first 60 seconds of the game.
Sean Reid was clattered late by namesake Chris Reid with a late challenge on halfway. However, appearing hesitant to turn the contest into a card-fest straight from the off, referee Elliott Heward opted instead to have a word with the defender.
If the game was to turn into a slug-fest, then it was Morpeth who delivered the opening blow – as they opened the scoring in the eight minute.
Former Spartan Ben Sayer played a short one-two from a corner, before firing in a speculative low cross into the Blyth box. The ball bobbled between a crowd of bodies, before falling perfectly for Chilton to tap it into an empty net.
If Blyth had been caught cold by their Northern League opponents, then it got worse for the Evo-Stik Premier League leaders just one minute later – as Chilton scored an easy second.
Picked out with ease by a ball from the right when free in the box, Chilton was able to chest the ball down and dink the ball over a helpless Adam McHugh.
An eventful opening spell for Morpeth’s number ten was completed when he hacked down Stephen Turnbull late and Chilton received the first yellow card of the afternoon.
After being presented with the Port of Blyth Player of the Month award for August before the match, S Reid was desperate to drag his side back into the tie in any way he could. Reid shot from distance after a mazy run from midfield, but his shot could only trickle to Karl Dryden.
Things then threatened to go from bad to worse for the hosts after 15 minutes, when McHugh was adjudged to have handled the ball outside his area. Keith Graydon stepped up to drill a low free-kick at goal, but McHugh atoned for his earlier error and got down well to hold it.
If that was a warning shot, then Spartans didn’t listen – as Morpeth raced up to score their third just two minutes later.
Paul Robinson – who joined Town from Blyth during the summer – produced a fantastic run through his old club’s midfield, before laying the ball off to Carr on the right. The right-winger had no difficulty in picking his spot and curled the ball into the top corner – giving McHugh no chance.
S Reid was still toiling away up the other end, but his efforts remained unrewarded. He nipped in front of his marker to meet Matty Pattison’s cross at the near post, but couldn’t keep his header on target.
Daniel Maguire was next to try and claw Spartans back into the game, when he was found by Chris Bell’s cross from the right. “Nipa” tried to score with a header, but the ball looped up into the air and fell kindly for Dryden to gather.
While Morpeth had made the most of their chances so far, it was fair to say that Blyth weren’t – as S Reid went closest once again just before the half-hour mark.
Great play from Pattison saw him embarrass two Morpeth defenders on the left, before cutting the ball back to Maguire in the box. His shot was blocked straight into the path of S Reid, who – try as he might – was inches from finding the top corner with the rebound.
Pattison then tried to play in Michael Richardson – making a start in place of injured captain Robert Dale – seven minutes before the break, but the make-shift left-winger got the ball caught up between his feet and the chance was gone.
Not content with their 3-0 lead, Morpeth tried again to penetrate the Spartans’ goal. Sayers – once of Blyth – cut inside Matthew Wade and fired from the edge of the box, but couldn’t keep his strike on target.
Blyth ended a disastrous first half with yet more disappointment in added time, when Pattison latched onto the ball following some head tennis from both sides. The former South African international shot from long range, but it was high and wide of the visitor’s net.
Tom Wade was obviously unhappy with what he’d seen in the first 45 and responded by making two substitutions for the start of the second half. Alex Nicholson replaced Bell, while Wade made way for Luke Armstrong.
The changes soon paid their dividends – as a more attacking Spartans side eventually reduced the deficit within seven minutes of the restart.
Both Ryan Hutchinson and Richardson had shots blocked from Turnbull’s corner, but “Twinny” was able to swing the ball back in and find the head of Maguire – who leapt higher than the Morpeth defence to nod in a lifeline for Blyth.
Morpeth’s Sayer opted to shot from a free-kick a minute later, but his effort was straight down the throat of McHugh.
Blyth were turning up the tempo and went close to claiming a second goal just before the hour mark. Pattison’s corner was whipped into S Reid at the far post, but his headed down effort never troubled Dryden.
It had been a while since Morpeth had looked dangerous on the break but, when they raced up the pitch in the 61st minute, it took for an excellent stop from McHugh to stop them from restoring a three-goal lead.
Sayer played in Chilton for the chance of his hat-trick and the forward edged into the box with the ball. McHugh advanced out of his goal to make himself bigger and saved at the striker’s feet, before eventually gathering the ball from Michael Liddle’s lofted clearance into the air.
Swailes then appeared to foul Maguire in the Morpeth box, but Heward opted not to award a penalty. The former Spartans centre-back was clearly incensed with Maguire and struck the forward on the back of the head to signal his frustration, but the referee missed it.
Another penalty claim fell on deaf ears when Nicholson went down in the area, but Blyth’s frustration at that decision soon disappeared when they clawed another goal back mere seconds later.
The ball rolled out to Armstrong on the right, who blasted a low hard cross back in. The cross hit a helpless Swailes – who was facing his own goal – and he could only watch as it rebounded off him and into the net.
If Spartans were riding their luck with that second goal, then there was definitely someone looking down on them four minutes later.
Following a mix-up at the back, substitute Liam Anderson charged down McHugh’s clearance in a hauntingly similar incident to Ashton United’s equaliser earlier this season. Luckily, that’s where the similarities ended – as the ball rolled harmlessly across the front of goal and out for a goal kick.
Zak Atkinson came on for the last ten minutes – making his Spartans debut – and he nearly had an instant impact on proceedings.
Having out-muscled his marker, Atkinson played in Maguire. The pacey striker struck hard across goal, but his strike went wide.
Blyth threw everyone forward in the hope of drawing level and had a host of late chances to draw level, but Morpeth dug in deep to defend their lead. Their persistence was then rewarded in the last minute, when they finally put the tie to rest.
Liam Henderson – on for Chilton – picked up the ball on the right and struck a low hard drive across goal. The ball flew past a diving McHugh and creeped inside the far post, to knock Spartans out of this season’s Emirates FA Cup.
Blyth will have to put this poor result behind them straight away – as they return to Evo-Stik Premier League action with an away trip to bottom side Frickley Athletic on Tuesday evening.
Blyth Spartans: McHugh, Bell (Nicholson 46), Caines, Hutchinson, Turnbull, Pattison, Wade, Maguire, S Reid, Richardson (Atkinson 79).
Subs not used: Parker, Pell, Buddle, Jeffries.
Morpeth Town: Dryden, Forster, Novak, Sayer, Swailes, C Reid, Mullen, Graydon, Carr (Taylor 65), Chilton (Anderson 68), Robinson (Fry 57).
Subs not used: Anderson, Provett, Hall, Grieve.
Spartans Man of the Match: Daniel Maguire
Early Emirates FA Cup Exit Hurts Spartans’ Assistant Hooks
Assistant manager Neal Hooks was unable to hide his hurt after watching Blyth Spartans get knocked out of this season’s Emirates FA Cup – following a comprehensive 4-2 defeat to FA Vase holders Morpeth Town.
The Northern League raced to a commanding 3-0 lead within the first 17 minutes, thanks to a brace from Michael Chilton and Luke Carr’s curling effort. Daniel Maguire’s header and an own goal from former Spartans defender Chris Swailes saw Blyth claw their way back into the tie late on.
However, after throwing everything at the visitors to try and force a replay, Spartans’ management team could only watch on as Morpeth raced up the other end in the final minute and finally deliver the knockout blow through substitute Liam Henderson.
While Hooks admitted that Morpeth were excellent on the day, he didn’t pull any punches of his own when discussing Spartans’ shortcomings in Saturday’s Emirates FA Cup loss.
Hooks said: “The result was very, very disappointing. It was more so the manner in which we lost the game, rather than Morpeth breaking us down and playing good football – which they did at times and I thought they were excellent.
“We just didn’t look like we wanted it and that was the most disappointing part of it all. I think the players know they’ve done wrong, so we don’t need to beat on about it all the time.
“Hopefully, on Tuesday, we can put things right and start kicking on again in the league. Our ultimate goal is to get promoted, so let’s just concentrate on that.”
While many expected a close contest from the two local sides, no one inside Croft Park would have seen the away side stroll to a 3-0 lead before Blyth even got out of the blocks. Hooks went on to say that the loss has hit home hard with the Blyth team, no more so than because it now hands the local bragging rights to a number of Morpeth players – after they took full advantage of their host’s poor defending.
Spartans’ assistant manager added: “It’s always disappointing to go out of the competition, whether it’s against a higher side or a lower league side than ourselves. I think the worst part for our lads is that they all know a lot of the lads in the Morpeth changing room.
“Like I said to them before the game, it’s always nice to have bragging rights over the lads that you know – as you do bump into them on nights out and in the bars etc.
“Unfortunately for us though, it’s Morpeth that now have those bragging rights.
“We had the kick-off, so we could have pegged them back early and started to play our football. Credit to Morpeth though – as they pegged us back instead and I thought some of defending was questionable.
“They punished our bad defending, so to concede three early on was a real sucker-punch.”
Despite the terrible start to the tie, Blyth were able to drag themselves back into the game in the second half and were unlucky not to force a replay before Henderson’s late strike. However, Hooks was pleased to see that his side didn’t throw in the towel when they were left stunned in the opening rounds and the changes that Blyth made were able to at least give them a chance.
He said: “We shouldn’t have been in that position to start with, but it’s good to see that the lads do have a bit of fight in them. They could easily have folded and let the score go out even further.
“Tom and I had a chat and we decided to make a couple of positive changes to try and go for the game. We couldn’t just sit back and hope the lads would do that.
“We made a couple of attacking changes and the lads that came on worked hard. We had to throw the kitchen sink at it and we got in sight of the three-goal lead that they had, but it just wasn’t enough at the end.
“We might have been able to comeback from a two-goal deficit, but three was just too much in the end.”
As is often the case in Non-League, games come thick and fast so Spartans don’t have much time to dwell on their devastating Emirates FA Cup defeat – as they return to Evo-Stik Premier League action when they travel to bottom club Frickley Athletic.
With Frickley having claimed just one point so far this season – as well as succumbing to a 3-1 loss to Blyth already in the previous round of the Emirates FA Cup – Hooks still think that Spartans will travel to Yorkshire looking to right the wrongs of this weekend and maintain their great start to the season against the league’s bottom side.
Hooks explained: “We’re still confident of getting a result at Frickley. It a case where, hopefully, this result gets a bit of a reaction from us and we get the positive one that we’re looking for.
“We might have to make a few changes, freshen things up and give some of the other lads an opportunity. Hopefully though, we get the right reaction and we get back on track with the league.
“As I say, our main focus is the league. It would have been nice to go on another cup run, but that’s gone now and we just have to put our focus back on the league straight away.
“Both myself and Tom want to win promotion. If you asked us if we wanted to win the league then that would be great, but we’re not fussed as long as we get promoted.
“That’s certainly the goal for the lads in the dressing room as well. I think, after the disappointment of last season, that all of the players at the club want to go one further this season and complete the job.
“We’re in a good position so far this season, but there’s still a long way to go. We need to see a lot better performances than what we managed against Morpeth though.”