Tuesday 13th October 2009
FA Cup 3rd Qualifying Round
Salford City 2 Blyth Spartans 2
Tea hut purchase: Tea 70p (Very nice too)
Weather: A calm, clear and fairly mild evening
Parking: Roadside just down from the main entrance
The green and white striped shirts huddled in pre match anticipation outside the neon off licence. All cheap cans and crisps or perhaps something stronger, after all this was FA Cup night and the pubs were in hiding. The ground was just through the lights and up Moor Lane to the right, soon I could see the tops of the floodlights through the trees. The first parked cars came into view, aching bodies stretching by the kerb, glad to be in the fresh air after the monotonous drag of the A1 and the M62 west, you could see the colours beneath the overcoats and the regatta anoraks from Milletts, the Spartans were on tour again and tonight they saluted the sights of salubrious Salford City. All told there must have been around 70 odd Blyth Spartans supporters at Moor Lane tonight, a fantastic turn out for a Tuesday night cup match, thats a hell of a long trip to take on and all credit to them for the loyalty and the great support for their club. It would be around 1 a.m before they saw their Mick Tait pyjamas and Croft Park bedspreads again, never mind the cat and the wife. Slowly the locals started to appear, calmly eyeing the north eastern invaders with a confident feeling that this lot would be the next bunch of Conference North playboys to get a bloody big shock. That rattling Non League big-dipper had recently witnessed humble Salford City dump the bungling big shots from Hyde United out of the cup in the last round but they'd also suffered their cosy clubhouse being burned down, if ever a club needed a shot in the arm with a bit of a cup run with some welcome cash also tagged to the glory then Salford would be the boys. The partially wrecked clubhouse provided an eerie presence at the side of the pitch, next to it there lay 4 functional portakabins provided by Seddons which allowed the club to still put on a tea hut, a bar and a club shop profile, an excellent gesture by Seddons to help out the little club in such hard times. Amidst some better-than-usual music on the tannoy, sat in a great main stand and reading a really good programme (which had been put together in very short time since Saturdays victory over Hyde) I was thinking to myself that Salford City had a decent set up going for them here, if they can get over the problems sadly resulting from the burned out clubhouse, get some improving results and generate more local interest then there could be a real opportunity for growth and progress. Good luck to them. Now for the match. Blyth looked very focused and measured early on, they discharged that body language that they were the ones in control and that this was a 90 minutes procedure they would complete to win a cup tie, away, on a Tuesday night, at lower opposition, miles from home, because they were the better side, just like Mick Tait had told them in the dressing room. Shame nobody told Salford City, the local gang aiming to hit the big time the easy way, fast and hard. Blyth went one up, Salford got one back, still in the first half Blyth got another goal, Salford got another one back. The Blyth Army didn't look so calm, cocky and collected anymore, in fact they had gone a trifle quite. In the main stand, what earlier looked like normal blokes just popping in from a day at the office or working down the site, were now jumping up and down singing songs at the top of their voices beneath big orange and black Salford City banners. That main stand can get pretty loud as well. What a great match it had turned out to be. As can be the case, the second half didn't have the same drama and thrills as the first. However, it was very much an enthralling tense and tight affair which Salford dominated for the most part with Blyth more or less happy to sit deep in midfield and rely on odd breaks and set pieces. A draw was a fair result in the end (just) and now the balance of expectation will be even greater for Blyth to do what is expected in the replay at Croft Park next Tuesday evening. Can Salford make that long trip to that north eastern stronghold and get something from the game? Many will say no, personally, having seen how they played without fear tonight I don't think they should be totally discounted, if they get a goal and keep a decent spirit, this could be very tricky for Blyth, trickier than most would expect. Who knows? I know most of the locals left happy tonight, how nice for Salford that most neutrals would agree they were (perhaps) the better team, perhaps some Blyth fans might agree as well?