This new feature looks back at ‘classic matches’ from Blyth’s history.
The 1st is Blyth Spartans v. Altrincham in 1983.
This was the first ever meeting of the 2 clubs and it proved to be a real classic.
Blyth Spartans 2 Altrincham 0
Goals: Dunn 60th minute, Scaife 82nd minute
Referee: Mr. M.G Peck
Blyth Team: Dave Clarke, Peter Robinson, Alan Walker, Bob Scaife, Ian Chester,
Tommy Dixon, Geoff Hart, Harry Dunn, Ian Mutrie, Steve Baxter, Phil Robson.
Sub: Terry Johnson for Hart
Altrincham Team: Gareth Smith, Stan Allen, John Davison, Malcolm Bailey,
Roger Kenyon, David Constantine, Graham Heathcote, Phil Gardner, Jeff Johnson, Graham Bennett, Barry Howard.
Sub: Paul Cuddy for Bennett.
Altrincham came to Croft Park in 26th February for an FA Trophy 3rd Round tie.
Blyth had knocked out Nuneaton Borough in the 2nd Round two weeks earlier in a cracking 3-2 victory and the prize was a plum home tie with top Alliance Premier League club Altrincham.
The Robins had been runners up in the previous seasons FA Trophy Final at Wembley, but had needed a replay to get past fellow Northern League side Tow Law in 2nd Round.
Confidence was sky high prior to the game with Player/Manager John Connolly’s free scoring side on an 8 game unbeaten run.
With the player manager cup tied, he relied on the same side used against struggling Durham City 7 days earlier, showing his faith in the emerging talents of local youngsters Steve Baxter & Phil Robson.
It also showed Connolly’s faith in new signing Ian Chester who was playing only his 2nd game since joining from Guisborough Town to replace Dave Mitchinson, who had emigrated to New Zealand after playing his final game in the 2nd round victory over Nuneaton.
In an adventurous 4-3-3 formation Baxter lined up alongside Scaife & Dunn in the middle and Robson joined Ian Mutrie & Geoff Hart up front in a line up that showed the managers confidence in his players and his intention of taking the game to their illustrious opponents.
Expectations were high among the boisterous 2,085 crowd inside Croft Park as the game got under way but nobody could have expected the explosive opening the game had.
From the kick off Blyth created a chance when Bobby Scaife played in winger Phil Robson, but he failed to control the ball and it went for a goal kick.
Scaife and Altrincham’s Graham Heathcote then had to separated after Heathcote’s poor challenge sent the midfielder crashing to the ground.
Scaife needed treatment on his right ankle and was left hobbling for several minutes. Heathcote protested his innocence but referee Peck has no hesitation on showing a straight red card so early in the game, for what was the first challenge of the game !.
The visitors regrouped and set up a staunch defensive wall marshaled by former Everton central defender Roger Keynon they played a well disciplined offside trap at every opportunity. Despite being down to 10 men the visitors showed there undoubted pedigree and took the game to Blyth.
They won the first corner of the game but Dave Clarke cleared it without much trouble. Howard then intercepted a poor ball by Scaife to feed Davidson but his effort was comfortably saved by Clarke.
Altrincham’s well drilled offside trap was frustrating home side as Dunn and then Hart were caught out, the frustration got the better of Geoff Hart and he was spoken to for barging into the keeper.
Blyth settled and went close with a great move involving Scaife and Robson to win a corner. Robson’s corner found Hart, who teed up Mutrie but he could only head straight at the keeper.
The visitors quality was always clear to see, playing on the counter attack they continued to pose a threat with forward Howard looking dangerous on several occasions.
Blyth’s last chance of half went begging when an inch perfect pass from Harry Dunn found the unmarked Ian Mutrie but the forward failed to make contact and the first half ended 0-0.
The second half opened with the visitors sensing they could still snatch victory and Tommy Dixon had to be at his best block an effort from Gardner and Steve Baxter then cut out another effort from Howard. Midfielder Bobby Scaife was once again on the end of a poor challenge and Steve Baxter went close, firing just wide after a good move.
Howard and Gardner then had half chances as the Robins tried to get back into the game, but when defender Kenyon headed a chance wide of the Dave Clarke’s post in the 70th minute it ultimately proved to be there final chance of the game.
17 goal forward Ian Mutrie then headed against the cross bar as Blyth besieged the Altrincham goal looking to kill off the game.
Phil Robson fired just wide from distance just before Blyth looked to have wrapped the game up in the 75th minute but celebrations were cut short after Geoff Hart had hammered home only for the referee to disallow the goal for an offside.
The clincher came in the 82nd minute when Ian Mutrie picked up the ball in middle of the Blyth half, he ran at the visitors and upon reaching the Altrincham penalty box he unselfishly squared the ball to the on rushing |Bobby Scaife who calmed drove the ball home for Blyth’s 2nd goal, the reaction of the visitors showed they knew that it was now a lost cause as the Blyth players celebrated.
The hard working Ian Mutrie almost got his reward for a great performance in the final second but his header crashed against the post.
The final whistle sent Croft Park wild with delight as the Spartans marched on into the last 8. It was a famous and well deserved victory for Blyth and justification for Manager John Connolly who stuck with his attacking formation against such strong opposition.
The front three battled on despite the well drilled Altrincham defending, the midfield trio of Baxter, Dunn & Scaife were superb throughout exploiting the visitor’s weakness.
The back four were rock solid, full backs Alan Walker and Peter Robinson were rarely troubled and veteran Tommy Dixon showed all his experience alongside the excellent Ian Chester.
After the game Player Manager John Connolly was full of praise for his side and how they rose to the occasion yet again:
“Once we scored out first goal the game changed completely.
It was difficult in the first half because after Heathcote was sent off they plated the offside trap which was hard to play against. It was a matter of everybody being patient, and patience paid off when Harry Dunn broke the deadlock, Once that happened we took control.
We could have had five because of our dominance in the last half hour and Ian Mutrie was very unlucky to hit the post in the last minute”
Speaking about the atmosphere inside Croft Park, John commented:
“They were magnificent when they got behind us. They kept us going when we most needed their support.
Having said that Altrincham never looked like scoring and I think Nuneaton was harder opposition. The way we are playing we could beat anybody at home, especially when Wembley is in sight’’.