The 2nd in the ‘classic matches’ feature is one of the clubs famed FA Cup giant killings:
Saturday 11th November 1995
Littlewoods FA Cup 1st Round, Gigg Lane, Bury.
Referee: R.A.Hart – Linesmen: R.M.Pollock & P.I Harris
Bury Team: Gary Kelly, Ryan Cross, Dean West, Shaun Reid, Chris Lucketti, Trevor Matthewson, Ian Hughes, Mark Carter, Phil Stant, Tony Rigby, David Pugh.
Sub: David Johnson for Rigby
Blyth Team: Paul O’Connor, Graham Curry, Warren Teasdale, Stephen Raffell, John Gamble, Mark Telford, John Sokoluk, Tommy Ditchburn, Richie Bond, Gary Hays.
Subs: Darren Palmer, Steve Adams, Graham Craggs.
Blyth Spartans AFC have always had an affinity with the FA Cup the clubs history is packed with great victories and giant killings, however by the late 80’s and into the 90’s FA Cup 1st Round appearances had become a bit of distant memory for the club.
Since the epic 2nd Round Replay against Hull City in 1981/82 and the 1st Round home defeat by Walsall the following season 1981/82 it had taken another 10 years before the 1st Round was reached again. In 1992/93 Blyth were disappointingly drawn against another Non League side in the shape of Southport and bowed out just as disappointingly, losing 1-2.
So in 1995/96 having battled through 4 qualifying rounds, (defeating Garforth 6-0, Billingham Synthonia 2-0, Bedlington Terrriers 3-1, Guiseley 2-0) hopes were high of a plum tie but the draw pitched the club against Endsleigh Insurance League Division 3 side Bury, it wasn’t quite the draw the Blyth fans had hoped for, while for mid table Bury an out of form Non League side at home was probably an ideal draw, it was their 1st home draw against Non League side since beating Spennymoor United 3-0 in the 2nd Round in 1975.
Blyth’s league form wasn’t good at all going into the game, 3 straight defeats and only 10 wins from 22 games (4 of them in earlier rounds). The squad was stretched thin by injuries and with leading scorer Steve Pyle ruled out and recent signings Steve Boon & Garry McDonald cup tied the signs weren’t good.
Management duo David McGreery & Tony Lowery had to give pre match fitness tests to Stephen Raffell, Warren Teasdale & John Sokoluk, while Bury boss Stan Ternant had lost regular left back Stuart Bimson to a broken elbow 4 days earlier in there midweek Coca Cola defeat by Reading, however he still was able to field a side that cost 290k compared to Blyth’s part time players.
2 of whom had been to work on night shift finishing at 8am on the morning of the tie and grabbing an hour’s sleep in the chairman’s car that drove them straight to Gigg Lane to meet up with the rest of the team.
Back by over 400 noisy fans in the Cemetery End, Blyth took the field wearing a special one-off all red kit produced by Activity Sportswear for what was the clubs 28th appearance in the 1st Round.
Spartans had a very early scare when Stephen Raffell fouled Carter 25 yards out on the right. Rigby floated the resulting free kick to the far post where Stant was inches away from getting on the end of the cross.
Spartans were quickly on the counter attack with a neat interchange between Curry & Bond resulted in the right back breaking through on goal to hammer at low drive that forced former Newcastle United keeper Gary Kelly into a good save as Ditchburn closed in.
The 3rd Division side started to take control with the majority of possession and began to up the pressure with John Gamble doing well to head away a fierce drive from Rigby.
Blyth continued to show they were dangerous on the counter attacking as midfielder Mark Telford cleverly played in John Sokoluk but his drive from 20 yards flew over the cross bar.
Blyth had another scare on 15 minutes after a neat build up lead to Pugh having a close range header that forced Paul O’Connor into a superb reaction save.
However the game changed on 20 minutes when a long ball over the top from Steve Walker was intended for Tommy Ditchburn, but Kelly raced 35 yards out and under pressure from Ditchburn the keeper hesitated allowing Richie Bond to nip in and collect the loose ball. Bond advanced a few yards before curling a superb 25 yard lob over the back pedalling Lucketti into the empty net sending the Blyth fans behind that goal wild with delight.
The goal clearly rattled the home side who piled on the pressure but Raffell & Gamble in the heart of the defence stood firm. In the 29th minute Teasdale was shown a yellow for delaying a Bury throw in, then Lucketti was booked for very rash challenge on Bond as the home sides frustrations started to show.
Midfielder Shaun Reid (younger brother of then Sunderland boss Peter Reid) – brought groans from the home fans when he miscued a cross field pass back into his own half for a Blyth thrown in, then Hughes fired a 30 yards shot well wide of O’Connor left post and the home fans patience ran out and a slow hand clap rang down from the stands.
Paul O’Connor was forced into action saving bravely at the feet of Bury’s top scorer Phil Stant after the striker out muscled Raffell to create an opening.
Amazingly after all the pressure Blyth almost snatched a 2nd just before the break when Ditchburn won possession to set Mark Telford away down the right, his cross picked out the in rushing Gary Hays but Kelly just managed to flick the ball off the head.
The second half brought the expected Bury onslaught but the resolute Spartans defence stood there ground, the ever dangerous Stant turned inside the box for fire a shot that deflected off Gamble for a corner which left back Warren Teasdale managed to clear.
Despite having to mount a cautious defensive approach, as Bury pressed forward Blyth knew they could catch Blyth home side on the break, and on 60 minutes it nearly paid dividends.
A mistake by defender Matthewson allowed in Steve Walker but Kelly raced out and despite appearing to handle the ball outside the area referee Hart waved play on. Telford was then adjudged offside after a rare attack and Bond failed to control a clever pass from Gamble as Blyth used their possession effectively to relive the pressure.
Minutes later Stant mis kicked when only 8 yards out and both he & O’Connor needed treatment follwoing the resulting melee for the loose ball.
The game changing moment came on 68 minutes when Blyth took the wind out of the home side sails with a classic sucker punch.
There appeared little danger as Mark Telford knocked a good diagonal ball out to Bond on the left, the hard-working Bond made ground down the left he taunted & teased right back Cross before curling a superb low cross into the box. Tommy Ditchburn anticipating Bond beating his man nipped in completely unchallenged, and calmly side foot the ball past a startled Kelly from 7 yards out. The goal was nothing more than Blyth’s measured approach had deserved, knowing they would come under pressure and had to use what possession they did have wisely Bond & Dithcburn had worked tirelessly all game giving Blyth an outlet. The goal stunned the home fans and when under fire Bury boss Stan Ternant then subbed fans favourite Rigby for Johnson here was howls of derision.
The expected late pressure came as sub Johnson was quickly into action cross for Mark Carter who headed wide at the far post, however the inspired Paul O’Connor (defending the end which housed the Blyth fans) was not to be beaten and produced a string of superb saves. He punched away a Hughes header from under the bar before diving full length to his right to hold onto a 15 yard shot from Stant. O’Connor denied the experienced striker again diving to turn another effort around the post for a corner.
The Shakers misery was completed when Stant finally beat the Blyth keeper with a header only to see it ruled out for offside as be turned to celebrate.
After four & half minutes of injury time Blyth’s famous victory was sealed when Darlington based referee Hart blew for full time and the Blyth players celebrated in front of the travelling green & white army.
However the measure off their achievement was shown in the generous & genuine standing ovation they got from the home fans who stayed behind to show their admiration of the superb display they had just saw from the famed giant killers who had just added their club to the long list of FA Cup victims.
Speaking after the game the stand in manager David McCreery said:
“At half time I told the lads to treat the score as 0-0 and go out and win it” while assistant manager Tony Lowery said:
“ I’m delighted for the players and supporters. I told them to go out and enjoy the moment and they did it in style”.
Richie Bond’s performance caught the eye after he ran Bury a merry dance, former Manchester United manager Tommy Docherty was very impressed with his performance:
“I’ve been so impressed with Richie Bond throughout the match that I’m going to phone my son Michael who is manager at Rochdale”.
Bond had waited 4 years for his revenge after being rejected after a week’s trial at Gigg Lance in 1991:
“I thought I’d done well when I came here, but the then manager (Mike Walsh) shook my hand and wished me well. It was nice to come back here and prove my ability”.
When asked about the game itself Richie said:
“Kelly made a real blunder and I just had to keep my composure. It was just a pleasurable setting up the winner for Tommy. He’d been on a 12 hour shift until 8am and had to have an hour’s kip in the chairman’s car before the game”.
Richie along with a few other players also worked at Wilkinson Sword but had taken that same night shift off in preparation for the game !.
Bury manager Stan Ternant’s post match feelings unjustly fell short of praising the victors and focused on their misery:
“Gary’s blunder was a horrendous mistake and cost us dear. To lose this match is a bog blow, it was one of my worst days in 30-odd years in football. The dressing room is like a funeral parlour. But we have no excuses, we just have to take it on the chin”.
The sheer nature of Blyth’s away victory proved to be the 1st Round’s biggest giant killing, (it was 1 of only 2 Non League victories against league clubs, Gravesnd & Northfleet had beaten Colchester 2-0 at home) and therefore attracted plenty of media attention the game featured as the lead FA Cup game on Match of the Day.
Chairman Jim Telford was interviewed live on Radio 5 Five by then radio show presenter Gary Lineker about who the club wanted in the 2nd Round draw:
“Whoever we draw in the second round will be our cup final. I was extremely proud of the lads against Bury – the were magnificent.”
The spirit of the FA Cup was epitomised by the story that captured the nations media attention when 30 minutes after the final whistle Mark Telford & Tommy Ditchburn’s work commitments lead to Chairman Jim Telford having to be drive them straight back to the North East to start another 12 hour shift at Wilkinson Sword’s Cramlington factory, Ditchburn in an interview after the game commented:
“I’m over the moon my night shift will pass very quickly tonight”.
In all the euphoria of the victory there was also the small matter of a managerial change made straight after the game was David McGreery’s final game after a month in charge. The former Newcastle United midfielder (who had won the FA Cup winner with Manchester United as an unused sub in 1977) stated:
“I’m going out on a high. The lads were superb. I agreed to do this job on a temporary basis. I already have other irons in the fire and will be involved with the new soccer league in America”.
Blyth already had the new manager lined up was introduced to the players at Gigg Lane, it was former Barrow & Gateshead player Peter Harrison.
Harrison in fact owned the sportswear company that had provided the special one-off kit the team had worn at Bury.
* The red kit worn that day was exactly the same as the current yellow away kit Blyth wore that season but had ‘FA Cup 1995/96’ embroidered underneath the Activity logo.
So, at the end of another highly eventful day in the history of Blyth Spartans AFC…
another league scalp had been taken,
2 players had just about managed to squeeze in a 300+ mile round trip & 90 minutes of football between two 12 hour night shifts,
….oh and the club had changed managers straight after a famous victory.
Non League football you just have to love it !.