Monday, January 5, 2009

FA Cup Third Round Liveblog: Blyth Spartans v. Blackburn

Well, if Notts Forest can do it, surely the non-leaguers from Blyth can as well, right?

A spot of afternoon fun following a lazy morning finds the ultimate example of FA Cup mismatches as an amateur team hosts an EPL team that's not exactly lighting the world on fire at the moment. Big Sam takes his patchwork side to Northumberland, where the pressure will be immense and the pitch will surely be of awful enough quality to make things interesting.

Come join the eventual 7-1 thrashing after the jump.

Blyth Spartans: Mark Bell, Boyle, Pell, Leeson, White, Reay, McCabe, Williams, Gildea, Dale, Dalton.
Subs: Farman, Brown, Hume, Poole, Todd, Wright, Watson.

Blackburn: Bunn, Simpson, Mokoena, Khizanishvili, Olsson, Vogel, Grella, Treacy, Judge, Villanueva, Derbyshire.
Subs: Brown, Andrews, Roberts, Hodge, Gunning, Doran, Haworth.

A fairly experimental side for Blackburn that should still have little trouble with Blyth, but that's the magic of the FA Cup, see.

4 mins: Little to note thus far; Blackburn's mish-mash XI are struggling to get with the pace on that non-league pitch.

The crowd's certainly up for it as they cheer Danny Simpson's hilarious mis-hit, and the boos are loud every time Blackburn have possession.

7 mins: A heavy tackle by Gary Brown gets the fans cheering. I wouldn't fancy being one of these Rovers reserves tonight. Carlos Villanueva tries a speculative (there needs to be a more emphatic word) shot from halfway, hoping to catch the keeper out. It drifts well over the bar.

9 mins: Villanueva has another effort from the edge of the box, but it's not troubling Mark Bell in the slightest.

11 mins: Blackburn are finding rhythm, and it looks simple enough: pass, move, shoot. Keith Treacy forces a fine save from Bell low to his right after a neat build-up. I'll be the first to tell you that there will be no upset here, on basis of the first 13 minutes. Three good scoring chances, and as good as Mark Bell is in goal, it won't be long before the first of many Rovers goals.

14 mins: It's Villanueva time again as he sets Treacy free on goal, only to watch the Irish international shoot weakly at Bell.

17 mins: Blackburn are dominant and are playing every pass in the Blyth half. It's been nowhere near reserve goalie Mark Bunn's net as of yet. Another Rovers corner amounts to nothing, but on balance, all signs point to a Blackburn goal shortly.

25 mins: The Blackburn flirtation with scoring continues, but Danny Simpson's cross from the right is blocked by three different Blyth players.

Whoops, almost a gaffe for Rovers there... Mark Bunn came out to tidy up Aaron Mokoena's mess as his defender passed it right into Ged Dalton's path, but the Blyth hero from the 2nd Round hurries his shot and puts it closer to the corner flag than the goal. There's a lesson about complacency in here somewhere.

28 mins: It's Blyth's turn for a bit of pressure as they win a corner or two. For the slow-witted among you, this means they've been into the Blackburn half, something they hadn't managed thus far. Well done, you Blue Square North Conference battlers, you.

33 mins: A nifty run down the right by Alan Judge wins Blackburn another corner, but it's fizzed across goal to no avail.

GOAL GOAL GOAL GO-ALMOST for Rovers. Matt Derbyshire wastes his bicycle kick as he was offside. A comedy goal, almost; Derbyshire's bicycle kick skidded off his right foot towards the sideline, only to meet a Blyth defender's face en route. Off the lad's face and into the net past a diving Bell, but the flag was up. An uglier non-goal you will never see. The fans loved that one.

Derbyshire then has a chance to atone for it, but his volley doesn't trouble Mark Bell.

37 mins: And we settle for midfield boredom once more. Blackburn's second XI look absolutely clueless in and around the penalty area, which is very much like their first-choice side, truth be told. At least the coaching is consistent from top to bottom.

40 mins: The hopelessness continues, although the longer it drags on, the more I'm convinced some North Country voodoo has put an invisible shield around the Blyth goal. A lofted corner to the back post finds Vince Grella, but his volley is somehow kept out despite several chances for the visitors on the rebound. Perhaps it had something to do with the 4 Spartans on the goalline.

43 mins: Blyth push forward via the long ball, but stand-in captain Zurab Khisanishvili gets the better of Shawn Reay.

45 mins: Mark Bell does well under Treacy's cross/pass from the left, beating Derbyshire to the ball in midair.

Just one minute of added time to follow.

Half-Time: Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 0
Despite seemingly continual pressure by the EPL side, it's scoreless at the break thanks to Mark Bell's goalkeeping heroics and some dogged, desperate defending. You have to fancy Big Sam's side to find an opening eventually, but the longer it stays 0-0, the more you must pray and hope for the upset.

47 mins: Back underway, and right there where we were at the end of the first half: Rovers wasting possession with Spartans nipping at their heels, pressuring them like little terrier, or some other plucky animal or dog breed.

Are Matt Derbyshire and Robbie Keane related? The Rovers lad squanders another chance, and Big Sam must be wondering where the goals are coming from. The bench isn't exactly full of proven match-winners.

50 mins: Villanueva is the next to go close, blasting a shot just wide of the post from 25 yards with Bell beaten. For those of you keeping track at home, it was Blackburn's 10th shot to Blyth's one. Still, it's anyone's game.

52 mins: Simpson wins another corner after Robert Dale's last-second block, but it amounts to nothing. Blyth get into Rovers territory and win a free-kick after Martin Olsson uses the Spartan as a jungle jim, and they turn the screws, earning a corner as Rovers get nervous and struggle to clear. Mokoena then steps in late to knock the ball out of Reay's path with Bunn coming off his line to collect.

Jason Roberts begins his warm-ups as the crowd noise increases and the home fans sense some FA Cup magic in the air.

57 mins: Villanueva, easily the game's most industrious player thus far, wins a free-kick 25 yards out after skipping past two defenders and getting hauled down from behind. Will this be the breakthrough?

GOAL GOAL GOAL GOAL, and I was right! Carlos Villanueva, about to be subbed out for Roberts, bends the free kick across goal with his left foot, catching Mark Bell unawares. A brilliant, deserved goal. I think that might buy him a few more minutes on the pitch, but it doesn't as Big Sam makes the substitution anyway. Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 1

Another Big Sam substitution: Keith Andrews on, the rubbish Vince Grella off.

61 mins: With the Spartans forced to push forward, Keith Treacy gets space to shoot and volleys just over the bar, aided by a deflection. Trying times for Blyth now; they need to start attacking.

Subs for Blyth: Simon Todd on, Alex White off. Part-timer for newly-signed Part-timer via Stranraer.

Sad that Blackburn's goal came amid Blyth's best attacking spell, but them's the breaks. The crowd's still urging their side on, and as Gillingham almost proved yesterday, that makes all the difference.

66 mins: Spartans win a free kick as sub Keith Andrews gives away a needless foul on Ged Dalton. Club captain Gareth Williams floats it to the back post, but Matt Derbyshire clears.

69 mins: More desperate defending for Blyth as they prepare for another substitution, but Derbyshire eases the pressure by giving away a free-kick in the Spartans' penalty areas. 20 minutes to go... COME ON SPARTANS

Sub for Blyth: Andrew Wright on, Ged Dalton off.

71 mins: Some life left in Blyth as they win a free-kick 30 yards out thanks to a strong run by Shaun Reay...

Williams goes for goal, and it is on target; however, an easy save for Bunn.

73 mins: First yellow of the night is shown to Aaron Mokoena for his tackle-from-behind. Those never used to be yellow cards, but it gives Blyth another free-kick in Rovers' territory. Williams doesn't get it nearly deep enough and it's cleared with ease.

75 mins: It's just not your night, Mr. Andrews. Alan Judge slips past his man on the right, brings the ball to the byline and slides it across the 6-yard-box, but Andrews somehow manages to blast it over the bar from close range. Awful stuff, and the crowd lets him know.

Best chance for Blyth coming down the other end as Simon Todd gets free down the middle, and it requires a perfectly-timed challenge from Mokoena to snuff out the danger. That would have been 1-1, easy. Mokoena then leaps highest to clear the corner, and back down the other ends it goes.

78 mins: More pressure around Blackburn's goal, and another free-kick deep in Rovers territory. Better delivery from Williams, but Aaron Gildea's volley goes over the bar.

80 mins: Jason Roberts gets free in the box after some nice skills, but puts his shot well wide of the mark.

83 mins: Blackburn just like to keep things interesting as they let Blyth attack time and again as Shaun Reay's gorgeous volley is blocked by Khisanishvili at the last minute, this just moments after Khisanishvili headed over from 5 yards out to keep the score at 1-0.

Sub for Blackburn: Brian Hodge on for the awful Matt Derbyshire.

86 mins: How did Blyth not score that?!?! A gorgeous cross from the left by Alex Gildea finds sub Andy Wright at the back post, and he somehow puts his sidefooted volley inches wide of the post with Bunn beaten. So close.

87 mins: Another golden opportunity for Blyth from a free-kick as Williams finds Gildea right in front of goal, but he puts it just over the bar from 6 yards out.

89 mins: Big Sam's nervously pacing as the Spartans pile on more pressure. A deep throw for Blyth is wasted as Robert Dale fails to control the pass.

90 mins + 1: Close, but no cigar. Dale's speculative flick loops toward goal, but it's no trouble for Bunn.

90 mins + 2: Sums up Blackburn's confidence, really, as Roberts tries to kill clock near the Spartans' corner flag. Another long ball for Blyth, but Simpson's there to knock it clear, and that should do it.

Full-Time: Blyth Spartans 0, Blackburn 1
To be fair to Big Sam, his side could have scored 4 in the first half alone, but it was left to a brilliant Villanueva free-kick to separate the two sides. Blyth played a lot better from a goal down, and Andy Wright will be kicking himself for missing a glorious chance to equalize. Still, the Spartans' dream ends, and Rovers will face Sunderland in the 4th round.


Bigus Dickus said...

come on Sparta!!!!

jjf3 said...

shut up, BD! This season's been painful enough without getting bounced from the FA Cup by a team 118 spots below us...

I've actually been scared to keep up with this game, figuring it'll involve some incredibly painful blunder on defense that'll gift the game to Blyth...

Lingering Bursitis said...

jjf3: they already had one gaffe that should have been a goal...

Kopper said...

Sounds like from the stream that the Blythe faithful are having a good time...

Adam said...

This one seems too perfectly set up for Blyth to win. Blackburn should be up by now, but Blyth keeps getting the lucky breaks.

jjf3 said...

Thank G-d I wasn't in a bar somewhere watching this disaster. I'm up to half-time now on the DVR, and everything about this game screams "Blyth wins on a horrible Mokoena backpass the keeper isn't expecting, probably somewhere around the 80th minute"...

though that is the most schizophrenic line-up we've sent out all year. I didn't think BFS could get more creative than Ince, but clearly, I was wrong...

jjf3 said...

that was an absolutely beautiful shot by New Town. He's like MGP with less speed, but more bulldog. At least he looks mildly interested in the game going on, which MGP hasn't done in over a year, at least until BFS showed up...

jjf3 said...

Fuck this team. The last 15 minutes Blackburn played like they were the Blue Square team trying to protect a 1-0 lead against an EPL team, not the other way around. Fucking pathetic play after New Town's goal. Props to Blyth for pressing Rovers. Boos to Rovers for acting like a bunch of Arsenal youth-team players trying to protect their first lead ever...

damn, that was ugly.

jjf3 said...

Actually, apologies to Arsenal fans - their youth team would have stupidly kept trying to score, not totally gifted half the pitch to the opponent...