Blyth Spartans 0-1 Blackburn Rovers

HAVING made the trip up north from the Ally Pally following Phil Taylor’s humbling of Raymond van Barneveld, I exchanged the self-proclaimed ‘hottest ticket in world sport’ for quite possibly its coldest last night.

Blyth Spartans haven’t seen anything like it since a last-minute Wrexham equaliser from a thrice-taken corner kick robbed the Northern League side of a quarter final home tie against Arsenal back in 1978.

Fitting, then, that denied my semi-regular spot in the Swamp, I decamped to the Kingsway End where a barrel-bellied Northumbrian in a four-foot wide green sombrero belted out Slade numbers at the top of his voice while another passed around a tartan thermos flask brimming with Brown Ale. If someone had have offered me a Spangle, I would’ve barely flinched.

What Blyth lacked in shirt-sleeve length and white shoe leather, they compensated with mascots (all fourteen of them), hard graft and good, old fashioned luck. But for a Chilean’s free kick on the hour, Spartans manager Harry Dunn’s sagacious cup patience might just have sent Blackburn Rovers the same way as Whitby, Buxton, Sheffield FC, Shrewsbury and Bournemouth.

But just as Lancashire hearts quickened and Croft Park dared to believe, an Andrew Wright shot missed a post by the width of a Phil Taylor opening dart at double sixteen and it was Blyth who were left, in Waddellian terms, as sick as a chip.

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