Saturday, 14 October 2006

Whitley Bay 2 Blyth Spartans 2

Attendance: 2,023

FA Cup Third Qualifying Round

I have to admit that a 180-mile round trip for a non-league FA Cup tie borders on insanity but I just couldn't resist it. The lure? Whitley Bay v. Blyth Spartans. Bay have won the last nine on the bounce while Spartans are romping away at the top of the Conference North and have a legendary Cup pedigree. On top of that the two sides are only seven miles apart. Now how's that for a ding-dong Tyneside derby?

The fog rather dominated the afternoon. Because of it Bertie and I weren't too sad we didn't have long for our now traditional pre-match sandwiches on the beach and the photography was difficult - but that did mean I could concentrate the game and what a cracker it was. Spartans went 1-0 early on but Bay battled back to level it and the interval. They then deservedly went ahead in the second half before the visitors scrambled an equaliser in injury time.

I suppose the fog did make the occasion all the more northern and grim - which, of course, is a plus. [The pics look like something from the days of long shorts]. The only thing sexy about this football was the name of the programme: Bay Watch. Being in north-east is like being in another, strange country. Bertie has never grasped for my hand as keenly while we were waiting in the queue at the turnstiles amidst all the Geordie lads saying "beer" not "bay". A flag draped over the Spartans end rather sums up the region and its football. Across the horizontal bar of the cross of St George was 'Blyth Spartans' and, in each quarter, were the initials N, U, F and C. One club, three loyalties.

The big - and sad - cup news is that Skem are out (see previous posting). Oh, well, Tommy. There's always next year ...

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