Blyth Spartans defender Nathan Buddle believes Birmingham City’s class showed in the end after the Championship side fought back from two goals down to dump the spirited non-leaguers out of the FA Cup Third Round today.
Blyth, of the Northern Premier League, grabbed a dream 2-0 lead thanks to a first-half brace from captain Robert Dale.
But Birmingham turned the tie on its head in the space of six blistering second-half minutes. Lee Novak pulled one back for Gary Rowett’s men before Wesley Thomas equalised in the 55th minute.
Thomas then headed in at the far post just before the hour mark to grab what proved to be the winning goal.
Spartans came close to snatching an injury-time leveller, but substitute Danny Parker headed wide from a corner before Daniel Maguire blazed over from just inside the box with virtually the last kick of the game.
Buddle, from Amble and who played at the heart of Blyth’s defence this afternoon, admitted it was disappointing to lose, but was proud that the non-leaguers pushed their opponents so close.
The 21-year-old said: “We never really expected to be leading 2-0 and when we came out in the second half we knew that we had to keep things tight and not concede early on.
“There were perhaps some nerves from us at the start of the second half – especially after they scored their first – but Birmingham’s class showed and they scored the three goals.
“But we gave it our best shot and we matched a Championship side for quite a lot of the game, so we can be proud of that, despite being disappointed.”
The match was played in front of a sell-out crowd at Croft Park and Buddle described the atmosphere as amazing.
He said: “The roar when we came out was brilliant and when we scored the goals I have never heard Croft Park as loud as that. The fans were singing and they were right behind us. They were immense.”
Blyth’s cup run included higher-league scalps against Altrincham and Buddle’s former club, Hartlepool United.
He said: “The cup run has been brilliant and to play in the Third Round of the FA Cup is something that will stay with me for a long time.”
Blyth manager Tom Wade felt his side deserved to come away with a positive result.
He said: “I feel sorry for my players because they deserved to get something out of the game.
“It was a great cup tie and it’s just a shame we couldn’t have scored the third. If somebody had said before the game that we would lose 3-2, we would probably have taken that, but I think we deserved to win.
“We did really well in the first half and we were starting to boss the game.
“But Birmingham were awesome for those 10 or 15 minutes at the start of the second half and they killed us off. But to be fair, they were only really strong for that period.”
Dale, who works as a barman, opened the scoring after 35 minutes when he turned in a Jarrett Rivers cross. He then added his second six minutes later when he fired in to the far corner after a drive into the box.
Reflecting on the midfielder’s brace, Wade said: “His second was a moment of magic, but I have to say that today was all about the collective.”
He added: “The cup run has been huge for us as a club and as a town. I am so proud of the lads and it is a pleasure to be the manager.”
Blyth will have to dust themselves down quickly and regroup ahead of upcoming Northern Premier League matches, when they travel to Frickley on Tuesday before hosting Belper Town next Saturday.
Wade doesn’t believe the FA Cup disappointment will impact Spartans’ league campaign, adding: “It is a tough league, but we will be okay because we have got good character and the attitude of the players is right.”
Birmingham manager Gary Rowett praised his side’s character for their second-half fight back, but insisted he did not give them a rocket at half time to inspire the turn around.
He said: “It was all quite positive and calm during the interval.
“I felt we needed to simplify the game a bit more in the second half and I thought our desire would come through, which it did.
“We want to go through the rounds in this competition and we showed a lot of determination and desire in the second half, as well as some good finishing.”
He added: “I thought Blyth were brilliant today and this sort of a game is what the cup is all about.
“Their goals were good goals from their point of view, but they were poor from our point of view.”