Michael Nelson wants to create a 'new identity' at Blyth Spartans after FA Cup scare
Newly named captain Simon Heslop played a lead role as he marked his competitive debut for the club with a hat-trick of penalties that put his side on their way to a 4-2 win at a rain-swept Hillheads.
But it was the four-time FA Vase winners that put themselves into a shock lead with just six minutes on the clock when Lewis Orrell tapped home from close-range.
A foul on Paul Blackett allowed Heslop to get his side back on level-terms just before the quarter-hour mark and he made no mistake with his first successful spot-kick of the day.
The hosts were reduced to ten men on 38 minutes when goalkeeper Dan Lister saw red for handling outside of his area – and with no replacement stopper on the bench, Whitley were forced to put striker Adam Shanks between the sticks.
Despite being a man down, the hosts restored their lead on 55 minutes when Mark Robinson made the most of a spill by Spartans debutant keeper Brendan Pearson to tap home from eight yards.
But it was Spartans that secured their place in Monday’s third qualifying round draw in a flurry of goals inside the last ten minutes.
The lively Blackett played a lead role as he won his side a penalty that was easily converted by Heslop and the on-loan Gateshead striker put his side in front for the first time with a cool finish on 82 minutes.
A foul on substitute Kurt Russell saw Spartans awarded a third penalty of the day and Heslop rounded off a remarkable day by securing a hat-trick to finally kill of any resistance from Whitley Bay.
After the game Nelson paid tribute to his skipper and called on his new look squad and the club’s supporters to come together and move on from a difficult 12 months at Croft Park.
He said: “I only spoke to Simon Heslop about the captaincy on Friday night and it was something we were going to do anyway – regardless of Robbie retiring.
“It was just to give the club and the team a new look.
“I don’t want to be looking back at anything that went on last year, this is practically a new squad.
“We have kept the ones I want from last year, the ones that I think fit into what I want and have bought into what I want.
“The rest are all new and this is time for a new Blyth.
“I said I want to identify a new identity and philosophy of how we want to play and what we want to do.
“Hopefully the fans will see that and get on board with us.”
Nelson hailed the efforts of his squad after they were made to wait to claim a place in the third qualifying round for the third consecutive year.
The Spartans boss revealed his delight over the patience that his players showed as three goals in the last ten minutes finally killed any hopes that the hosts had of claiming a shock win.
“It wasn’t pretty, and it was tough - but credit to the lads because they dug in.
“They were camped in when they went ahead in the second-half and they had something to hold on to.
“We said they would tire, and I think the penalties late on were a sign of that tiredness, so credit to our lads for the way they kept going.
“The lads deserve credit because things could have gone the other way, they could have got frustrated and the opposition made it difficult for them.
“But they got there in the end.”