Blyth Spartans fans will be hoping to avenge a historic night in the club’s history as they take on Hollywood-backed Wrexham in the FA Cup fourth qualifying round.
The tie, which takes place on October 15 at Croft Park, will be huge for both sides as a win would mean qualification to the first round proper. The Spartans overcame fellow National League North side Chorley, who reached the fourth round of the cup in 2021, in the third qualifying round.
Blyth have had several experiences of reaching the main rounds over the years, most recently in the 2008/09 and 2014/15 seasons, where both times they reached the third round of the competition, losing to then Premier League side Blackburn and Championship side Birmingham respectively.
But it’s their 1977-78 cup run that is arguably the most famous season in the club’s history. They reached the fifth round of the FA Cup which pitted them against third division Wrexham at the Racecourse Ground.
A 1-1 draw thanks to a late Dixie McNeil equaliser for the Dragons meant a replay was needed. The replay would be played at Newcastle’s St. James’ Park in front of a record-breaking attendance of over 42,000, although there have been accounts of thousands more watching the game unofficially after being denied entry. Unfortunately, a 2-1 defeat meant they were denied the opportunity to face the might of Arsenal in the quarter-final.
Since that day, Wrexham have seemingly fallen on harder times. They have been stuck in the fifth tier of English football since 2008, having previously spent 87 consecutive years in the Football League. However, the much-publicised takeover by actors Ryan Reynolds and Rob McElhenney has sparked new life into the club, and they now sit second in the National League, just one point behind leaders Notts County.
The Spartans, on the other hand, have not fared as well this season. They currently sit 21st in the National League North, directly above the relegation zone, with two wins in their first 11 matches. Judging on form, this match looks like a mountain to climb for the Spartans. North-east football writer Mark Carruthers said, “It’s one of those where everything seems to point towards a Wrexham win. But with the ‘magic of the cup’ and the Spartans’ previous record in this competition, you still get the feeling that anything could happen.”
For both teams, reaching the first round would be important in different ways. Wrexham would love to continue their run and expand the club’s commercial buzz even further, especially after the release of the Welcome to Wrexham documentary on Disney+. The game has even been selected for American television, moving the kick-off time to 1pm. However, the financial reward may not be as essential.
For a team like Blyth, any extra money accumulated means so much. “It would be huge for the club financially”, said Carruthers. “You want to get to the first round and draw an Ipswich or a Derby. Any additional income would be great as Blyth have one of the smallest budgets in their division.” Carruthers also talked about the importance of the 2008/09 cup run and how it “helped the club massively, as they were able to rejuvenate the stands at Croft Park.”
Regardless of form or league position, there’s no doubt that the passionate Blyth faithful will be behind their team all the way as they attempt to cause yet another FA Cup shock.