Blyth Spirit causes problems

Andy Munro scrapes through the FA Cup third round with Blues.

I suppose it was never going to be easy on a pitch that would have made Billesley Common pitch ten look like Wembley. Of course, most of us felt that after a competitive opening few minute, we would breeze through. However, going two-nil down certainly wasn’t in the Rowett Revolution script.

Gary said that he was taking the match seriously and his raison d’etre for ten changes was to give the fringe players a chance to show what they were made of. Paper mache sprung to mind, as we looked anything but robust. To be fair, early on we should have gone one-nil up but Ziggy had a Cameron Jerome moment in front of goal. Unfortunately, we then fell apart as our midfield failed dismally to exert any authority and the back four looked uncertain as balls were given away like confetti.

To be frank, it could easily have been worse, if it hadn’t been for an excellent save by Doyle in the closing stages of the half. Rowett must have read the riot act at half time but, apparently, in his measured way and, true to his principles, allowed the same side to trot out for the second period. Once Novak had cut inside to reduce the arrears, the inevitable followed as Wes Thomas exerted his undoubted power and pace to equalise before the same player guided home a header to put us in the lead. There was still time, however, for Blyth to create a couple of chances to pull things around. The possession stats show an almost 50:50 split between the two sides which shows how off key the Blues were in securing their passage into the next round.

So what will Rowett have learnt? While it’s difficult for players who haven’t been playing regularly to perform to a high standard, there are some clear messages of which the main one is that Blues are a mediocre side without the manager’s recently-introduced continuity policy.

Doyle is an adequate second string and worth keeping on that basis. Hancox continues to be a bit naïve defensively but, in some ways, more than makes up for this with his passion defensively and energy offensively. Eardley is just not up to the mark whilst, to some extent, the jury is still out on Edgar.

In midfield, Guy Moussa is fairly average as is Callum Reilly and neither can really take Blues forward. Lee Novak is worth keeping as a squad player given his phenomenal work rate whilst Duffy is probably worth keeping if we have to lose Demarai Gray (incidentally any fee less than £5 million would be daylight robbery). Up front both Ziggy (at fivepence a week) and Wes Thomas are adequate enough but only from a bench viewpoint.

However, it would be wrong to be too curmudgeonly given we’re in the hat for the next round and things have improved radically under the new management.