FA Cup – Solid Blackburn down brave Blyth
Premier League side Blackburn Rovers avoided an FA Cup third round shock as they produced a professional performance to beat non-league side Blyth Spartans 1-0.
However, it was not until just before the hour mark that Carlos Villanueva finally broke the deadlock for Rovers at Blyth’s tiny Croft Road ground, with the Chile international producing a stunning free-kick for the only goal of the game.
Nevertheless, with the exception of a nervy final 10 minutes, Sam Allardyce’s side always looked in control of the contest despite making 11 changes from the side that started their last Premier League contest against Manchester City.
Blue Square North side Blyth – who are 118 places below Blackburn in the league pyramid – showed plenty of guts and endeavour though and then nearly nicked an unlikely draw five minutes from time only for substitute Andrew Wright to side-foot a great chance just wide.
Rovers will now return to the North East in the fourth round where they will take on Sunderland in an all Premier League clash.
Blackburn completely dominated possession in the first-half, and while they did not create a hatful of chances, they still had plenty of opportunities to open the scoring.
Their best effort in the opening period came after just 12 minutes when Keith Treacy fired in a good low shot from the edge of the area but Blyth keeper Mark Bell made a superb save as he got down low to bat the ball away.
After the break the match continued in a similar fashion with Villanueva curling a good effort just wide before he finally broke the deadlock when he swerved a free-kick over the wall and into the corner of the net for a fine goal.
He was immediately substituted after that effort though as first-team regulars Keith Andrews and Jason Roberts were brought on to try and wrap up the match.
Blackburn really should have done that too with Andrews and Zurab Khizanishvili both missing guilt edge chances from close range.
Treacy also saw an effort deflected on to the crossbar and Blackburn were nearly made to pay for their wastefulness as Blyth finally began to threaten in the closing stages.
It was Wright who really should have been the local hero as he was clear at the back post five minutes from time after being found with a superb cross from Alex Gildea but, with the goal at his mercy, the substitute conspired to side-foot across the face of Bunn and wide.
Moments later Gildea got his head on a free-kick but he could only direct it over the bar.
It was a credit to the non-league outfit that Blackburn then started playing for time in the closing moments, but in the end, Rovers’ extra quality was just enough to see them home.