Figo follows, fines and failure: Blyth Spartans' turbulent day

Luis Figo Twitter account

They play in the seventh tier of English football but for a short time on Saturday Blyth Spartans were attracting the attention of the football world.

Former Ballon d'Or winner Luis Figo followed them on Twitter - joining US president Barack Obama in taking an interest in the Northern Premier League outfit - as they threatened to knock Championship side Birmingham City out of the FA Cup.

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Blyth Spartans 2-3 Birmingham City highlights

But the gap of 120 places between the two teams eventually told (and Figo then unfollowed them). Here's how Blyth's memorable - if ultimately miserable - day unfolded.

An upset on the cards?

BBC website vote
A vote on the BBC Sport website picked Blyth's tie with Birmingham as the most likely upset on Saturday

The Football Focus cameras were at Croft Park for one reason - the potential for an upset.

You, the BBC Sport audience, agreed as when we asked you to vote for where you would predict an upset on the big third round Saturday, you saw one arriving in the north east.

Fines list at Blyth

That one almost came true, while the tie second in the vote on 33.1% - Rochdale v Nottingham Forest - did end up in a shock as the League One side humbled their Championship opponents 1-0.

But what is it that stirs us so much on FA Cup third round day? The thought of highly paid players turning up at rugged and hostile lower-league grounds likely plays a part.

Football Focus presenter Dan Walker found a fines list which certainly belongs at Blyth rather than St Andrews, with home players threatened with a £10 punishment for missing a night out but only £5 for missing a match.

Blyth players have one eye on their day jobs
Nathan BuddleBuilding labourer
Ryan HutchinsonTaxi driver
Robbie DaleWorks in mother's bar
Jarrett RiversWorks in mother's newsagents
Samuel PerezChaperone to his brother Ayoze of Newcastle United

"We've got a secret against Birmingham today, but I'm not going to tell you," Blyth manager Tom Wade told BBC Radio 5 live before kick-off. "It'll be tough, we'll give it all and even if we lose it won't be for want of trying."

Around 50 journalists took their seats at Croft Park - where two or three normally turn up - and the crowd of a little shy of 4,000 watching waited for an upset which would ultimately never arrive.

Dale double sparks cup dream

A Blyth fan
Blyth beat Hartlepool in the last minute in round two and fans were delirious when Robbie Dale opened the scoring against Birmingham

Robbie Dale, who works as a barman in his mother's pub, The Blacksmiths in Newcastle, pounces to open the scoring and within six minutes he weaves an opening to add a second.

Blyth have FA Cup pedigree, reaching round five in 1978, but this is beyond their wildest dreams. After a timid opening, they have this game by the scruff of the neck.

BBC
The BBC's live text commentator got swept along with the cup magic when Spartans grabbed the lead

The home side almost net a third on the stroke of half-time and their club Twitter account is in fine, positive voice at the break.

Blyth Spartans

Birmingham last lost to a non-league side when Kidderminster Harriers rumbled them at St Andrew's in 1994 and that was a record they fought to maintain.

We got carried away

After seven minutes of the second half it becomes evident Birmingham have had a talking to at the interval as one-way traffic pays off though Lee Novak. His first goal of the season reduces the arrears and within six minutes his side lead.

Blyth Spartans

Wes Thomas is strong to fight off a challenge and level, before heading the winner. Such was the quick succession of goals, Blyth's once chirpy Twitter feed drastically changed in tone.

Birmingham boss Gary Rowett: "It was a very, very nervy first half. "We didn't expect to be 2-0 down at half time and we needed to give the fans more.

"I didn't need to give them a rocket at half time. I didn't throw anything and I was quite placid. To be honest, the players gave themselves a rocket and you saw the result.

"As soon as we got one Blyth's heads went down."

Blyth captain Robbie Dale: "At 2-0 up we got carried away. Once they came out and got one their tails were up and they showed their class."

Wes Thomas celebrates
Wes Thomas celebrates turning the game on its head and the Birmingham striker now has five goals for the season

The dream over

Blyth stem the tide of attacks and scrap to stay 3-2 down and when a deep corner is swung in at the death, that sought-after FA Cup glory moment looks on the cards as Joel Dixon leaps to meet a header.

The packed stadium roars but his effort falls the wrong side of the post and Spartans are out. Nothing to look forward to in Monday's fourth round draw for them and a run of eight FA Cup fixtures in 2014-15 is over.

Their exit is gallant and Birmingham defender Paul Robinson admires the effort.

Paul Robinson Twitter
Paul Robinson congratulated the beaten side, who have 11 games in hand on some teams in the Northern Premier League

Blyth captain Robbie Dale faced the reality of a shift working behind the bar after defeat: "I am due to open up at half past eleven on Sunday morning. I asked the gaffer if I could do a shorter shift because I don't know what mood I will be in today and after a couple of goals I am planning to have a good night."

"We had a perfect first half, but Birmingham were so quick to get three. It was a brilliant atmosphere today, both sets of fans were top class. We thought we would be hanging on all game so to be 2-0 up at the break was amazing. We've had a great cup run."

Mark Lawrenson
The tie ended with Blyth having 49% of possession and nine shots to Birmingham's 10

Blues boss Gary Rowett paid tribute to Blyth: "I thought they were absolutely brilliant and this is what the FA Cup is about - a team from down the non-league pyramid having a day like this."

Peter Jeffries
Blyth goalkeeper Peter Jeffries, a scaffolder by trade, is consoled by home fans after the game
Blyth Spartans
Blyth players are down, out, but applauded as Birmingham reach round four, where they exited last season

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