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Monday, January 5, 2009
Blyth predict FA Cup shock for Rovers

Blyth Spartans chairman Tony Platten believes Blackburn Rovers' players will not know what to expect when they face his side in the FA Cup third round on Monday night.

The Blue Square North strugglers performed heroics to see off Shrewsbury Town and Bournemouth to secure a tie with Sam Allardyce's side.

On paper the Premier League side should win at a canter, but Platten is hoping a cauldron of noise inside Blyth's Croft Park ground could inspire one of the greatest FA Cup shocks of all time.

"The Blackburn players won't know what to expect with a tight little ground, packed to the rafters, a pitch that is not to Premier League standard and a changing room that isn't anywhere near the standard of the Premier League's palatial changing rooms," said Platten.

"All things being equal, we've got a great chance. Looking at the teams on paper, Blackburn should win hands down but this is the FA Cup after all and it's 11 players against 11 players and we've always got a chance."

When Platten arrived at Blyth in 2001 the club were riddled with debt and close to going out of business.

Nearly eight years later and Spartans are about to host a multi-million pound Blackburn side in the biggest game in the club's history.

Blyth got to the fifth round of the FA Cup in 1978 before losing to Wrexham in a replay at Newcastle's St James' Park.

However, Platten insists the board never considered staging the game elsewhere this time around and believes it is testament to how far the club have come that they will be playing the game at their compact Croft Park ground.

"It's been a phenomenal effort to get the ground ready and we never considered staging the game at St James' Park," Platten added.

"We have done a lot of work on the ground in the last six years and we passed all the tests with flying colours."

Just over 4,000 fans are expected to pack in to see if manager Harry Dunn's side can do the unthinkable and knock Blackburn out.

The Blyth players of 31 years ago wrote their names into FA Cup folklore with their exploits and Platten believes the current crop have the perfect opportunity to become heroes.

"It's probably the greatest day in the club's history with the fact that it's the first time we will be playing against Premier League opposition," said Platten.

"A lot has been made of what we did 31 years ago but then it was not a first division team so this is absolutely massive for us.

"Football is so different now to what it was then. The gulf between the lower leagues and the Premier League is 10 times what it was back then.

"Without a doubt this has cast a millstone around the neck of the players. Now they can put that behind them and say that we've matched what happened then."

Meanwhile, Blackburn manager Sam Allardyce is confident of being able to avoid a giant-killing act and set up a third visit of the season to face Sunderland the Stadium of Light.

"It's the third round of the FA Cup and it's always a big occasion for the smaller clubs," said Allardyce.

"It's my responsibility - and it's the players' responsibility - to go out with a very professional attitude to make sure that we get the result that we're looking for."

With Premier League survival his obvious priority in 2009, Allardyce is ready to gamble by resting several of his senior players for the trip to Blyth.

But he remains confident he has enough reserve strength to see off the part-timers and book a return trip to the North East.

"The right attitude is what I'm looking for," he said. "I will make some changes and select a side capable of beating the team we're playing against."

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