Villanueva magic sees off Spartans

A brilliant freekick by Chilean international Carlos Villanueva proved the difference between Premiership side Blackburn Rovers and non-league Blyth Spartans here on Monday as Rovers ran out 1-0 winners.

Villanueva's 58th minute effort produced a justified result against a side 181 places below his team and earned them a fourth round clash with Premiership rivals Sunderland while extending their unbeaten record under Sam Allardyce since he took over four matches ago.

Allardyce - who fielded virtually a second string side - admitted he had been a little nervous towards the end with just the one goal advantage. "It was comfortable until the last few minutes, but having not converted our chances they were bound to get a chance at some stage.

"I was frustrated we didn't see the game out completely. They (his side) need the mentality to change the way they play," added Allardyce, who replaced Paul Ince after he was sacked last month.

I'm so proud of the players, this has been a really fantastic experience for us.
Blyth Spartans boss Harry Dunn on his team's performance against Premier League opposition.

His Blyth Spartans counterpart Harry Dunn said it had been a wonderful experience. "I'm so proud of the players, this has been a really fantastic experience for us."

The hosts - who memorably reached the fifth round 31 years ago losing in front of 42,000 spectators in a replay against Wrexham - had started off in combative fashion with both Kenny Boyle and Shaun Reay clattering into Matt Derbyshire and Martin Olsson respectively in the first two minutes. However, it failed to knock Rovers confidence too much as they poured on the pressure with Carlos Villanueva having three shots on goal in the first 10 minutes while Blyth 'keeper Mark Bell was forced to save from Keith Treacy and Olsson.

Blyth - who had not scored in their three previous matches - at last got in a shot at Rovers goal in the 19th minute but Alan Judge's effort went wide. Somehow, though, Blyth managed to make it through to half-time tied at 0-0 through either a mixture of hardtackling by them or mediocre play by the visitors.

However, Allardyce's half-time talk must have sparked something in Rovers - who have reached the semi-finals twice in recent years in 2005 and 2007 - as they came out in much better fashion in the second period. Villanueva was their standout player as he had been before the break as he twisted and turned early on in the second-half and unleashed a stunning shot which had the 'keeper beaten but unfortunately for the South American it went just wide of the post.

However, the 22-year-old was to make no mistake a few minutes later as having won the freekick he curled in a brilliant strike to beat Bell - and a minute later Allardyce decided he had done enough by substituting him. Rovers went close to doubling their lead two minutes later as Treacy volleyed brilliantly but it took a deflection off Boyle, clipped the crossbar and went for a corner.