Blyth deserved more in defeat to Pools

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DESPITE losing for the first time this pre-season, Blyth Spartans FC continued to show promising signs under new manager Steve Cuggy against Hartlepool United at Croft Park.

The League One visitors found themselves behind when Graeme Armstrong put Blyth ahead, before two goals in as many minutes for Pools swung the game in their favour.

The away side got a third after the break but Blyth dominated the latter stages and may have felt they deserved at least a draw from this entertaining contest.

In the first chance of the game, Blyth’s Chris Emms showed neat footwork in evading two challenges before unleashing a powerful shot which was well gathered by Hartlepool goalkeeper Andy Rafferty.

The hosts scored from their next attack on 22 minutes when Armstrong showed great strength and composure in the area as he turned under pressure and finished neatly in to Rafferty’s bottom corner.

Pools drew level on 24 minutes when Callum Hassan hooked a shot passed Blyth goalkeeper Matt Hunter, and then took the lead in their next attack through James Poole who slid home following the best move of the game.

A long throw from Phil Cave released Armstrong in the area, who attempted to lob the advancing Rafferty but the ball sailed over the crossbar.

Ryan Beal replaced Matt Hunter in the Blyth goal at half time and his first task was to pick the ball out of his own net after a shot from Poole took a wicked deflection off Phil Cave, leaving the young keeper with no chance.

Beal’s night improved minutes later though when he made a stunning stop to deny Colin Larkin.

Blyth almost pulled a goal back when Emms crossed for Armstrong at the back post, but his header was saved by Rafferty.

The substitutes then combined to produce another Blyth chance when Lee Mason fed Yanis Galas but Rafferty was once again equal to the effort.

With five minutes remaining Mason surged through the middle and coolly rounded Rafferty only to scoop his effort over the crossbar when it appeared easier to score.

The young striker almost made amends in the next Blyth attack when he dragged an effort wide after a slide rule pass from Neal Hooks.

There was still time for Rob Dale to fire wide from a tight angle before the game was brought to an end.

Blyth Spartans: Hunter (Beal), Groves, Cave (Douglas), Purvis (Pearson), Coulson (Forster), Buchanan, Gray (Dale), Hooks, Armstrong (Galas), Emms (Mason), Phillips (Slaughter).

Hartlepool United: Rafferty, Haslam, Humphreys, Rowbotham (Buddle), Johnson (Hawkins), Mellish (Baldwin), Larkin (Holden), Hassan (Rutherford), Poole, Richards (Xydis), Luscombe.

Attendance: 329.