Five-goal thriller for Spartnas and Newcastle United U21s

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Pre-season fixtures are not meant to be like Blyth Spartans’ meeting with Newcastle United Under-21s.

Normally they are dull, almost turgid affairs with multiple substitutions disrupting the flow of play.

However, the 624 in attendance at Croft Park on Friday night were treated to a five-goal thriller between a sparkling Spartans side and a cool and composed United line-up, who won the game thanks to an injury time goal from winger Liam Smith.

The game started as it was meant to go on with both sides trading efforts within the first six minutes.

Paul Robinson was first up for Spartans but his 20-yard effort was well saved by Magpies stopper Freddie Woodman.

United’s Callum Roberts tried his luck from similar distance but Peter Jeffries was equal to the shot.

The pair were at the heart of the action on 12 minutes, but again former Spennymoor Town keeper Jeffries denied the livewire Roberts with a stunning tip over the bar.

The best chance of the half came just after the 20-minute mark and it felt to Spartans.

An incisive move down the left hand side saw Ian Watson find Dan Maguire in the area and the forward found Arran Wearmouth 12 yards out, but he could only crash a low drive off Woodman’s far post.

The England Under-17 keeper denied Robinson with a stunning stop just moments later, tipping the midfielder’s angled drive over the crossbar.

As the half came to a close both sides looked to break the deadlock but were denied by the two top class saves from both keepers.

Firstly Robinson was denied by Woodman as his ten-yard snapshot was somehow tipped around the post.

Then on the stroke of half-time Greg Olley found himself in on goal but his low shot was spectacularly saved by the feet of Jeffries.

A relatively quiet start to the second half was only punctured by speculatative efforts from Magpies duo Jonathyn Quinn and Liam Smith, neither of which came close to testing Jeffries in the Spartans goal.

However, the visitors did go ahead just after the hour mark as Northern Ireland international Shane Ferguson broke down the left and was given time to fire a cross into the area. That was met by a neat finish from striker Tom Heardman who finished clinically from close range.

Far from being despondent at going behind, Spartans rallied and almost grabbed an instant reply thanks to some magic from Robbie Dale.

The winger danced past two Magpies defenders, but he could only send a low drive from a narrow angle just past the near post.

Dale was at it again on 72 minutes as he drifted to the byline and his pull back found Robinson who could only drag an effort from ten yards wide of Woodman’s near post.

With just under 15 minutes left Spartans did get the equaliser they deserved.

Substitute Chris Moore tormented Ferguson before dinking a cross to the far post that was met by a firm header from Dale who left Woodman with no chance from close range.

That set up a frantic final ten minutes and it was the Magpies who struck the first blow in a spell of enthralling, encapsulating and most of all entertaining football.

As Spartans failed to clear, Smith was allowed to cross to the far post where Olley had a free header that found its way into the net.

Again Spartans hit straight back with the goal of the game.

Ninety minutes were on the clock when Dan Hawkins pressured Olivier Kemen into an error and that was seized upon by Jarrett Rivers. The winger cut inside a desperate challenge from Kemen before curling a wonderful 25-yard effort into the top left hand corner of Woodman’s net. However, there was to be a sting in the tale for Spartans as Smith was given time on the edge of the area and curled a calm finish past a desperate dive from Jeffries.

So a defeat in their final pre-season fixture for Spartans but the positives far outweigh the negatives ahead of next Saturday’s league opener at home to Grantham Town.

Blyth Spartans: Jeffries, Nicholson (Mullen 77), Buddle, Parker, Watson, Hooks, Sayer, Robinson, Dale (Rivers 80), Wearmouth (Moore 45), Maguire. Subs not used: Perez, Monga, Hutchinson, Harrison.

Newcastle United U21s: Woodman, Olley, Ferguson, Kemen, Williams (Drennan 72), Gillhespy, Roberts (Barlaser 72), Bigirimana, Heardman, Quinn, Smith, Subs not used: Pearson, Dawson.