A clinical performance from a vibrant Newcastle United U21s side saw them clinch the Northumberland Senior Cup with a comprehensive defeat of a tired looking Blyth Spartans.
That is not to say Tom Wade’s men did not have their chances in the game, but a busy recent schedule seemed to take its toll against their professional opponents.
Although the Magpies chose to only select one player with Premier League experience – Gael Bigirimana – they were able to call upon six players with international experience at youth level in their squad.
Spartans chose to start with Arjun Purewal at right back and Paul Robinson got the nod to play on the wing with Dan Maguire coming back into the side to lead the line.
Spartans had the first chance of the game on five minutes, although it was a half chance at best.
Robinson found space 25 yards out but he sent a low right foot effort past Jonathan Mitchell’s near post.
A minute later the Magpies had their first chance as Conor Grant produced the first of three top class saves to deny Jonathyn Quinn. The striker’s shot from the edge of the area took a deflection off Danny Parker but Grant acrobatically pushed the ball away for a corner.
As the game settled, Peter Beardsley’s side took control with the midfield trio of Olivier Kemen, Bigirimana and Michael Richardson in full control and Quinn looking dangerous up front.
It was Quinn who had the next clear chance but he could only curl wide of Grant’s far post as he was found by an intelligent pull back from right back Jamie Sterry.
Ten minutes before the break Grant was at it again, but this time it was Bigirimana not Quinn who was frustrated.
The Burundi born midfielder curled a 20-yard shot that seemed destined for the top right hand corner but Grant tipped it around the post.
From the resulting corner the Magpies took the lead.
Spartans were caught napping as Quinn took the corner kick quickly to find Bigirimana who struck a low shot goalwards. That took a deflection and fell kindly for Lubomir Satka who could not miss from five yards out for what was his first United goal at any level and gave his side a lead that was the minimum they deserved going into the break.
The opening stages of the second half were marred by a serious looking injury to Magpies right back Sterry.
The defender fell awkwardly after a challenge from Robbie Dale and after receiving lengthy treatment on the pitch he was taken off on a stretcher and replaced by Ben Gibson.
Nine minutes into the second half Richardson doubled United’s lead with a smart finish from ten yards after impressive work from Callum Williams, the player who had switched from left to right back to accommodate Gibson’s arrival.
Spartans’ best chance so far came just before the 70-minute mark as pressure from Maguire caused Satka to lose control of the ball. Spartans top scorer Maguire took a touch before firing a low effort from 12 yards but Mitchell stayed big and managed to parry the ball away to safety.
Soon after the save the Magpies extended their lead as Gibson chipped a ball over the Spartans back four to send Quinn in on goal. The striker made no mistake rolling past the advancing Grant with Spartans’ defence pleading for an offside decision that never came.
As the legs got more weary another chance came and was duly taken with just over ten minutes left.
Winger Rolando Arrons had time to release Bigirimana in on goal and the former Coventry City man made no mistake expertly tucking the ball past Grant.
There was a final flourish for Spartans as Arran Wearmouth almost scored what would have been the goal of the game.
The winger collected the ball just over 20 yards from goal and struck a right footed shot over Mitchell only to see the ball crash off the crossbar.
As referee McDonough blew the whistle he signalled the end of a night where Spartans were outplayed but to their credit never gave in.
Credit also went to the Green Army who made one part of St James Park’s East Stand their own with constant singing and vocal backing for the team.
Spartans’ man of the match was Conor Grant.
Newcastle United U21s: Mitchell, Sterry (Gibson 48), Williams, Kemen, Satka, Mbabu, Olley, Bigirimana, Quinn (Gillead 70), Richardson, Barlaser (Arrons 58). Subs not used: Gilhespy, Woodman.
Blyth Spartans: Grant, Purewal, Buddle, Parker, Watson, Wade (Cummings 65), Robinson, Hooks (Wearmouth 56), Horner, Maguire (Kendrick 80), Dale Subs not used: Davis, Mullen.