Blyth Spartans too strong for Whitley Bay

Whitley Bay forward Ash Davis takes on the Blyth Spartans defence. Picture by Ian Appleby
Whitley Bay forward Ash Davis takes on the Blyth Spartans defence. Picture by Ian Appleby

It is said pre-season is all about performances and fitness and results do not matter.

But at Hillheads on Saturday, Blyth Spartans managed to supply Tom Wade and Colin Myers with all three, as they comfortably beat the home side in a dominant display.

Goals from Lee Mason, Robbie Dale and Rob Nolan sealed the win, but it was the all-round performance and style of football that will have given the Spartans management the most satisfaction.

New recruits Danny Parker and Arjun Purewal made their first appearances since signing on for the season at Croft Park, and there was also a chance for two trialists as Wade and Myers look to build on the hectic recruitment programme they have overseen throughout pre-season.

With Dan Maguire missing, former North Shields striker Nolan was handed a first start in pre-season, playing as a lone front man with captain for the day Craig Hubbard the main support from the centre of midfield.

A rather uneventful first 15 minute gave way to a burst of Spartans chances in quick succession.

A Neal Hooks free kick was floated to the far post to find Matthew Wade and the former Motherwell midfielder headed back across goal trying to find the on-rushing Nolan but the striker just failed to make connect.

With Spartans on top Hubbard was next to try his luck, heading over from ten yards after getting on the end of another Hooks cross.

As chances came and went, Spartans managed to remain calm and had their best opening when Purewal saw a close range header blocked on the line by a combination of keeper Jonathan Ball and defender James Novak.

That was a temporary reprieve for the home side and it was Mason who finally gave Wade’s side the lead just before the half hour with a goal of the highest quality.

The winger broke away from midfield and took full advantage of the home side’s failure to close him down by crashing home a 20-yard effort low into Ball’s far corner.

Mason nearly doubled his own tally and his side’s a minute later, driving past Ian Watson but sending his shot narrowly past the far post.

As the half-time interval approached Spartans did extend that lead.

Last season’s top scorer Dale got on the end of an inch perfect Hooks cross to finish from around eight yards out against his former club.

The home side finally got into the action on the stroke of half-time with Conor Grant producing an excellent double save to deny Paul Chow and former Spartans striker Ash Davis to ensure he kept a clean sheet before giving way to substitute keeper James Howarth at the interval.

The second period was more of the same for Wade’s side and they could and really should have got a third goal early on as Nolan drew Ball from his goal and squared to Mason, but with only Callum Anderson on the line to beat the winger sliced wide from 12 yards out.

Spartans were in control and passed the ball around superbly with the midfield trio of Wade, Hooks and Hubbard dictating the pace of the game and the back four being well marshalled by new additions Purewal and Parker.

On the hour mark Spartans got a third and effectively sealed the win as the outstanding Dale found Nolan on the edge of the box. The striker took one touch and crashed a low effort into the bottom right hand corner of the net, which was deserved reward for a hard working display.

Spartans’ substitute keeper Howarth remained rather untested until 20 minutes to go when he produced a smart stop from a 25-yard free kick from Seahorses substitute Michael Coglen.

That was really only temporary respite for the home side as Spartans quickly got on top again and it was Dale at the heart of the action.

The winger latched on to a wonderful cross-field ball from Wade and dinked the ball over the advancing keeper only to see it drop narrowly wide of the far post.

The final 15 minutes were played out with Spartans in control and playing keep ball to frustrate the home side, but it was a performance that will give everyone connected with the club hope for the new season.

Whitley Bay: Ball, McFarlane, Novak, Anderson, Reid, Fairley, Convery, Antony, Davis, Chow, Watson. Subs: Fawcett, Carmichael, Brooking, Ekata, Smith, Cogden.

Blyth Spartans: Grant, Trialist, Trialist, Parker, Purewal, Hubbard, Mason, Hooks, Nolan, Wade, Dale. Subs: Tobin, Donnelly, Trialist, Mullen, Howarth.