Coach describes Spartans keepers as two of best outside professional game

Having worked with players at Northern League, professional, college and international level, Blyth Spartans goalkeeper coach John Bottensien described the group of glovesmen under his control at Croft Park as the strongest pool he has worked with.

This week has seen the newest member of the Spartans goalkeeper union hit the headlines as Peter Jeffries put in two stunning performances to help his side overcome Darlington in the FA Cup.

Bottensien was well aware of the quality of Jeffries after working with him at Bishop Auckland, and he thinks the Green Army are still to see the best of a keeper he describes as “excellent”.

“He’s someone I rate very highly and when the chance came to bring him in from Spennymoor Town we knew it was one we had to take,” said Bottensien.

“He is untested at this level but we know we have a very capable keeper in Peter.

“His performances so far have been solid but against the likes of Halesowen, Buxton and the two games against Darlington he has been on another level.

“With more games I think the supporters will see him improve even further and he will be an excellent goalkeeper for Blyth.”

Conor Grant spent the majority of last season as Spartans’ number one, and his form led to an England C representative squad call-up.

But an injury and subsequent operation were ill timed for the former Gretna and Dundee United keeper.

But Bottensien admitted he still has high hopes for Grant, who last week moved on loan to Northern League side Ashington.

The coach said: “Conor got a bad injury at Stamford last season and needed surgery on his shoulder, as well as a groin operation that was already planned during the summer.

“He has so much potential and we hope he can get back to full fitness during his spell with Ashington.

“We know he will come back and challenge for his place because he definitely has the quality to do so.”

Bottensien praised Grant and Jeffries, describing them as “two of the best keepers outside of the professional game”.

“When I came to the club, the goalkeeping situation looked weak, to say the least, but having worked with both Conor and Peter I honestly think we have two of the best keepers outside of the professional game,” he said.

“They will push each other and help each other, and honestly I can see them improving with every week that goes by this season.”

There is a third member of the Spartans goalkeeping pool in Niall Harrison.

Signed from Team Northumbria at the back end of last season, chances have been few and far between for the youngster, but Bottensien believes he will take his chance when it comes around.

Bottensien added: “Niall came in at the end of last year and he has shown up very well in training and in the couple of pre-season games he played in.

“He has had his chances and on the whole has done a lot of positive things. With more work I am sure he will become a very good goalkeeper.”