Promising start for new-look Spartans

ON his appointment as Blyth Spartans FC manager in May, Steve Cuggy expressed a desire to create a successful side capable of playing attractive football.

The performance against Partick Thistle in Saturday’s pre-season friendly at Croft Park certainly lived up to expectations.

Blyth were in control from the first whistle but the breakthrough did not arrive until the second period when recent acquisition Shaun Vipond scored what was surely the earliest contender for goal of the season ever with a stunning volley.

Phil Cave wrapped up victory from the penalty spot in the final ten minutes.

Spartans fans left the ground on full-time not only satisfied with a convincing 2-0 win over Scottish first division opponents, but no doubt delighted after witnessing a cohesive display from their team which belies the turnaround in personnel and this being the first of nine pre-season fixtures.

Scorching temperatures and a large and boisterous following from Glasgow created a carnival atmosphere at Croft Park with 590 fans in attendance.

The opening exchanges were predictably scrappy but the rust soon wore off the Spartans’ wheel, which began to roll with some velocity towards the visitors goal.

Lee Mason had an effort cleared off the line before Graeme Armstrong attempted an audacious snap-shot on the turn which just flashed wide.

The new boys combined again, with Chris Emms releasing Mason who attempted to round the keeper before being dispossessed.

Home supporters got their first glimpse of the new-look 3-5-2 formation and the three musketeers in defence – Liam Atkin, Carl Jones and Wayne Buchanan provided terrific cover for Jake Cunningham in the Spartans goal, who was rarely tested.

If the first half provided room for optimism then the second did not disappoint.

The lively Emms supplied Armstrong who struck a powerful shot off the far upright just after the interval.

Vipond then could not have made a better first impression in front of his new manager and supporters on 54 minutes when he showed perfect execution in guiding a first time volley from a corner in off the post from 25 yards.

Cuggy made a host of substitutions in the second period but this did not disrupt Blyth’s rhythm – if anything the hosts looked more dangerous as the game wore on.

Blyth looked likely to double their advantage with substitute John Alexander hitting the woodwork with a header before the crossbar denied Atkin after a rasping long range effort.

Partick hit the post themselves through Kieran Burns.

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But hopes of getting back in to the contest for The Jags were dashed on 83 minutes when Johnny Lindsay handled in the area and Cave calmly tucked away the penalty.

Blyth’s next friendly is at Croft Park on Wednesday, July 13, when they entertain Shildon. Kick-off is 7.30pm.

Blyth Spartans: Cunningham (Hunter), Purvis (Slaughter), Atkin, Jones, Buchanan (Douglas), Smith (Cave), Hooks, Vipond (Pearson), Emms (Forster), Armstrong (Gray), Mason (Alexander).

Attendance: 590.