Spartan’s humbled


Blyth Spartans 3 Alnwick Town 3 aet

(3 - 4 on penalties)

FOR the third consecutive week, the U16s were fighting above their weight against top flight opponents. Following last week’s narrow defeat on penalties to the mighty Cramlington Juniors, the lads took to the field against the formidable Blyth Spartans.

The early exchanges were nervy and at times frantic, neither side wanting to concede the opener. Chances were aplenty for both teams, with Jack Taylor in particular, causing problems with his long throw technique.

The Alnwick rearguard was used to this attention by now and held strong, soaking up all that was thrown at them. Baillie and Jefferson cut out the supply lines from the flanks, and Davison and Bell were once again the towering force to be reckoned with in the centre.

Convery was showing some of his best form again, combining good defensive work, with some neat attacking forages down the left. Nixon was as usual invincible, rising to the challenge of playing a little deeper than usual on the right side. His commitment and ability to move the ball very quickly, was causing Spartans trouble.

Lewney and Parker formed the central midfield pairing, on a heavy energy sapping surface. Blyth seemed to be dealing with the high balls better, but terrier-like tackling, snuffed out this dominance.

Aldred was playing just off the centre forward. After winning a typical strong challenge, he moved the ball sharply to Nixon, who slipped the perfect ball into the path of McClelland. With the ball just outside the area, he composed himself on the move, and rifled his shot into the far corner of the net (0 - 1).

The home side were wounded, but seemed unperturbed by the upstarts from two divisions below them.

Lewney and Parker had given their all and were in need of some respite. Anderson and Brown waiting in the wings, eagerly entered the arena, with instructions to break up the Blyth build-up play and don’t give an inch. Half time (0 - 0).

Game restarted with both teams going knock for knock, Anderson once again in vociferous form, urging his team to give even more. After great midfield work, Aldred switched the play to Nixon on the right, who instinctively floated in a tantalising cross. The keeper went up with McClelland and as the ball fell, Convery was on hand to rifle a rocket of a volley high into the net. The celebrations were delirious following the previous weeks penalty shoot out defeat, to a fortunate Cramlington outfit (0 - 2).

The Blyth side now knew they had a lot to do to salvage the game, and they began to pile on more pressure, catching Town off guard on the counter attack. The ball broke lose, and in the ensuing melee, Taylor hammered it home past the unsighted Fuller, to score (1- 2).

Weightman, Wilkin and Carr were introduced to freshen up the visitors and add some spice to the bubbling pot. They soon found their feet with Carr and Weightman linking up to put McClelland clean through. The Spartans stopper reacted quickly and closed down the Amble flyer, to keep his side in the game. The home support sensed this could be a turning point, and were soon rewarded with a fine equaliser fired in from outside the box after great play down the left (2 - 2).

Game into extra time, first half, saw both sides create chances, but neither could force the advantage point. Second half was a different tale with both sides having efforts chalked off for infringements. The clock ticked down and penalties loomed when Blyth looked to have pinched the game, with a well taken individual effort from Jackson (3 - 2).

Alnwick were down, but as we’ve learned recently they’re never out. Jefferson block tackled and released Nixon down the right. A quick Hadston one two with Anderson, he delivered a killer, curled pass around the defender into the rampaging McClelland’s path. Deadly in these situations, he went 50:50 with the advancing keeper to poke the goal home into a gaping net, to level the score at the extra time (3- 3).

Last week’s pains were going to be this week’s joy, as the lads rallied together in the centre circle. The lonely figure of Fuller stood yards away and took up his place between the sticks. After his bitter disappointment last week, he was on cloud nine this time with two superb diving saves which sent the Black and Whites through to the semi-finalss 3 - 4 on penalties.

Squad: Fuller, Parker, Davison, Bell, Lewney, Baillie, Convery, Carr, Nixon Aldred, Brown, Anderson, Weightman, Jefferson, Wilkin, York, Smith and Brad McClelland.

Team sponsor: The Bamburgh Butcher. Match ball: Lilburn’s Restaurant. Man of the match: Alan Wilkin.