Blyth Spartans travelled to Northern League side Ashington AFC in their opening friendly of the 2012/13 season and were beaten 3-1 by the Colliers. The home side had already won two warm up matches and during the game it was obvious that they were closer to match sharpness than the Spartans players in a fixture that saw Tommy Cassidy take the opportunity to view several trialists as his side prepare for the upcoming Evo-Stik Northern Premier League campaign. Cassidy also handed Spartans debuts to new signings striker Craig Farrell and Goalkeeper Conor Grant but they couldn’t prevent the home side running out comfortable winners.
In a scrappy start to the game it took ten minutes for the first opportunity as former Spartans full back Phil Cave nearly put the Colliers ahead as he crashed a shot narrowly wide from distance. Five minutes later Spartans had their first chance as Lee Mason was played in on goal by Farrell and his shot was deflected wide by Ashington keeper Dryden. The resulting corner came to nothing in an attacking sense but it did lead to the hosts taking the lead as Cave fed Andrew Johnson in on goal and he fired across Grant and into the bottom corner of the visitors net. Johnson was proving to be a constant thorn in the side of the Spartans defenders and he forced Grant into a decent save as he beat two challenges then fired at the former Gretna stopper. However Johnson couldn’t be denied on twenty two minutes as he doubled both the home side’s lead and his own tally for the night when he took a pass from Paul Antony and cut in onto his left foot and finished well into the bottom corner. It took Spartans until five minutes before half time to get a foothold in the game when a Farrell cross was headed over by the on-rushing Lee Mason. However on the stroke of half-time returning Spartans’ striker Robbie Dale pounced on a defensive slip and fed former York City striker Farrell who calmed passed the ball into the net and ensured that the home side’s lead was halved as the referee blew the half time whistle.
As usual in pre-season fixtures the second half was a somewhat disjointed affair as both managers made substitutions in order to step up their preparations for the new season and ensure that every player got a decent run out. This led to a mostly uneventful opening period and it wasn’t until on the hour that a shot of any note was taken when home striker Johnson was denied a hat-trick by a smart stop by Grant. Spartans then tried to get back on level terms but couldn’t find the finishing touches to several promising moves as Sam Hodgson and Farrell fired wide. However the latter did force a good save from the home keeper minutes later as he hit a well struck free-kick from all of twenty five yards that was parried away from danger by Dryden. With time running out the fitness of the home players started to show as they created several chances to extend their lead with winger Tommy English firing wide. With eight minutes left former Newcastle United academy product James Taylor latched onto a flick on and stretched the Colliers’ lead to 3-1 as he rolled the ball between the legs of Spartans’ substitute keeper Matty Hunter and sealed the win.
Next up for Spartans is their first home friendly of pre-season as Blue Square Premier side Gateshead to Croft Park this coming Saturday for a 3pm kick off.