Blyth Spartans produced a massively improved performance from Tuesday’s opening friendly defeat at Ashington and drew 1-1 with local rivals Gateshead at Croft Park. A second goal in two Spartans games for former Carlisle United striker Craig Farrell gave the home side the lead in the first half and although Gateshead midfielder Michael Cummins equalised with a second half header, a draw was the very least Tommy Cassidy’s side deserved against their Blue Square Premier opponants.
A lively start to the game saw the visitors with most of the possession although Spartans were getting in amongst the Tynesiders and ensuring that they were unable to dictate the game in the way many had predicted pre-match. It was in fact the home side that created the first chance as striker Farrell forced former Spartans keeper Adam Bartlett into a smart save although the effort was straight at him. A minute later and Bartlett was in action again as his miskick almost led to a goal for Farrell’s strike partner Phil Bannister. He siezed upon Bartlett’s poor clearance and attempted to chip the keeper but his effort on goal was easily saved. As Gateshead got into the game more they created their first chance on ten minutes and really should have taken the lead. A break forward from centre back Chris Bush saw him played in one-on-one with Conor Grant and the Spartans keeper showed the Croft Park faithful what he can do as he made an impressive stop from Bush. On eighteen minutes Farrell gave home fans plenty to shout about as he gave his side the lead. He latched onto a loose ball on the edge of the Gateshead area and crashed a half volley across Bartlett and into the far corner. It was a lead that Spartans deserved for all of their hard work and determination during the opening twenty minutes. However going behind did force the Tynesiders to react in a positive manner as Nathan Fisher and James Brown both went close to an equaliser. Farrell came close to doubling both his own personal tally and the Spartans lead as he was played on goal but misjudged a looped effort that sailed harmlessly over the visitors goal. Two chances in two minutes for the same player almost saw an equaliser for Ian Bogie’s side just before half time as defender Carl Magnay rose well on two occasions to meet corners but both efforts failed to force a save from home debutant Grant and Spartans went into the interval a goal to the good.
Again it was Gateshead who started the second half the stronger and it was subsitute James Curtis who header wide from an impressive cross from fellow replacement Yemi Odubade two minutes after the restart. A first Spartans chance came five minutes in as the impressive Lee Mason cut inside from the right wing and bent a shot goalwards that Bartlett failed to hold onto and the Spartans winger failed to convert the rebound that seemed to take an eternity to drop. A number of subsitutes were made by Tommy Cassidy as Bannister and the returning Robbie Dale were replaced by two trialists as the Spartans manager continues to look to add to his squad ahead of the new campaign. The game was settling into a familar pattern as Gateshead had plenty of possession without really threatening the Spartans goal and the home side putting them under pressure on the ball. However an equaliser came on seventy minutes as an Obudabe corner was met well by Michael Cummins and his effort went into the bottom right hand corner of Grant’s net. Bouyed by that goal the Tynesiders went in search of another and it was Obudabe who was causing the main threat with his pace and power but his mazy run and effort with nineteen minutes left was easily saved by Grant. Whilst you would expect the full time professionals of Gateshead to dominate in the closing stages, in reality it was very different as both Mason and Farrell went close during the last ten minutes. An impressive inswinger of a free kick from Sam Hodgson saw Mason hook an effort narrowly wide and a Farrell free kick from all of twenty five yards was smartly saved. A surprisingly quiet end to the game saw neither side force any major saves from their opposing keepers and Spartans will take heart from an impressive, hard working and composed performance against their local rivals.
Next up for Spartans is a trip to Northern League First Divison side Sunderland RCA on Tuesday night for a 7.30pm kick off where the men from Croft Park will look to build on their performance against the Tynesiders.