A Craig Farrell double and a Joe Kendrick penalty ensured that Spartans overcame a spirited fightback from Team Northumbria in their latest pre-season fixture. However a lacklustre first half showing showed that whilst the result was welcome, there is still room for improvement by Tommy Cassidy’s side, something that the Spartans manager and striker Farrell stressed in their post-match interviews. Although to put things in a positive manner the win over last season’s Northern League Second Division Champions did make it one defeat in six pre-season fixtures as Spartans prepare for their Evo-Stik Northern Premier Division campaign.
The players were met with a sun drenched Croft Park and it was the visitors who had the first chance as Spartans failed to clear a corner and former Newcastle United reserve full back Marc Bertram lashed over the bar from ten yards. The home side reacted well though and a long ball forward by Joe Kendrick found Farrell, he in turn found Abu Salim with a clever pass but the Somalian winger screwed the chance wide. Spartans kept coming forward and striker Chris Fairless missed a golden opportunity when he was played in one-on-one with the visitors keeper but delayed his shot just enough to give the keeper time to prevent an opener.
On twenty minutes Team Northumbria should have taken the lead when Bertram again had a chance but curled a shot wide of Matty Hunter’s post. Just after the half hour point Spartans did go ahead when Robbie Dale ran into the box but was upended and Joe Kendrick repeated his penalty effort against Dunston UTS during the week and finished well into the top right hand corner. Abu Salim nearly doubled the Spartans lead on the stroke of half-time but his weak effort dribbled wide of the post after a mazy run and the home side went in a goal to the good.
Clearly words were spoken by Cassidy and his assistant Paddy Atkinson at half time because Spartans came out a different side and it was Farrell who doubled the lead and crashed home his fourth pre-season goal in the process. Half-time substitute Tom Burj caused havoc when he drove at the visitors’ defence and laid off the ball to Farrell who made no mistake and lashed the ball home from twenty yards out. Two minutes later it was five pre-season goals for Farrell when he bent home a twenty five yard free kick into the bottom corner of the Team Northumbria goal.
Spartans wasted several chances to increase their lead in the ten minutes after going three goals up. Shaun Vipond, Burj and potential hat-trick man Farrell all had efforts on goal but with no success. They would be punished minutes later when a slip up in the Spartans defence allowed a neat interplay by Team Northumbria to released Cavener and his cool finish brought his side back into the game. They were right back in it two minutes later when more defensive sloppiness by the home side saw a long ball play in Riley who crashed home from just inside the box on seventy minutes. The heat and a number of changes by both sides saw a disrupted end to the game but Spartans created the last two chances that both fell to a trialist but in the end the scoreline finished Spartans 3-2 Team Northumbria.
Next up for Spartans is a home friendly against Northern League side Shildon and Spartans fans are reminded that entry for this fixture is free. Kick off will be at 19:30 on Wednesday night.