By Jordan Cronin
In association with:
ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA
Chartered Management Accountant
Saturday, July 28 2018
Blyth Spartans 1-3 Gateshead
Alun Armstrong’s son and former Spartan Luke Armstrong haunted his former club after scoring a hat-trick at Croft Park in Blyth’s final game of pre-season.
The Middlesbrough loanee, who helped Blyth reach Non-League’s second tier in the 2016-17 season, fired the only goal of the first-half when a Heed trialist picked out the run of the number nine before he calmly slotted the ball into the bottom right corner.
Blyth equalised shortly after the break when Dan Maguire took advantage of Robbie Dale’s mazy run down the left-hand side – bundling the ball over the line.
But Steve Watson’s men restored their lead, 15 minutes from time when Armstrong witnessed his effort from Steven Rigg’s cross bounce over the line via the underside of the crossbar. If there was any doubt, Lewis Maloney made sure with the follow-up.
The striker then completed his hat-trick in the dying minutes when he headed home Tom Devitt’s cross – though was accidentally punched in the face by Pete Jameson as the two competed for the loose ball!
Spartans end pre-season with three wins, one draw and two defeats, and begin their National League North campaign away to Hereford next weekend.
After Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Whitley Bay was used to assess six trialists, Alun Armstrong reverted back to a familiar first-team 11, except for the exception of one trialling centre-half.
With Sean Reid unavailable, Spartans began in a 4-4-2 formation with Bradley Fewster and Maguire partnering each other in a front two for the first time.
Just two minutes in, Maguire found himself in behind after beating a Heed trialist for pace, however, lacked the conviction on the shot after cutting inside – making it an easy save for Aynsley Pears.
In what would be an even opening 25 minutes, the visitors registered their first shot on goal in the fifth minute when Greg Olley hit a fierce effort at goal – Jameson did well to keep a hold of the strike.
Luke Armstrong had shown glimpses of reminding Blyth fans of what he can do, but it would be until the 27th minute when he impacted the scoreline – fooling A Trialist with the fake shot before aiming his effort past Jameson.
The goal followed five minutes before Jarrett Rivers almost fired Spartans in front, though saw his shot tipped onto the crossbar by Pears from 15 yards.
Once Gateshead had their advantage, Blyth found themselves often pegged back in the final third until half-time but held their shape well – restricting the visitors to limited opportunities.
The two standout efforts fell when Luke Armstrong found space on the edge of the box to tee up Elliott Forbes, but his low drive flew past Jameson’s right-hand post.
It was a heart-in-mouth moment on the brink of the interval when Lewis Walton’s in-swinging corner found its way onto the inside of the post – though fortunately it deflected back out and Blyth cleared.
Like the first-half, the hosts showed ambition to get forward but on this occasion, found a way past Pears.
It was a typical Dale run – manoeuvring his way into the penalty area before eventually, Maguire managed to toe it under Pears. From then on, Spartans were enduring their best spell of the game, and had chances to earn a quick turnaround.
It was three on one at one stage – Maguire fed Fewster in on the right-hand side – he picked out Dale but the winger scuffed his shot into the palms of the goalkeeper.
Fewster also had a close-range effort saved and former Heed man Kieran Green struck a free-kick from 25 yards but caused no major worries for Pears.
Once the Heed found their rhythm in the second period, the FA Trophy semi-finalist began to take control at Croft Park.
Luke Armstrong was gearing himself up for another goal as he found himself on the end of almost every Gateshead attack. Unfortunately, it was just a matter of time until he struck again.
He added a second via the underside of the bar before going on to complete his hat-trick just in time for the final whistle.
Maguire did have chances either side of Luke Armstrong’s double but the striker was left disappointed as the two teams now turn their attention to the competitive season commencing on Saturday.
Spartans: Jameson, Nicholson, Liddle, Green, Buddle, Trialist, Rivers, Horner, Magure, Fewster, Dale (c). Subs used: Wrightson, J. Watson, Trialist, Butler, I. Watson.
Goals: Maguire (48)
Gateshead: Pears, Tinkler, Mellish, Trialist, Thompson, White, Trialist, Forbes, Olley, Armstrong, Boden. Subs used: Foden, Trialist, Trialist, O’Donnell, Maloney, Salkeld.
Goals: Armstrong (27, 75, 88)