By Anthony Elliot
Spartans made a triumphant start to their league campaign at Croft Park in front of the 683 fans in attendance with a solid 4-2 win over Gloucester City. It was a dry but gloomy day but that didn’t matter too much to the Spartans faithful who roared Graham Fenton’s side to victory.
Blyth started well forcing Gloucester to sit deep and pressing well-forced mistakes from the opposition. JJ O’Donnell looked to test Liam Armstrong from distance, but it took a deflection and was collected with ease to prevent the corner.
With 15 minutes played, City had a free-kick just outside the 18-yard box, the resulting piece of play saw Danny Wright collide with Alex Mitchell stopping play briefly.
Spartans looked to turn up the pressure on City from a corner that caused a goal-line scramble with JJ Hooper coming closest to breaking the deadlock.
Gloucester however, came back with a corner of their own moments later which eventually saw Harry Pinchard’s shot from the edge of the box going well over the crossbar.
Blyth forced The Tigers’ keeper into action when they won a free-kick on the edge of the area, captain Nicky Deverdics curled an effort destined for the top corner only to be denied by Armstrong whose outstretched arm clawed it away from goal.
On the 34-minute mark, Spartans were awarded a penalty when Hooper was brought down clumsily by Armstrong after a short back pass. Hooper then stepped up to take the spot kick and placed the ball to Armstrong’s left – putting Spartans ahead, giving the forward his first goal on his competitive debut against his former side.
Gloucester soon drew level when the ball came down the left wing and Mitchell was unable to hold on to Wright’s close-range shot; the ball then fell to the feet of the oncoming Harry Emmett who brought the visitors level.
Just before half-time, Blyth took the lead once again, Round and Hooper pressed the City defence with Michael Liddle finding a loose ball and forcing the Gloucester back line into a frenzy. Liddle’s following effort was blocked with the ball spinning out to the edge of the area where Jordan Hickey was first to pounce and his low hard strike sailed passed the helpless Armstrong to restore the lead.
O’Donnell looked to push Blyth further ahead in added time cutting in from the right wing, but his shot didn’t trouble Armstong in the City goal as referee David Jones brought the first half to a close.
Half-time: Blyth Spartans 2-1 Gloucester City
The second half started positively for Blyth when Liddle found space on the overlap and played an early low cross into the box but was unable to find Round.
The visitors tested Mitchell with a well-worked ball down the left when Jaime Reckford and Etan Freemantle combined; the resulting shot was deflected by the City frontman Wright but Mitchell read the deflection and got down well to claim the ball.
O’Donnell was causing the visitors issues once again on the right wing cutting in with a curling effort which was enough to unnerve Armstrong but went just shy of the post.
Blyth extended their lead with an audacious 25-yard right-footed strike from Deverdics which left Armstrong with no chance as it nestled into the top right corner.
City pulled a goal back on 70 minutes when a bit of loose play from Spartans was capitalised on by the visitors where substitute Harry Williams was found in space with a clever through ball, Mitchell rushed out to close down Williams but the forward lifted the ball just over the Spartans shot-stopper to reduce the scoreline.
The visitors looked to pile on the pressure further with a dangerous corner which saw the ball bounce around the box before being cleared by Finn Cousin-Dawson.
Lewis Knight almost made an instant impact from the bench as he found space and was picked out by Derverdics, his distant first-time volley was well met by Armstrong who held on to keep it 3-2.
Knight undeterred by his last effort added to the scoreline, Round found space on the left and drove forward, leaving the fullback in his wake, he drifted in a cross which found Knight in the box for a tap in just in front of the home support.
Blyth closed the game out keeping the pressure up on Gloucester until the final whistle which capped off a fantastic opening day for Graham Fenton’s side.
Full-time: Blyth Spartans 4-2 Gloucester City
Blyth Spartans | Alex Mitchell, Rhys Evans, Michael Liddle, Finn Cousin-Dawson, Jack Bodenham, Jordan Hickey, JJ Hooper (Lewis Knight 59′), JJ O’Donnell, Curtis Round (Harrison Clark 90+1′), Nicky Deverdics, Will McGowan (Billy Gordon, 90+1′).
Subs not used: Charlie Aitken and Jon Shaw.
Goals | JJ Hooper 34′, Jordan Hickey 44′, Nicky Deverdics 58′ and Lewis Knight 89′
Gloucester City: Liam Armstrong, Sonny Hart, Jamie Reckford, Tyrone Duffus, Joe Parker, Danny Wright (Harry Williams 67′), Harry Pinchard, Joe Hanks, Ben Richards-Everton, Etan Freemantle (Brandon Smalley 67′), Harry Emmett (Elliot Durrell 84′).
Subs not used: Felix Miles and Kartell Dawkins.
Goals | Harry Emmett 38′ and Harry Williams 70′
Sponsors MOTM: Michael Liddle
Match Stats (recorded by Freddie Chandler)
Shots: 17 | 13
Shots on target: 11 | 9
Shots blocked: 1 | 3
Fouls committed: 7 | 12
Free-kicks: 14 | 11
Offsides: 2 | 2
Yellow cards: 1 | 4
Red cards: 0 | 0
The Spartans face newly-promoted Warrington Town next Saturday, August 12th, at Cantilever Park.