Match Report | North Shields 0-2 Blyth Spartans | Pre-Season Friendly | 2023/24

Spartans began their pre-season fixture schedule with a comfortable 2-0 victory against North Shields on Saturday afternoon courtesy of first half goals from Jordan Hickey and JJ Hooper.

New signings Harrison Clark, JJ Hooper and the returning Finn Cousin-Dawson all featured for Graham Fenton’s side, while assistant manager Jon Shaw completed 60 minutes in his respective debut for the Club too.

Inside the opening three minutes, Alex Mitchell was called into action to make a comfortable gather after Anthony Myers’ header was flicked on target following Connor Oliver’s floated set-piece from the left-flank.

Tom Potter created an opening from 20-yards which presented a perfect opportunity to test Mitchell once again on 10 minutes, however, his wild effort spiralled off target.

On 20 minutes, a flowing passage of play from the Robins then led to Paul Van-Zandvliet to be able to open up his stance and strike on goal. This time a little closer than Potter’s previous attempt, but the effort fizzed narrowly wide of Mitchell’s right-hand post.

Just two minutes later, a throw-in on the left-flank from Michael Liddle half-way inside the hosts’ half worked its way through to Jordan Hickey who unleashed a venomous first time strike 30-yards out into the bottom left corner to settle Spartans’ nerves.

Boosting Spartans’ confidence, it allowed the side to get on front foot immediately following Hickey’s deadlock-breaking effort via persistent play from a combination of a trialist and Curtis Round. 

The latter worked himself to the byline to initially cross to debutant JJ Hooper whose effort was saved well by Finlay Hodgson before the ball was worked back into the six-yard area for Hooper to convert with ease to double the scoreline five minutes later.

Hooper was on target yet again just after the half-hour mark as he neatly swept in a low shot as latching on the end of a reverse ball from a trialist, however, play was brought back due to an offside as he was deemed to advance past the Robins’ defensive line a fraction early. 

Just before half-time, Round was set into the penalty area one-on-one with Hodgson but the hosts’ ‘keeper cut down the angle superbly to deny the Spartans man from extending the scoreline.

Half-time: North Shields 0-2 Blyth Spartans

A host of changes commenced heading into the second half for Spartans which saw Nicky Deverdics, JJ O’Donnell and Rio Joisce all enter the field while Alex Mitchell and Jon Shaw remained in the squad.

It was Joisce and O’Donnell who greatly impressed for Graham Fenton’s men throughout the second period too – they both combined seamlessly on the left-flank 53 minutes into the fixture to tee up a trialist on the edge of the box, but the eventual effort was dragged wide of the mark.

An enticing cross from Joisce after a neat interchange of play with O’Donnell just before the hour lacked a defining connection at the pivotal point in front of goal from a trialist which allowed the Robins’ ‘keeper to smother and snuff out the danger.

Joisce was yet again in the thick of the action as he collected the ball from left touchline and cut inside striding 15-yards fending off the opposition before firing at goal, however, a bobble at the crucial moment disrupted his momentum and the effort ranged over the crossbar.

Alex Mitchell and Jon Shaw were withdrawn at separate moments between the hour mark and 70 minutes for a trialist ‘keeper and Finn Cousin-Dawson who received more game time after playing the entirety of the first half. 

The trialsit ‘keeper was on hand to make two strong saves within the first 10 minutes of being introduced into the game. 

Firstly, Jack Leonard’s dipping free-kick required a fingertip stop to direct the ball over the crossbar before Antonio Agostinho’s powerful attempt from an acute angle was initially parried and collected comfortably at the near post to preserve the clean sheet.

In amongst those efforts from the hosts, Nathan Kidd fired over from close range after a scramble in the Spartans penalty area. 

The final 10 minutes of the encounter fizzled out with passages of possession for both sides allowing Spartans to kickstart the pre-season schedule with a strong workout and positive result.

Full-time: North Shields 0-2 Blyth Spartans

Listen to Graham Fenton’s post-match interview on BSAFCTV via YouTube

Next up for Spartans is a short journey to Gateway Park to take on Blyth Town on Tuesday evening, with a 7:30pm kick-off. 

All tickets for the friendly are £5, while children are admitted for £1 with a paying adult. 

Posted by Jake Emery