Spartans’ under-18s fought back from a goal down at half-time to secure a place in the second qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup on Wednesday evening against Stockton Town at Croft Park.
Second half strikes from Zach Simpson and Thomas Heron cancelled out Jack Spears’ first half opener for the young Anchors.
A management duo of Marc Nash and Graham Fenton took charge of the fixture which saw 17-year-old Charlie Aitken start who has made seven first-team appearances so far this campaign scoring once against Hereford in National League North action.
The young Spartans began the tie with intent as Jack Daley’s close range header was claimed well by the Stockton shot-stopper having latched onto Charlie Whittaker’s lofted free-kick inside the opening three minutes.
Trickery from Whittaker advancing into the final third drew a foul 25-yards out from goal on eight minutes; his resulting free-kick forced a strong, tipped save over the crossbar.
On 10 minutes, Oliver Farley sprayed in a cross to Charlie Aitken who controlled the ball superbly before unleashing a strike inside the penalty area which was deflected narrowly wide.
Despite a strong start, though, it would be the visitors to take the lead as a loose ball following a defensive block worked its way out to Stockton’s Jack Spears who slammed a right-footed strike into the bottom right corner beyond the outstretched Campbell on 18 minutes.
A well-maintained spell of possession from the visitors frustrated Spartans who were looking to get a foothold back on the game up until after the half-hour mark, when a searching ball forward set through Ryan Ndiweni on goal who was taken out one-on-one by the Stockton ‘keeper five yards outside the penalty area. A yellow card was brandished which seemed unruly to the offence; Ndiweni stepped up to take the following free-kick which was then kept at bay in the centre of the goal.
The final action of the first half involved Aitken, who, with his back to goal, did excellently well to hold off a Stockton defender before turning and striking an effort over the crossbar.
Half-time: Blyth Spartans 0-1 Stockton Town
Beginning the second half, it was evident a boost in desire was present to get back into the tie from the young Spartans.
Neat work involving Farley on the right flank set Josh Norvell into the penalty area to strike on goal from an acute angle, however, the effort was cleared away by a low save by the foot of the Stockton ‘keeper on 47 minutes.
Play switched to the left flank moments later as Ndiweni utilised his pace to complete a driving run into the penalty area seeing his eventual effort deflected onto the post.
Dean Cochrane was resolute in his defensive duties to produce two solid blocks in quick succession to keep attempts at bay from the visitors, before Whittaker struck a powerful shot on target which forced a diving save to the left-hand side of the Stockton ‘keeper’s goal.
Chances were aplenty for the young Spartans but no equalising breakthrough had come; space opened up for Sam Nicholson to stride forward from his left-back position and hit a dangerous effort goalwards, however, it flashed narrowly wide of the post from 35-yards just before the hour mark.
A scramble in the visitors’ penalty area eventually saw the ball be diverted agonisingly wide by Cochrane before a break away from The Anchors called Campbell into a routine save from close range.
Ndiweni was next to try his luck from range as he cut in from the left and sent a strike from range whistling past the post on 69 minutes.
The tremendous efforts of the young Spartans were then finally rewarded on 74 minutes as Zach Simpson latched onto a cross from the left to side foot a volley on target; the Stockton ‘keeper timed his save marginally late which saw the ball drop into the back of the net having brushed the tips of his gloves.
Heading into the final 10 minutes of action, Ndiweni once more cut inside from the left flank, but this time closer to goal and struck a venomous effort which forced the Stockton ‘keeper into a brilliant diving save, before substitute Leon Burke fizzed a cross into the penalty area for which Ndiweni steered inches wide.
On 85 minutes, the decisive goal was crafted for Blyth. Aitken took a free-kick short on the right flank to tee up Whittaker to spray a diagonal cross into the penalty area; substitute Thomas Heron nodded the ball on target causing the Stockton ‘keeper to readjust and produce a fine, reactive save, however, the ball bundled into the path of Heron who converted from close range to seal progression to the second qualifying round of the FA Youth Cup.
Full-time: Blyth Spartans 2-1 Stockton Town
Blyth Spartans | Max Campbell, Josh Norvell, Sam Nicholson (Hugo McNicol, 88’), Zach Simpson, Dean Cochrane, Jack Daley, Oliver Farley (Leon Burke, 80’), Charlie Whittaker, Bobby Small (Thomas Heron, 71’), Charlie Aitken, Ryan Ndiweni.
Subs not used | Harry Urwin, Stephen Husband, Robbie Kinniburgh and Jamie Hawkes.
Goals | Zach Simpson 74′ and Thomas Heron 85′