Report | Spartans begin pre-season with Boro win

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ALAN McLEAN FCMA CGMA

Chartered Management Accountant

Pre-season friendly

Saturday, July 17th 2021

BLYTH SPARTANS 2-1 MIDDLESBROUGH U23S

Blyth Spartans began their pre-season campaign with a 2-1 win over Middlesbrough under-23s, as 616 supporters returned to Croft Park. 

In front of a home crowd for the first time since February 2020, Jordan Hickey opened the scoring on six minutes before a fine individual goal from Harry Green quickly levelled the scores. 

But, Karl Byrne, a substitute midway through the second half, ensured Michael Nelson’s side started pre-season with a morale-boosting victory. 

Robbie Dale, having ended his retirement to re-join the club on Friday, went into the starting XI alongside a flurry of new signings. 

It was the Spartans trialist goalkeeper that was called immediately into action when he pulled off a tremendous save from Joe Gibson’s effort inside the opening minute. 

On six minutes, Hickey netted Spartans’ opener when Dale found Maguire and he teed up the former Hull City man to fire past Max Metcalfe. 

However, a great solo goal by Green got the visitors swiftly back on level terms as he calmly slotted past Trialist. 

Both teams went on to enjoy their fair share of possession and chances. 

O’Donnell headed over from Josh Gillies’ free-kick delivery before Dan Maguire tried to catch Metcalfe off his line, though the Boro keeper retreated in time to catch the effort. 

The Blyth trialist goalkeeper had to be quick off his line to prevent Boro from having a one-and-one opportunity. 

The first drinks break of the afternoon came on 22 minutes and after that, Blyth became a bit sloppy in their play. 

Calum Kavanagh won the ball in the midfield to pick out Pharrell Willis inside the penalty area but he blasted over. 

Trialist had to be fast off his line again after Toby Lees’ weak back pass, while Kavanagh should have made it 2-1 but struck his attempt off target from close range. 

Boro certainly finished the first-half stronger as Kavanagh cut inside from the left but curled his shot way wide. 

Nelson named three changes at the break with Rhys Evans, Lewis McNall and Sean Reid replacing Jordan Watson, Gillies and Dale. 

The second half definitely had more of a pre-season feel to it, especially with further substitutions from both sides. 

That meant chances were at the premium. Gibson scuffed a good chance wide for Boro, while Metcalfe did superbly to keep out Reid’s header from Nicky Deverdics’ free-kick delivery. 

Byrne was one of four substitutions on 63 minutes – and the Irishman was a surprise scorer, seven minutes later. 

Good work from Connor Thomson on the right created the goal as Byrne slotted home at the back post, and wheeled away in absolute delight. 

Under-19s goalkeeper Jed Scott got a run out in the final five minutes, replacing Trialist, who left the field to a huge round of applause. 

Spartans: Trialist (Scott, 85), Lees, Trialist, Watson (Evans 45), Thomson (Hickey, 80), Hickey (Clark 63), Deverdics (Painter 63), O’Donnell (Byrne 63), Gillies (McNall 45), Dale (Reid 45), Maguire (McKeown, 63). Subs not used: 

Goals: Hickey 6. Byrne 70. 

Boro: Metcalfe, Gitau, Marshall, Hannah, Wells, Dijksteel, Gibson, Cornet, Kavanagh, Willis, Green. Subs: Hutchinson, Doherty, Beals, Lindo, John, Woolston, Trialist, Fisher, AJ Bridge, Howells. 

Goals: Green 8. 

Referee: James Westgate 

Attendance: 616

Posted by Jordan Cronin