Croft Park, Friendly, 29/6/19
Blyth Spartans Association Football Club
Nickname; The Spartans or Green Army
Current Division; National League North
Random Fact; Ali Dia or “George Weahs cousin” that hoodwinked Graeme Souness into signing him for Southampton played for Blyth before his infamous fifty-three minutes for the Saints
Once upon a time I saw Blyth Spartans on the box in the FA cup third round. I may be wrong, but I think it was versus Everton who had made the journey to the North East. I must have been struck with the “magic of the FA Cup” because from that day I wanted to go to Croft Park. (Dover Athletics Crabble Athletic Ground is a similar story, one day maybe) While searching out games to go to I noticed a pre-season fixture v Stranraer within a month I was home from Angola. This was a no brainer and was my chance to get down to the Northumberland coast. On the Friday accompanied by Wee Man we headed to a hotel on the outskirts Berwick. This to allow us the most amount of time at the chosen morning destination of Bamburgh Castle.
For those of you who haven’t been to Bamburgh Castle. Do it. It is fantastic. A great choice by myself for the morning’s entertainment. The fact I looked at my watch when we were leaving, and it had been four hours since we entered tells a story. Time flew while taking in the views of Lindesfarne, explaining to Wee Man what every weapon was in the armoury, the extremely grand social room and playing endless games of quoits in the courtyard with junior. My favourite part of the castle actually came before I had entered it. Once you leave the A1 and head down the B roads you don’t really see the castle, then as you head down a hill surrounded by trees on the approach the town of Bamburgh, the trees stop, and you are faced by this monster of a castle that dominates your view. Quite the sensational sight. Worth the visit that’s for sure.
Croft Park is a wee gem. For a sixth tier ground its punching well above its weight. It’s made up of a main stand and three covered terraces. Its clean, it has a social club and the team seems to be quite well supported. A decent ground to celebrate the double milestone of my one hundred and fiftieth ground and Wee Mans first abroad. Just a shame his first abroad scarf is a green and white bar scarf, which from a distance could be misconstrued as something else. (Unfortunately, it was that or nothing). The Spartans experience started on a great note when it became apparent that Blyth let in under 12s for free, any team who does that is good in my book and it should be encouraged as it gets the nippers keen.On the theme of nippers there were plenty in attendance which is refreshing to see. Also noticeable, with all the mega millions fitba on the go these days especially in England, kids wearing Barcelona and Manchester City, Chelsea shirts tend to be the norm. But here there were plenty sporting the green and white of the Spartans. With the day starting so well it was made even better as the weather was superb. After purchasing hotdogs from the mobile chip van that was inside Croft Park we did our pre-match ritual of watching the goalkeepers get warmed up. This is the norm due to junior thinking it is like what we do in the backie everyday while having a kick about. This can be a dangerous habit as I know after almost having my ear amputated by Peterheads Derek Lyle at Albion Rovers. As I was watching I noticed that Blyth had easily the biggest squad I have ever seen. This was due to new managers Lee Clark running the rule over trialists. I was informed of this by a blithe Blyth supporter. The same dude informed me that at the end of the previous season they were left with three signed players and the future was gravely bleak.
Stranraer were surely favourites and they started the game like favourites would. Plenty of possession and making Blyth chase the ball. The Blues were strolling to be honest. They took an early lead through a keeper error as he came for a cross, he allowed himself to be bullied in the air by the striker who nodded down leaving a tap in for his onrushing team mate Elliot. Soon after the kick off a mirror image of the goal incident happened but led to miss of the (pre)season. Elliot was on hand again but on this occasion went for the World Cup smash when a tap in was needed. This leading to the inevitable ball over the bar happening. Pretty horrific stuff from the strikers point of view but hilarious to me and junior who claimed he could of scored it. I couldn’t argue with that as it was possibly harder to miss. Half time saw Wee Man get a kick about with some jovial
Blythdonians, Blythers, Blythwegians, folk from Blyth in the terrace. It also saw the changes rung by Ex Killie boss Clark. On came a bunch of young trialists with something to prove and the difference was clear to see. This was a game now. Unlike the first half which was so far balanced in Stranraer’s favour we swapped ends to get the goals. This turned out to be an error as we were to get none and three were scored in front of where we parked ourselves in the first half. A triple substitution was made half way through the half and these guys were even more keen than the first batch and got right at Stranraer with an equaliser coming not long after. Not a day for the keepers as the first Spartans goal came from the Stranraer number one misjudging a cross leaving Devitt lined up to header home into an unguarded net. The second and third came on 90 minutes as Wee Man and I were shuffling toward the exit but stopped as we bumped into the informative guy from earlier. If we didn’t speak to him, we would have left thinking it was one each. The second was a peach. Cross in from the left and a tidy bending left footed volley with the instep from one of the numerous trislists into the bottom left corner. Almost immediately after that it was 3-1 and lights out for Stranraer. A free kick pretty much on the spot where the second was struck from was beautifully bent around the wall by Pearson and into the same corner as the last goal had nested itself. The old cliché “a game of two halves” was appropriate for this match in the Northumberland sun. Shame the sun didn’t hold out all the way back to the ‘shire. Instead we were treated to some of the heaviest rain I have ever had to drive in. My arse was going like a rabbit’s nose for around one hundred and fifty miles as I aquaplaned up the east coast. This didnt dampen our spirits and ruin what was a quality milestone father /son day out. History, fitba and a Newmachar chipper. Sterling stuff
Me 150, Wee Man 25