Double delight for Jones as Spittal win
Spittal Rovers 5 Cramlington Utd 1 - Northern Football Alliance Division 2
Goals from Craig Bell, Niall Jones (2), Ben Fairbairn and Brian Blackburn saw Spittal Rovers get their new campaign off to a flyer with a comprehensive victory over Cramlington United, a side they failed to overcome at all last term.
The home side lined up with balance in their ranks with Kyle Jeffrey and Jones on either wing.
It was summer signing Jones who showed his creativity first – scampering down the touchline to whip in a dangerous, right-footed cross only for Graeme Tait to stretch and head over his own crossbar.
Jones was then released, again via an exquisite pass from Marco Lambert, but after cutting inside, his shot was saved well by United stopper Jamie Wright.
Jones’ impact on the match did not stop there and another opportunity fell to him moments later. Again he drifted infield, but after opting for power, his effort sailed high and wide.
The visitors then settled, enjoying a positive period of passing and possession, engineering some chances of their own.
Striker Niall Younger, identified pre-match as the away side’s biggest threat, went close after out-muscling Fairbairn to get his shot away.
The skipper Younger made no mistake when he found himself in the danger area again however, swivelling to poke home the opener past the sprawling Ash Pendrich (0-1).
Another goalmouth scramble moments later saw debutant David Glennie get his toe-end to a goalbound effort, but games tend to be decided by big moments and when Cramlington’s Andrew Carr wastefully blasted over his unchallenged strike, which would have put his side two up. The Seasiders were able to breathe a huge sigh of relief.
As the match trundled towards the interval, a trio of chances were again spurned by Rovers. Blackburn somehow wriggled his way through to see his shot from the edge of the box palmed away by Wright before Bell broke the offside trap to fire viciously into the side netting. A glancing header from another Lambert corner then shaved the upright, with the Spittal management now beginning to curse their luck.
The hosts’ constant belief and determination then saw the game turned on its head and like buses, they had waited so long for one that two came at once.
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Bell was first cued up by a fabulous centre from Lambert, the 16-year-old nodding home the equaliser from close range (1-1).
Less than a minute later, Jones raced intently into the box anticipating a chance and Jeffrey did not disappoint, floating over a perfect cross for the little winger to head back across goal and into the corner, to the delight of his team-mates (2-1).
Shooting towards the North Sea after the break, Bell could have increased the lead moments after the restart, but rushed his header when a simple shout would have allowed him to compose himself 12 yards out.
A defensive mishap, caused by Paul Wood’s notable pressing, then saw a slack pass reach Jones out wide. One-on-one with Lewis Cann, Jones left him in his wake before seeing the net ripple as a result of his drilled shot past Wright (3-1).
With the impressive Ewan Sherry and man-of-the-match Glennie policing the Rovers defence, it allowed Scott Mitchell’s men to confidently flow forward in search of more with Leigh Walker coming into the game more down the left flank.
It was two unlikely goalscorers who were to put the game to bed though – a volley through traffic from Fairbairn brought jubilation and a fourth (4-1), with Blackburn smashing home a fifth with his weaker foot to seal the points and a superb start to the new season for his club (5-1).
With games set to come thick and fast. The Berwick side must now prepare for a midweek trip to Alliance new boys Rothbury, which is then closely followed by a trip to Whitley Bay SC on Saturday.
Starting XI: Pendrich, Fairbairn, Walker, Glennie, Sherry, Jones, Jeffrey, Blackburn, Lambert, Wood (C), Bell. Subs: Short, Duffy, Young, Amers, Mason.
Match sponsor: Simpsons Malt Limited
Ball sponsor: Wingbox Berwick