THE curse continues for Blyth, the Spartans last night slain by Newcastle United’s impressive young tyros.
But if success in the Sage Northumberland Senior Cup bodes well for the future of the Magpies’ fledglings, here was a victory for local non-league football too.
The simple fact that the final is still being hosted at St James’ Park is cause for celebration, even if Mick Tait’s team did not think it last night.
The Croft Park club have endured a gruelling year in Blue Square Bet North, upsetting the odds nonetheless.
They did well to muster doughty resistance yesterday too, but have now lost their last nine finals in the competition, six of them to United.
By contrast, Newcastle claimed their 33rd title in 126 years of the Senior Cup, but did so to their credit, courtesy of no little help from the grassroots game.
Opening goalscorer Michael Richardson started the season at Walker Central, James Tavernier hit the second having come on leaps and bounds on loan at Gateshead this year and though I confess to not knowing double-strike Phil Airey’s footballing background, Coquet High School can be proud.
With John Carver watching on, Peter Beardsley’s boys, after an end-to-end opening, were the sprightlier of the teams.
Inside three minutes Robbie Dale dragged a 20-yard shot well wide, and moments later Brad Inman’s slipped pass sent Ryan Donaldson clear, only for the United youngster to be denied at close quarters by Dans Lowson and Groves.
From the resulting corner, Inman volleyed wide from the edge of the box.
The early ebb and flow was sustained while Paul Brayson headed Michael Tait’s cross wide on seven minutes, but thereafter Newcastle’s superior sharpness began to tell.
After a one-two with Airey, Donaldson fired at Lowson, and Patrick McLaughlin drilled a free-kick into the defensive wall.
Then, on 17 minutes, the hosts made their slowly emerging dominance count.
With time and space to cross from the left, Donaldson did so, forcing a breakdown in communication between Lowson and Wayne Buchanan, which allowed Richardson to tap in.
First blood to Newcastle then, and they smelled more. Sammy Ameobi shot wide, Airey over, and after a rare moment of consternation in the United rearguard allowed Brayson to lift an effort uncharacteristically over the bar, normal service resumed.
From Donaldson’s free-kick on the left, Ameobi headed at Lowson before firing wide.
And on 31 minutes Tavernier tucked in from the left, dropped his shoulder to sidestep Tait, and crashed an unstoppable strike into the top right corner of Lowson’s net.
Now Blyth needed something, a lifeline before half-time.
It appeared before them too, on 34 minutes, when John Alexander did superbly to glide past Tavernier into the box, but less well blazing his angled effort across goal.
Typically, two minutes later Newcastle extended their lead. And after Donaldson set up Airey for the third, United might well have stretched their first-half advantage further, through Ameobi, Airey again and Jeff Henderson.
The break did little to turn the tide. From Tavernier’s cross, Ameobi headed against the foot of a post, McLaughlin shot across the face of goal and Greg McDermott’s effort was palmed over by Lowson.
Blyth rallied admirably only for Brayson to curl well over, Alexander and Tait had efforts blocked and Tait’s low cross-shot was narrowly missed by Brayson. But these were brief interludes, as Newcastle continued to command proceedings. Just after the hour-mark Richardson then McLaughlin were denied by Lowson, and after handling a backpass, the Spartans stopper did well to reprieve his error, saving at the feet of Joan Simun Edmundsson.
From the edge of the box, Inman fired wide, Edmundsson’s strike was deflected behind, Ariey was denied by Lowson and after Stephen Turnbull went close at the other end, Edmundsson set up Airey to complete the scoring and seal victory.
NEWCASTLE: Soderberg, McDermott, Streete (Riley, 63), Henderson, Tavernier, McLaughlin, Inman, Ameobi (Edmundsson, 63), Richardson, Donaldson (Nzuzi, 63), Airey.
BLYTH: Lowson, Groves, Swailes, Buchanan, Cave, Dale, Tait, Hooks, Turnbull, Brayson, Alexander (O'Mahoney, 72).
Referee: David McCallum (Tyne and Wear)