By Dan King - Newcastle United Club Reporter
It was a case of Aussie Rules at Whitley Park as Newcastle's Reserves overcame Ashington on Tuesday night.
Adelaide-born Bradden Inman scored two scorchers to ensure a 2-0 win - but the contribution of Wollongong-raised goalkeeper Alex Baird was equally important.
Making his second-string debut in the Northumberland FA Senior Cup quarter-final tie, the 16-year-old - nicknamed 'Sticks' due to his thin frame - recorded a well-earned clean sheet as he showed an impressive command of his area for one so young.
And when his shot-stopping was tested, he passed with flying colours. On the stroke of half-time, with the score still 0-0, Phill Bell's towering header was destined for the net only for the Australian keeper to push the ball onto the woodwork.
Then on 77 minutes, Baird denied Bell - who has seven goals in three Colliers appearances this term - for a second time with another fine stop.
So when the former Derby County youngster, who arrived at Newcastle following a recommendation from Manchester United, spoke to nufc.co.uk after the match, he was able to reflect on a hugely satisfying Reserve team bow.
"I made a few good saves and for my Reserve debut, I couldn't be happier with it and I was pleased with the clean sheet," he said.
"Before the game I had a little bit of nerves, but that comes with being in goal. But I was buzzing the whole game though - especially when Brad got his two goals. And to finish it off with a clean sheet was brilliant.
"My decision making was good - I've improved a lot on that - and Chris (Terpcou, Academy Goalkeeping Coach) said that was alright as well.
"And with the save in the first half, it was just a late decision; a reaction sort of thing. I got that bit of luck that it went onto the woodwork and over the other side, rather than coming back out.
"I just kept focussed through the whole game and when I was called upon, did what I had to do."
Baird has been the regular goalkeeper for Newcastle's table-topping under-18s side this season, despite strong competition from Jonathan Mitchell and Aidan Grant, and had previously been an unused substitute for the Reserves on a handful of occasions.
He added: "Hopefully I can get another Reserve game if everything goes well, keep improving and get another crack.
"It was a big step to move from Australia to England but it was the right decision and the main thing was I had the family support to move over and give me my opportunity."