By Tom Easterby
At St. James' Park
Newcastle United Under-21s 4 (Satka, Richardson, Quinn, Bigirimana)
Blyth Spartans 0
Goals from Lubo Satka, Michael Richardson, Jonathyn Quinn and Gael Bigirimana gave Newcastle United a comfortable victory over Blyth Spartans in the Techflow Group Northumberland FA Senior Cup final at St. James Park.
Richardson, Quinn and Bigirimana's second-half strikes added extra gloss to the scoreline after Satka had given Newcastle a 37th-minute lead in front of a crowd of 1,234, but Tom Wade's Spartans proved tricky opponents for a youthful Toon team.
Though only Bigirimana boasted any Premier League experience in the United side, Peter Beardsley's youngsters belied their age in the early exchanges, looking composed and assured on the ball. It took the Magpies just four minutes to register their first shot on target, as Daniel Barlaser's low strike was held by Conor Grant in the Spartans goal. The Turkish under-17 international combined well with Callum Williams down the left before latching on to Greg Olley's well-weighted pass, but Grant got down well to deny the winger.
However, the EvoStik Premier side responded with vigour. Paul Robinson found himself in space 25 yards from goal, but his scuffed effort failed to trouble Jonathan Mitchell as Blyth sought an early goal.
It was Newcastle who dominated the remainder of the half, though, and Jonathyn Quinn was next to threaten. The forward curled Bigirimana's lay-off goalwards but his shot was deflected wide. Olley then tried his luck with 10 minutes on the clock, but he too was foiled by a resolute Blyth backline, as his well-struck effort was charged down.
Beardsley's charges dominated possession for the majority of the first half, with the central midfield trio of Michael Richardson, Olivier Kemen and Bigirimana at the heart of many of United's forays forward. Some neat interplay between Quinn and Kemen on the half hour almost produced an opening, but the latter's backheel - which was intended for skipper Richardson - was wayward and Grant collected with ease.
Wade's part-time outfit registered their first shot on target after 32 minutes, when Robbie Dale took advantage of Jamie Sterry's slip to break down the left flank before cutting inside and driving straight at Mitchell. Sterry's forceful run down the right then gave Quinn another sight of goal at the other end, but the Newcastle number nine diverted the defender's cut back wide.
Nathan Buddle cleared the crossbar with a header from a Robinson free kick, after the former Whitley Bay man was felled by Williams, but it was United who went into the break ahead after Satka's opener. Bigirimana forced an acrobatic save from Grant, reaching full-stretch to his left to tip away the curling effort. From the resulting corner, though, Satka pounced from close range after Bigirimana's fierce shot was parried, and despite another excellent save from Grant to repel Olley's header late in the half, United went in to the break with the lead.
After a challenge with Spartans captain Dale just a few minutes after the restart, Sterry was stretchered off after receiving lengthy treatment on the pitch. Callum Williams, taking up Sterry's right-back berth, surged forwards before squaring with his unfavoured right foot for the onrushing Richardson, who calmly rolled past Grant to double Newcastle's lead in the 52nd minute.
Rolando Aarons was introduced in place of Barlaser and immediately added some raw pace to the Magpies' attack, but not before Kevin Mbabu had thundered a header from Richardson's corner past the post. The Swiss defender, who turned in a commanding display at centre-back, then prevented Daniel Maguire from getting a shot away with a brilliantly-timed challenge.
Maguire, performing admirably as Blyth's lone striker, then forced Mitchell into a save from inside the box after outmuscling Satka, but it was his opposite number, Jonathyn Quinn, who put the game beyond Wade's outfit as he beat the offside trap to roll home the third at the Gallowgate End. Richardson then tapped home his second of the game from close range after Aarons' teasing cross had beaten Grant, but the offside flag denied the 22-year-old his brace.
With Aarons growing in influence, Newcastle were a continuous threat on the counter attack in the closing stages. A superb pass from the Jamaican winger sliced open the Spartans defence and allowed Bigirimana to stride clear and finish coolly with quarter of an hour still to play.
Though four goals behind, Blyth continued to threaten sporadically, and substitute Arran Wearmouth came close to a consolation when he rattled the frame of Mitchell's goal with just minutes left on the clock, but it was the impressive Richardson who was able to lift the trophy.
Newcastle United Under-21s: Jonathan Mitchell; Jamie Sterry (Liam Gibson 48), Lubo Satka, Kevin Mbabu, Callum Williams; Greg Olley, Gael Bigirimana, Olivier Kemen, Daniel Barlaser (Rolando Aarons 54); Michael Richardson (c); Jonathyn Quinn (Alex Gillead 67).
Subs not used: Freddie Woodman, Macaulay Gillesphey.
Blyth Spartans: Conor Grant; Arjun Purewal, Ian Watson, Danny Parker, Nathan Buddle, Lewis Horner, Paul Robinson, Neal Hooks (Arran Wearmouth), Daniel Maguire (Joe Kendrick 76), Mathew Wade (Ryan Cummings 63), Robert Dale (c).
Subs not used: Damen Mullen, Ashley Davis.