Blyth Spartans face a reunion with former FA Cup opponents Hartlepool United and manager Alun Armstrong’s former club Middlesbrough as part of an impressive pre-season campaign.
Armstrong’s side will face three professional clubs inside a week at Croft Park, with Carlisle United also making the trip to Northumberland.
The Spartans will also entertain the last two winners of the FA Vase – Morpeth Town and South Shields – as they step up their preparations for a testing Vanarama National League North campaign after winning the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League last season.
But it is the game against Hartlepool United that will conjure up memories of the Spartans famous giantkilling in the FA Cup Second Round in December 2014.
Goals from Stephen Turnbull and Jarrett Rivers sent the Northumberland outfit into the Third Round in front of the BBC Match of the Day cameras.
The visit of Middlesbrough could also hand Spartans a quick reunion with former striker Luke Armstrong.
The youngster made a big impact at Croft Park last season, scoring twenty three goals in all competitions.
That caught the attention of Middlesbrough and they brought the striker back to the club, two years after releasing him from their academy.
A trio of games against Ebac Northern League clubs kick off pre-season for the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League champions, with a home game against Newcastle Benfield quickly followed by away games agaisnt West Auckland Town and Shildon.
And the preparations are rounded off with a home game against Whitby Town on Tuesday 1st August.
Spartans boss Armstrong believes that their pre-season schedule offers his side “a good mixture of games” ahead of the new season.
Speaking to the club’s official website blythspartans.com he said “There’s some really good testing games for us. We’ve got Middlesbrough, Carlisle, Hartlepool and a number of other good sides, so there’s some tough games for the lads.
“That’s what they need though. Some of the earlier friendlies will be used to get the lads bedded in and get them up to speed, so there’ll be a good mixture of games.”
Their pre-season campaign in full is:
Tuesday July 4 – Newcastle Benfield (H)
Saturday July 8 – West Auckland Town (A)
Tuesday July 11 – Shildon (A)
Saturday July 15 – Carlisle United (H)
Tuesday July 18 – Hartlepool United (H)
Saturday July 22 – Middlesbrough (H)
Tuesday July 25 – Morpeth (H)
Saturday July 29 – South Shields (H)
Tuesday August 1 – Whitby Town (H)
Article: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Image: Reuters Media