What was officially billed as a Newcastle youth
XI entertained a healthy crowd at Albany League Division Two side Hebburn Town
on Wednesday evening.
The pre-match rain thankfully abated and on a decent surface United played some
decent stuff in front of recently-installed Academy head coach Brian Eastick.
Headline-grabbers were our predatory pair of strikers, who both notched
hat-tricks. Former St.Joseph's pupil Carl Finnigan - who lives yards from
Hebburn's Victoria Road West ground - on the mark after 36, 45 and 57 minutes.
And only taking slightly longer to notch his three was Marc Walton with
efforts in the 41st, 63rd and 73rd minutes, all enthusiastically applauded by
his grandparents in the stand.
However it was the home side who struck first, after referee Billy Downs pointed
to the spot for some alleged offence on a Hebburn player by David Edgar as a
free kick was played in from the left flank.
Striker Chris Joyce beat Ben Smith from the spot on 16 minutes and for the first
half hour there was little to choose between the two sides.
However with Daryl Smylie beginning to exert some influence in centre midfield
and Scott Marshall seeing more of the ball out on the left, the young Magpies
upped the pace and started to threaten the home goal, a couple of range-finders
from Atkin and Marshall ending up over the bar and in the trees next door.
Once Finnigan had profited from Walton's foraging in midfield and well-weighted
pass to beat 'keeper Gary Rogers in a one v one, United got into their stride
and before half time Walton had turned home a corner and Finnigan again taken a
Marshall pass round the 'keeper to shoot home confidently from a narrow angle.
With only one change at the interval, Newcastle maintained their momentum and
another Walton / Finnigan combination just before the hour outwitted a Hebburn
defence featuring 41-year old ex-mackem Gary Bennett just before the hour to
make it 4-1.
However the home side hit back with possibly the goal of the night, some instant
control from Craig Armstrong bringing down a left-wing centre from substitute
Keith Hallway before firing home on 63 minutes.
Despite substitutions becoming more frequent for both sides the game remained
entertaining, with the strength on the ball of Hebburn's Joyce giving the
Newcastle defence something to contend with on a couple of occasions.
Our final two strikes came courtesy of the fresh legs of Matty Pattison, who
jinked past two defenders to unselfishly set up Walton and then a lung-bursting
chase out wide down the right from Ben Jackson to claim the ball before centring
for an unmarked Walton to complete his own treble.