Newcastle Benfield 3 Irlam 1
Saturday 22nd October 2016
A year ago this weekend, at the same stage of the FA Vase, Newcastle Benfield made a dismal exit from the competition away to Atherton Collieries (who in point of fact destroyed Jarrow Roofing, our opponents on Saturday, by a margin of 5-0), in what was then manager Steve Bowey’s last game in charge. Twelve months later, a totally reshaped, revamped and rebuilt Benfield side eased through to the second round proper with a comfortable 3-1 win over Irlam. The significance of this win was perhaps summed up by the fact we’d got past North West Counties League opponents after successive Vase exits to Atherton and before that Chadderton.
The game attracted a good crowd despite the fact Newcastle United, West Allotment and Team Northumbria were all at home, not to mention full 90 minutes commentary from Live Sports FM, with Allan Young doing a sterling job as summariser, and being the chosen game for Radio Newcastle’s Barry Hindson. All such decisions were vindicated early on by the express start that saw Irlam keeper make a breath-taking save low to his right in the second minute from Paul Brayson’s deft header from Liam Hudson’s peach of a cross. Immediately play swung to the other end, requiring Andrew Grainger to make a flying save from Matthew Boland to keep the scores level. The following corner was smuggled away by Moussa Bakhti, who set Brayson free with a probing pass to the left edge of the area. Brayson turned the defence inside out with a body swerve and fired home from a tight angle, with White utterly bamboozled and rooted to the spot; 1-0 to the Con Army. It could have been 2-0 seconds later as Matty Cornish floated a ball to the back post for Liam Hudson to head on, only for a desperate clearance from the line to deny the ever-improving attacker.
Following this whirlwind start, the pace slackened and the visitors enjoyed possession, partly because Benfield’s passing game was misfiring. That said, Grainger was never actually called into action. From absolutely nowhere, it was 2-0 after 25 minutes, when Cornish fed Brayson, who skipped round the keeper and saw his effort cleared by a retreating defender. Sadly for Irlam, the ball fell kindly for Hudson who made no mistake from inside the six yard box. The scoreline undoubtedly flattered Benfield, but in cup competitions there is no sentiment.
The game began to flow both ways; Dylan McEvoy’s brilliant low cross was deflected inches wide Irlam’s Rick Peters, while Jordan Icely shot weakly wide after being set up by Edlaine Xavier. Consequently, the half time score was 2-0 to Benfield and it seemed as if both sides had settled for this, as the opening minutes of the second period were without incident. On the hour a typical no-nonsense ball by Man of the Match Steven Tobin set Hudson in on goal, but White blocked with his legs. Hudson left the pitch soon after to be replaced by the returning Scott McCarthy, who had been out of action since the 3-1 win away to RCA in mid-September. He almost scored with his first touch, when a Baptiste through ball saw him in on goal, but a desperate last-ditch tackle saw the ball squirt wide.
Benfield went 3-0 ahead when Tom McNamee intercepted a poor Irlam corner and sent Paul Brayson away. Some poor defending saw him skirt round the keeper unchallenged and roll the ball home for his 23rd goal of the season. Irlam then seemed to collapse; Cornish and then McCarthy were both denied by heroic work by White. However, the Mancunians were able to celebrate a late consolation when Ryan Ledson bundled a loose ball home for the scrappiest of goals in the last few minutes. Subsequently the home side killed the game and so Benfield deservedly advanced to the second round of the FA Vase.