A strong wind greeted local neighbours North Shields on their visit to Sam Smith’s Park for this Boxing Day clash. The game almost got off to a sensational start for Newcastle Benfield; indeed the contest could and should have been out of the reach of North Shields in the first six minutes. Two minutes of the game had gone when a brilliant cross from the left wing by Dylan McEvoy to the far post gave Paul Brayson a great chance to score, but he completely missed the ball from six yards out. A minute later and Benfield were ahead courtesy of recent signing JOHN CAMPBELL, when poor defending thirty yards by North Shields midfielder Craig McFarlane saw him robbed of the ball trying a drag back which failed. The Benfield striker advanced forward to hit a low left foot drive the ball past North Shields keeper Kyle Hayes into the net for his first goal since his return making the score 1-0 to Benfield. Another glorious chance to get a second goal went in favour of Benfield when they were awarded a penalty; it came when Scott McCarthy advanced to take on Shields fullback Stuart Donnison, after beating the defender he saw his effort well saved by North Shields keeper Kyle Hayes. The ball rebounded back to McCarthy who advanced forward to be fouled by North Shields midfielder and ex Benfield player Gary Ormston with the referee pointing immediately to the penalty spot. Despite having missed two out of his last three spot kicks, up stepped Paul Brayson to take the penalty which he put tamely past the post leaving the score at 1-0 to Benfield when it should have been three.
Despite being a goal down the league leaders were starting to control the tempo of the game with slick passing and movement and it was from this type of football that in the 18th minute they came close to getting an equalising goal, a well shredded thru ball from Ormston split the Benfield defence and it was only the alertness and bravery of Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger who rushed out of his goal area to make a strong tackle on Lee Mason that kept a lead for the home team. Within two minutes goalscorer John Campbell came close to adding to the home team’s score line; after a strong run forward he was fouled in what looked like being in the penalty area but the referee who was right on the spot awarded a free kick which Campbell took hitting a strong shot inches wide of the North Shields post.
From there on in for the rest of the half it looked like if any team was going to score it was North Shields, in the 29th minute good defending by Benfield captain Mark Turnbull saw him head a dangerous cross from Craig McFarlane out for a corner. From the dead ball kick which came to Gary Ormston who then hit a powerful drive just over the bar. The next chance came when another Ex Benfield player Lee Mason went on a strong run advancing down the right wing before cutting in for a shooting chance, the hard work getting there for this shooting opportunity was done but his shooting effort left a lot to be desired after he hit his shot high over the cross bar. With several players playing out of position due to injuries and suspensions Benfield were leaving gaps in defence from players who would normally play further forward with defending not being their strong point, in doing so this allowed Shields to exploit the space. North Shields full back Marc Lancaster made a mental note of this and began to exploit this and in the 37th minute after a strong run down the left wing, he produced an inviting cross into the Benfield penalty area onto the head of Adam Forster who saw his bullet header just clear the Benfield cross bar. It was the Shields defender again who came close to getting into a dangerous shooting position and it took a well-timed tackle from Callum Duncan to stop his opponent. Despite being under pressure Benfield were defending reasonably well but with half time approaching their defence was breached. Again Shields full back Marc Lancaster was involved, he put a cross into the box causing confusion to the Benfield defence, the ball bounced around in the penalty area before CRAIG McFARLANE hit the ball into the net with a slight deflection for the equalising goal making the score 1-1 which it was at half time.
The second half started as the end of the first half finished with North Shields keeping possession and putting Benfield under incessant pressure with no real outlet for the home team, it was in the 51st minute that the visitors had a shooting chance when Lee Mason had a snapshot from 8 yards palmed away to safety by Grainger in the Benfield goal. Newcastle Benfield were starting to get back into the game with Lewis Scorgie coming close to getting a goal when he got on the end of a free kick taken by Mark Turnbull heading it just over the bar at the back post. The hour mark had arrived when a strong run by ex-Robins player Jack Devlin set up Callum Duncan who struck a well hit drive inches wide of the North Shields goal. Within a minute North Shields retaliated when Dean Holmes was put through but he made a very poor attempt to lob the Benfield keeper hitting it high and wide. It was the same player in the 64th minute who took a free kick after a foul by Lewis Scorgie just outside the Benfield penalty area; the result was as equally poor as his previous effort high over the bar. Eighty minutes saw Benfield get a free kick twenty five yards out with Brayson just clearing the cross bar.
The defining moment of the game came in the 83rdminute. LEE MASON was out wide on the left wing where a shout from his dug out was heard to say far post; this he did floating it over for a bread and butter catch under no pressure for the Benfield keeper, unfortunately for Andrew Grainger, a freak gust of wind sent it flying into the roof of the net, making the score 2-1 to Shields which was the final score. As in the previous match against Shildon, Benfield proved that they can give any of the top teams a tough game and were unlucky not to get a point out of the match but the manager and coach must have been happy with what they saw against another top team in the shape of North Shields