West Auckland 2 Newcastle Benfield 2 (15/8/17)
West Auckland, as well as having replaced the management team, had also replaced many of last season’s team. The new squad had got off to a good start scoring nine goals in their last match so a tough game was envisaged. So it proved, as it only took the home team five minutes to get the opening goal; a ball in from the left dropped kindly to the feet of BEN WOOD who hit the ball home from six yards making the score 1-0 to West Auckland. With 11 minutes having been played the home team were extremely unlucky not to double their score. Goal scorer Ben Wood showed fantastic individual skill, beating three Benfield defenders before striking the ball against the cross bar from fifteen yards. West Auckland had started off much quicker than Benfield and had a shooting opportunity in the 15th minute when a long pass down the left wing saw the ball chased down by Adam Mitchell who saw his effort bring a fine save by the Benfield keeper Andrew Grainger. Two minutes later a cross field pass found West’s fullback Darren Holden; advancing forward he saw his deflected shot just go past the Benfield far post.
As the game was progressing Benfield were getting more & more into the game and it came as no surprise that in the 31st minute they got the equalizing goal. Ritchie Slaughter played a good pass to Dylan McEvoy who although under pressure from a defender showed strong, persistent play, winning the ball back for the second time before pulling the ball back to Paul Brayson who put the ball into the net making the score1-1. In the 34th minute Dylan McEvoy almost brought off a piece of magical skill; receiving the ball just inside the West Auckland half he looked up to see the keeper off his line and bulleted a shot which went inches wide of the goal. Lewis Scorgie had a great chance to put the visitors in front when a free kick taken by Dylan McEvoy gave him a free head on goal but he placed the ball wide of the goal when he should have at least hit the target. The match progressed to the last minute of the half when John Campbell for the visitors gathered the ball out on the left wing 45 yards from goal and hit an audacious shot which had everyone in the ground gasping as it flew towards the top corner of the goal. The only person not worried was the West Auckland keeper Adam McHugh who twisted to go full length to get his finger tips to the ball pushing it over the bar for even at this early stage could be the save of the season. This left the half time score at 1-1.
Michael Riley, who was having a fine match and had been outstanding in in the two previous games, should have put Benfield ahead in the 51st minute; the move started by Riley saw him pass the ball to Paul Brayson who then passed the ball to James Novak. Instantaneously he put in a brilliant cross onto the head of Riley but he put his near post header wide of the goal and a good chance was gone. Fifty eight minutes had passed when another goal came and it went the way of the home team; a Benfield move was broken up in mid field with the ball being played to NATHAN FISHER who delicately lifted the ball past the advancing Andrew Grainger to make the score 2-1 to West Auckland.
Despite being a goal down the visitors were still well in the game and could count themselves unfortunate not to get an equalizing goal; a good move down the right wing involving new signing Stephen Harrison and Michael Riley with the former seeing his cross sliced by home defender Thomas Marron with his clearance going inches wide of his own goal and out for a corner. Despite being a goal down Benfield were still well in the match although they should have been two goals down in the 74th minute. Benfield were awarded a free kick to be taken by James Novak, it was poorly taken with it being easily cleared giving goal scorer Fisher a free run in on the Benfield goal but to his credit Novak got back to make a fine block tackle out for a corner. Top goal scorer John Campbell should have done better with fifteen minutes left on the clock; a long cross field pass from Ritchie Slaughter found debutant Stephen Harrison. He then placed a perfectly weighted cross to find the Benfield striker who unusually hit his effort over the bar to the relief of the Auckland team leaving it 2-1.
Full time was getting closer with Benfield still searching for an equaliser and it came in the 84th minute, substitute Scott McCarthy gained possession, driving into the West Auckland penalty area before being brought down by Thomas Marron. Up stepped PAUL BRAYSON who had scored a penalty in the last trip to West Auckland and it was the same result with keeper Adam McHugh going the wrong way, making the score 2-2. Newcastle Benfield had a great chance to win the game in the 90th minute strong play again from Scott McCarthy saw him beat an opponent and advance into the Auckland penalty area. Despite having a great chance to shoot he elected to pass the ball to Paul Brayson. The pass was slightly over hit and behind Brayson with this allowing his shot to be blocked by Darren Holden which left the full time score 2-2.
Man of the Match: Michael Riley