Only three days after the gut-wrenching FA Vase loss to Coleshill Town, Newcastle Benfield were back in the saddle for a third round Northern League Cup tie away to Consett. The Steelmen’s well-appointed Belle View ground boasts a 4G pitch that explains to the uneducated why there can be no such thing as an “all weather” surface. Ignoring the chance of fog, the very real danger up in the hills of North West Durham is snow. Despite the fact that the paths and roads were clear on Tyneside, by the time we began our ascent towards Shotley Bridge, the lands beyond Rowlands Gill were dusted white and sparkled crystalline under the streetlights. However, the game went ahead, and a patched-up Benfield side welcomed back Marc Dummett after injuryas well as giving a debut to former Cirencester Town player Shannon Pocock; a real baptism of ice.
The first half was a cagey affair, with the two main incidents involving Paul Brayson. In the second minute he broke free, but was denied by Consett keeper James Platten. That was just the sighter though; twenty minutes later, Brassy again burst clear and this time made no mistake, giving the Lions a slender single goal lead that they took to the break.
If the opening period was lacking action, the second 45 certainly made up for it. Within 30 seconds of the resumption, Brayson charged forward and unleashed a powerful drive that flashed past Platten, but struck the outside of the post. Joe Hailes, who never stopped running all night, saw Platten block his effort before the Lions doubled their lead on 52 minutes. Alex Nisbet collected the ball in the middle of the Consett half, drove on, cut inside and fired an unstoppable low, left-footed drive into the bottom corner. It was a great goal, but more than matched almost from the restart, when Consett captain Danny Craggs surged forward before unleashing a thunderbolt that beat Andrew Grainger all ends up. However, the Benfield custodian was soon to get the better of Craggs, with a stunning one-handed, flying save that clawed the ball away from the top corner to keep the visitors ahead.
Straight from the following corner, Grainger’s quick and accurate throw set Paul Brayson free and the veteran marksman finished with the kind of aplomb he’s been showing for quarter of a century now. This appeared to deflate the home side, with Benfield creating and squandering several presentable half chances for Lewis Scorgie and Scott McCarthy in particular. As a last throw of the dice, Consett introduced former Benfield winger Josh Scott and he wasted a glorious opportunity when unmarked at the near post, blazing the ball into the side netting. Just to keep the Lions on their toes, Craggs grabbed a second goal on 91 minutes after a goalmouth scramble, but Benfield saw the tie through and deservedly progress to the last 8.