Newcastle Benfield 1
Newton Aycliffe 0
Following Saturday’s disappointing loss away to Sunderland RCA, Newcastle Benfield got back in the groove, when a much-changed team completed a league double over an obdurate Newton Aycliffe outfit by the narrowest of margins, in front of a decent sized crowd of 139. Manager Mark Convery rang the changes as in came Steve Harrison, Richy Slaughter, Marc Dummett, Scott McCarthy and Joe Hailes for Rhys Evans, Elliott Forbes, John Pendlebury, Jake Orrell and Josh Scott. It should not be inferred that this was a kneejerk response to the first league defeat of 2018; rather it was done in recognition of the fact The Lions have been saddled with an unenviable task of fulfilling 14 league engagements in 4 weeks. Instead sensible managerial decisions have to be made to protect players from fatigue and the inevitable niggles and knocks such a huge volume of games will cause.
One player who seems unlikely to suffer burnout is Jack Devlin. The skilful and pacey front man almost opened the scoring on 10 minutes, when he ghosted in from the left by-line and unleashed a venomous drive that hit the side netting. Liam Browne was the Aycliffe hero on 20 minutes, when a perfectly timed lunge took an expert 50-yard Dylan McEvoy pass off the toes of Paul Brayson in front of goal, with the clearance landing on the roof of the net. In a tight and tenacious game with chances at a premium, Scott McCarthy was unlucky when he lashed a spectacular first time effort just wide of the effort, after collecting a loose, bouncing ball. In retrospect, perhaps he had more time than he imagined. McCarthy was again at the centre of things on 38 minutes, when Aycliffe keeper James Winter misplaced a pass out and sent it across the area. There was a coming together between McCarthy, who appeared set to roll the ball into an empty net and a covering defender. Despite the home side’s claims for a penalty, nothing was given, much to the disbelief of most of the crowd.
After a goalless first half, where Benfield began to enjoy greater dominance as time went on, the second period almost sprang into life in spectacular style. Aycliffe’s Marc Costello, who was the fulcrum of everything that was best about their play, slammed a venomous 35 yard effort against the crossbar. Following that escape, home debutant James Martin cooked up something tasty down the left, laying the ball on a plate for Devlin, whose shot was beaten away by Winter. It was a temporary reprieve, as on 58 minutes the decisive goal came from a Brayson free kick near the touchline that evaded everyone apart from the unmarked Lions skipper, who steered the ball home from inches out, via the underside of the bar, doubling his goal tally for the season. From that point on, Benfield remained in control, with both Brayson and Devlin being denied, though controversy broke out deep into injury time when Aycliffe had the ball in the net, following a booming clearance from Winter that was nodded home. Sadly for the visitors, there had been several visiting attackers standing in offside positions and so the game ended with a single goal victory for Benfield.
Man of the Match:
Thanks to Paul Mcfeeley for providing the above photos.