For their fourth game in 10 days, all of which were at home, with the prospect of a minimum further 10 games to be played by May 9th, Newcastle Benfield rang the changes for the visit of Ryhope CW. Out went the experienced quartet Andrew Grainger, Mark Turnbull, Alex Nisbet and Paul Brayson to give game time to Dan Nimmins, Richie Slaughter, Marc Dummett and Luke Carr.
During the first 45 minutes this cannot be said to have worked, as the home side were played off the park in the opening half an hour, before finally regaining a foothold in the game with a much improved performance in the final third of the opening period.
Despite the weather over the previous months and the number of games played recently, the pitch at Sam Smith’s was looking in fine shape, once the broken down mower had been pushed from the far side in the moments before kick-off that is. Unfortunately, while the surface was well grassed and free of mud, the drying out process was not uniform and the bounce was uneven. This had the effect of putting Benfield off their passing game and playing into the hands of Ryhope’s high pressing, hard running tactics.
The discomfited home side fell behind on 10 minutes when a high, hopeful ball bounced unexpectedly at the edge of the area, deceiving keeper Nimmins and allowing JOE MELVIN to put the visitors ahead with their first serious effort of the game. Prior to this, Jack Devlin had twice unluckily failed to get enough on crosses by Luke Carr to really test keeper Johnny Ball.
For the next 20 minutes, the game followed a pattern of Benfield attempting to build patiently from the back and being hurried out of their stride by the tireless visitors, resulting in speculative long balls or misplaced passes that saw any attacking intent thwarted. On 29 minutes, Ryhope went 2-0 ahead when captain KYLE DAVIS shot through the legs of a fatally exposed Nimmins. Moments later it could have been 3, when Davis intercepted a Dummett clearance and fired past Nimmins, only for Lewis Scorgie, who was excellent throughout and seemed a natural skipper in the place of Mark Turnbull, deftly cleared the ball off the line with the outside of his foot. After this, the home side began to get their act together and Richie Slaughter was inches away from halving the deficit with a low drive on 41 minutes.
After the break, Benfield introduced Jake Orrell for Dylan McEvoy and the former Spennymoor man’s presence transformed the game. Within seconds of entering the fray, he drove through the Ryhope defence and crossed for a suspiciously offside looking Joe Hailes to tap in from 6 yards. The home side swarmed forward and Jack Devlin was denied an immediate equaliser by an agile stop by Ball, who spread himself commendably. Moments later Slaughter set Orrell free and his effort rolled agonisingly wide of the back post. At the other end, desperate defending kept Ryhope at bay when Nimmins dropped a cross at the feet of Melvin.
Despite being unrecognisable from the sorry outfit of the first period, Benfield could not fashion another goal and Ryhope weathered the storm. There was one final late flurry when Brayson, on as a late substitute, collected an astute through ball from Devlin and fired just wide of the post. Thus, Ryhope completed a league double over Benfield, both by a 2-1 scoreline and the home side were left to reflect on missed chances, though still encouraged by a 2-1 win over the same opponents in the League Cup quarter final a while back, which is where the real interest must lie between now and the end of the season.
Man of the Match: Lewis Scorgie
Match report Ian Cusack
Photos Paul Mcfeeley
Website Steve Boyle .