Having afforded their visitors a guard of honour and a round of applause for reaching the FA Vase final, at the start of the evening, Newcastle Benfield remained in a similarly benevolent mood for the ensuing 90 minutes. While there is a sense of relief on the one hand that this defeat makes it a mathematical certainty The Lions can’t catch Marske United and suffer the indignity of an unwanted promotion, there is huge disappointment at the performance and such eye-catching displays in the previous two victories over Ashington and West Auckland Town. If the smart money for next season’s Northern League title is on West Auckland coming out as Champions, then there is also a compelling case for Stockton Town to be thought of as the dark horses worth an each way bet.
In the very first minute, as the dazzling sun slowly set over the Bowling Green and East Coast Main Line, Benfield captain Mark Turnbull was called upon to clear a Fred Woodhouse attempt off the line. Thus the pattern for the game was established; Stockton attacked and Benfield defended, sometimes admirably and sometimes desperately. However, there was nothing anyone could have done about the opening goal on 15 minutes, when JAMIE OWENS fired home an unstoppable volley across Andrew Grainger and into the bottom corner of the net. It was a glorious goal. Owens may spend much of his time complaining to his colleagues and the officials, but he is a constant threat. For Benfield, the two chances created in the opening period both fell to Turnbull after Brayson corner kicks. The first saw him spin and volley just wide, while the second saw a looping header drop just the wrong side of the post.
After the break, despite the introduction of the hard-running Josh Scott, Benfield were forced further and further back by Stockton. On the hour, MAX CRAGGS doubled the away side’s lead with a well taken free kick, given after Turnbull was harshly adjudged to have raised his foot in a skirmish over a loose ball. Substitute JOE CARTER made it 3-0 on 70 minutes, when collecting a long punt from the back by Stockton keeper Liam Jordan and benefitting from a lucky ricochet from Andrew Grainger, to give him the simple chance of stroking the loose ball home. SCOTT McCARTHY has been in great form of late and he came off the bench to reduce the arrears. Purposefully striding forward, with the Stockton defence retreating, he fired a superb strike with his left foot past Jordan. The keeper got the better of their next contest, standing firm to block an effort when McCarthy was through on goal. From this Stockton broke and FRED WOODHOUSE evaded several challenges before shooting viciously past Grainger in the last minute, to make the final score Benfield 1 Stockton Town 4. After a 4-0 thumping down there in October, this result was not a whole heap better. Anyway, one more sleep and it’s Shildon away…
Match report view from