Kick off 745 pm
Thursday 3rd May 2018
Newcastle Benfield’s season, which promised so much at one point, effectively ended in the disappointment of a penalty shoot-out loss to a spirited Bishop Auckland side in the League Cup semi-final at Heritage Park. Ironically, this had been the scene of Benfield’s astonishing opening day 7-3 victory that hinted at the creativity the squad had to offer. Despite regular and repeated improvements and additions to the pool of available talent over the season, the not inconsiderable task of fitting in 13 games in 26 days, finally caught up with the lads, who were running on vapours for most of the second half.
Twenty four hours after the home game against Marske, manager Mark Convery was able to name a completely different side, though all the substitutes had played the full 90 minutes the night before. Bishops themselves came into the game after 7-0 and 6-1 losses, with the spectre of relegation hanging over them. In the first half, they created nothing of note, while Benfield relied on the incisive creativity of Jake Orrell and Luke Carr down either wing to carve out opportunities. Most of these seemed to fall to Scott McCarthy, who was unable to replicate his recent sizzling form and only seriously troubled imposing home keeper Gareth Young once, with a deft header that the Bishops stopper instinctively tipped over the bar. Despite a seemingly endless succession of corners, the ball simply wouldn’t fall kindly to the visiting forwards and only a strong Lewis Scorgie header, again instinctively tipped over by Young, caused Bishops any problems. This was Scorgie’s last involvement as he fell heavily, sustaining an ankle injury from the restart and needed to be replaced by Marc Dummett, as the sides went into the break level at 0-0.
The second period was a more even affair; a tired, but game Benfield continued to take the play to Bishops, with efforts by Carr and McCarthy just drifting wide. Bishops were suddenly enthused by news spreading throughout the crowd of Jarrow Roofing’s heavy loss at Sunderland RCA that confirmed the safety of the Two Blues, leading to a sea change on the pitch. Former Benfield man Hoganson played a one two with Jury and bore down on Andrew Grainger, only to slip the ball wide of the far post. Sadly, it was a portent of what was to come; on 75 minutes Stuart Thompson rose and headed beautifully past Grainger, following an expert cross from the right. All seemed lost and only two incredible saves from Thompson in the space of 30 seconds kept the visitors alive. However, there was one final twist to the plot. Dylan McEvoy’s pinpoint cross was turned in by substitute Jack Devlin in the third minute of stoppage time, to seemingly break Bishops’ hearts.
If the game had gone to extra time, Benfield would have won. However, cup games now go straight to penalties and the grizzled Young, who had been a commanding and reassuring figure for Bishops all night, came to their rescue. He spread himself full length to block efforts by Carr and McEvoy, while Bishops converted all of theirs, to win 4-2. They now advance to play Dunston UTS, who produced a shock in the other semi-final to knock out Vase hopefuls Stockton Town, in the final at Consett on May 12th.For Benfield, there are still two games to play at Marske and Whitley Bay. Let’s hope for a positive end to a season that has delivered so much entertainment and fine football, as well as the bitter disappointment of two defeats on penalties in competitions we’d hoped to win. Make no mistake, this is a fine squad of talented players and Newcastle’s senior and most successful non-league side will surely come again next season. The Lions will always roar.
Man of the Match:
Match report Ian Cusack