Newcastle Benfield ended their season on a high with a 3-1 victory over Whitley Bay.
Paul Brayson opened the scoring for The Lions after two minutes before Callum Johnston equalised (20) with a low drive past Andrew Grainger.
Benfield took the lead once again with a header from Jake Orrell (77) before the winger grabbed his brace (88) with a drilled shot from the edge of the penalty area.
Whitley Bay 1
Newcastle Benfield 3
Newcastle Benfield brought the curtain down on a satisfactory and satisfying season where, despite concentrating on the cups for much of the campaign, this victory assured the Lions would be the top Tyneside team in the final league table. It is to the enormous credit of Mark Convery, the support staff and his squad of players that sixth place in the table has been achieved after an exhausting schedule of 15 games in 28 days at the back end of the season.
Having been absent from the Marske United game for family commitments, 40-year-old Paul Brayson showed admirable appetite and fitness, latching onto an Andrew Grainger kick, flicked on by Alex Nisbet, before storming into the area and unleashing a venomous strike into the far corner, past a despairing Tom Flynn. If Benfield had assumed that a Bay side who had only won 1 of their previous 14 games would be lambs to the slaughter, they were mistaken. The young Seahorses side showed commendable fight on the long grass of Hillheads, none more than the speedy and elusive Kieran Brannen who was the home side’s best performer. It was his cross that Andrew Grainger came to collect, but suffered a severe buffeting, though the referee chose to ignore this and allowed Callum Johnston to fire home the loose ball for an unexpected equaliser. Both Brayson and Ritchie Slaughter came agonisingly close to restoring Benfield’s lead before the break. Jake Orrell’s cross was turned goalwards by Brayson, only for a last-ditch clearance off the line and keeper Flynn went full length to tip over a Slaughter thunderbolt from outside the box. Also, before the whistle Dylan McEvoy, on for the injured Nisbet, flashed a shot inches too high and Luke Carr slid a controlled effort a shade wide, meaning the teams went in level.
After the break, Whitley Bay came more into the game and Grainger, whose performance on this ground in the FA Cup tie back in September was up among his top 10 displays in his 15 years at Sam Smith’s, was forced into 2 superb stops, to keep the game level. Just as it appeared the game would fizzle out into a draw, Jake Orrell grabbed two late goals. His first was a deft header from a Luke Carr corner after 79 minutes and, just into stoppage time, he collected a loose ball in the box and drove it into the roof of the net, ensuring Benfield finished above North Shields in 6th place.
Man of the Match: Andrew Grainger