Newcastle Benfield fielded an unchanged team after the Dunston UTS league game for the visit of Stockton Town in the extra preliminary round of the FA Cup.
To use cliché, this was certainly a game of two halves. From the kick off, Benfield swarmed all over last season’s FA Vase losing finalists, who struggled to contain the vibrant, expansive attacking play of a rampant home side. Sparkling football on the floor was the order of the day, though clear-cut chances were at a premium. The closest was after 20 minutes when Paul Brayson spun in the penalty area and fired a shot into keeper Arthur’s chest.
Five minutes later, Dylan McEvoy was upended in the area and a penalty was the only possible decision. Up stepped Brayson, but his low kick was blocked by Arthur. Thankfully the experienced marksman reacted quickest and rolled the loose ball home. On 36 minutes it could have been 2, when the centre backs combined; Craig Scott won a header and Joe Robson fired in a shot that Arthurs held. On 40 minutes it ought to have been 2, when Jake Orrell’s teasing cross brushed the post. The loose ball fell to Dean Holmes who thrashed it goalwards from 6 yards, only for it to hit a Stockton defender on the line and bounce to safety. Quite unbelievably, Stockton then broke and equalised with their first attempt on goal, when Nathan Mulligan hit a speculative drive from 40 yards that flew into the top corner. From the restart Stockton almost took the lead, when James Risborough’s sliced cross bounced off the top of the crossbar and out of play, leaving the score level at half time.
The second half was a more sedate affair, with Benfield seemingly running out of ideas after the sparkling opening period and lacking the spark to break down the indomitable Stockton rearguard. The visitors seemed happy enough to stifle play and take the game to a replay, though Benfield almost won it in injury time when Dale Pearson’s effort struck the post with keeper Arthurs unsighted. Sadly, it wasn’t to be and the sides meet again at Bishopton Road on Wednesday 15th August.
Man of the Match: Jake Orrell