WEST AUCKLAND 1
NEWCASTLE BENFIELD 0
Newcastle Benfield failed to warm up for their forthcoming FA Cup tie with the hosts, turning in a tepid performance in a turgid game. Indeed, the first half was so forgettable that the first incident of note didn’t occur until the 35th minute when Scott McCarthy, starting in a centre forward role as part of a much-changed team, drove into the penalty area before having his legs swept from under him. A spot kick was the inevitable decision and, with regular penalty taker Paul Brayson on the bench, the responsibility fell to Ritchie Slaughter. His effort sent home keeper Shane Bland the wrong way, but the powerful shot struck the top of the bar and went over. Despite Benfield spending the rest of the half in the ascendancy, there was collective awareness of the pivotal nature of this miss, as this game was only ever going to be decided by a single goal.
Within two minutes of the restart, West Auckland had taken the lead through Lewis Dodds, who collected a loose ball at the edge of the box and sent in a weak, mishit effort that bobbled against the inside of the post and dribbled apologetically over the line. It was an awful goal to settle an awful game. Indeed, other than a Nathan Fisher effort midway through the second half, which was expertly tipped round the post by the flying Grainger, West demonstrated little interest in being an attacking force, comfortably absorbing the minimal threat of a frustrated Benfield attack.
Despite three changes leading to redoubled Benfield efforts that saw Bland spread himself to deny Jordan Laidler’s free kick and then the follow up by Rhys Evans, little went the way of the visitors, as the home side showed superb organisation. Benfield were unable to get around or through the West defence until a delicate Jake Orrell cross was met at the back post by an on-rushing Mark Turnbull. The skipper’s full-blooded volley was superbly clawed away by Bland and with this, Benfield’s hopes of getting anything from the game were snuffed out.
Man of the Match: Mark Turnbull