An impotent second half display saw Newcastle Benfield tumble to their third successive league defeat, when Stockton Town’s muscular approach saw them claim a comprehensive victory that leaves The Lions wondering just how to deal with opposition schooled in physical, combative football.
The first half was the complete opposite. From the very first whistle Benfield seemed keen to build on last week’s excellent win over West Auckland, by playing exquisite one touch football on the ground. The contest developed into an intriguing contrast between the more direct style adopted by the visitors and the home team’s assured passing game. In the first minute a sumptuous through ball by Dylan McEvoy sent Scott McCarthy away, but he hesitated fatally, allowing keeper Michael Arthurs to block the eventual shot. However, a few minutes later, Stockton captain and eventual two-goal hero Adam Nicholson showed what danger lay in store, when he stabbed the ball against the back post from a corner.
Dylan McEvoy, whose afternoon was to be curtailed with an ankle injury following a crude, studs first challenge in the second period, was enjoying his return to a creative midfield role and almost put the Lions ahead with a vicious effort from distance that flew just wide on 20 minutes. Two minutes later McCarthy stood up an inviting cross from the right that Paul Brayson nodded just past the post. McEvoy sent Brayson through on goal, but the advancing Arthurs spread himself and deflected the ball away for a corner. Two in the final moments of the half Arthurs denied McCarthy with quality saves from testing shots in dangerous positions, but the whistle came with the score 0-0.
The defining incidents of the game came very early in the second period. Firstly, a quality delivery by Joe Robson just evaded the head of the unmarked Brayson. From the goal kick, Stockton swept forward, and Andy Grainger did well to block an effort by Michael Roberts at his near post. Sadly, it was a save in vain as the resultant corner was powered home by the unmarked Nicholson to give Stockton a lead they did not deserve, but one they protected superbly and eventually extended. Twice Benfield were denied a penalty, as firstly a trip on McCarthy on 58 minutes went unpunished and then on 70 minutes, substitute Jack Devlin was felled as he was about to fire home the rebound after Brayson’s diving header had hit the base of the post. Unfortunately, Brayson had been in an offside position initially and so the award of a spot kick was rescinded.
To add insult to injury, Stockton went forward and won a free kick on the right touchline. A quality ball in was headed gloriously into the net by Nicholson, to put the game to bed. It was an intensely frustrating afternoon for Benfield and it could have been worse as Sonni Coleman tapped in a loose ball but was thankfully signalled offside. No further incidents occurred as The Anchors effectively closed out what became a comfortable away win.
Man of the Match: Rhys Evans
Match report Ian Cusack
Photos Paul Mcfeeley
Website Steve Boyle