NEWCASTLE BENFIELD 3
A breathless FA Cup replay in front of almost 500 hardy souls, gathered at the elderly but charmingly atmospheric Borough Park on a gusty night in West Cumbria saw 8 goals scored and the home side advance to play Knaresborough in the Second Qualifying Round, but only after a game and resourceful Newcastle Benfield performance that tested Workington’s mettle to the absolute limit. The magnificent fightback in the second period that left the Reds rocking was ultimately all in vain, as the opening 10 minutes had given the Lions too exacting a task to complete.
An encouraging opening that saw Benfield show clear desire to keep the ball was rendered irrelevant when the returning Scott Allison punished fatal hesitation by Benfield stand-in keeper Matthew Bancroft, tapping home at the back post. If the concession of an early goal was not in the script for the visitors, then going 2-0 down in the 9th minute was a catastrophic blow. Carlisle United loanee Max Brown juggled a loose ball outside the box and, on the half turn, sent a speculative shot over his right shoulder that seemed to startle Bancroft, lobbing him almost on his line and in the centre of the goal. Benfield were stunned and a litany of misplaced passes and hurried clearances showed the parlous nature of the tie. The accompanying cacophonous braying of a skein of nearby geese could almost have been taken as an avian Greek chorus’s comments on the quality of Benfield’s defending. However, they grew into the game and twice Dennis Knight almost pulled a goal back. Firstly a through ball by James Martin saw Knight through on keeper Aaron Taylor, but his measured dink was only a foot or so over the crossbar as the Workington custodian advanced. Soon after, Taylor again thwarted Knight, tipping a deflected long range effort round the post.
When the final significant act of the first period was Taylor’s impressive stretch to grasp Dale Pearson’s impudent attempt at a lob, the chat during further wonderful hospitality by Workington at the break, was how the Lions could be level and were certainly still in the tie. Rash words it seemed, as an early cheaply conceded corner was bundled home by Sam Joel who, for the entirety of both games, had appeared to Workington’s weakest link. At 3-0 down, there seemed only dignity to play for, but how quickly games can change. Dale Pearson, who appears to be having a personal Goal of the Season contest, crashed in an unstoppable 30 yard rocket just after the hour. Emboldened by this, the Lions poured forward and won a corner. Knight’s delivery was superb and the on-rushing Joe Robson buried a header emphatically in the bottom corner. Dare we believe even more than we dream? The chance came after 77 minutes; Paul Brayson, on from the bench, intercepted a weak defensive header and bore down on Taylor. The keeper stood big and deflected the ball away. Two other half chances fell the way of Josh Scott, but one was deflected and the other, courtesy of a sumptuous Mackenzie Heaney ball, was smothered by the advancing Taylor.
After 35 minutes of impotence as an attacking threat, Workington broke Benfield hearts twice within a minute. Firstly, Rhys Evans was desperately unfortunate to deflect a low cross into his own net, to seemingly end things, before Bancroft allowed a tame effort from Sheldon Mossop to dribble over the line. However, there was one last hurrah. Having been denied by the fingertips of Taylor from a rising drive, Dennis Knight opened his Benfield account with a thumping volley from the subsequent corner. The final whistle sounded almost immediately and Benfield bowed out of the FA Cup; dignity intact but still with a nagging sense of what if? Workington advance with all of our best wishes after wonderful hospitality by a wonderful club.