Following the exciting, though draining and ultimately disappointing FA Cup exit away to Workington on Tuesday night, Newcastle Benfield returned to Northern League action with visit of Sunderland RCA. The Wearside outfit had been Benfield’s opponents on the opening day of the season, when a Paul Brayson goal gave the visitors victory at a sun-drenched Meadow Park. A star performer that day had been Andrew Grainger and it was a bonus to see him back between the sticks, though this was balanced by the unavailability of the holidaying Scott McCarthy and the weekending Dale Pearson. While he has been Benfield’s star performer so far this season, his presence in Barcelona was purely for recreational purposes as he’s not quite ready for Camp Nou just yet.
As early as the 4th minute Grainger proved his worth, by saving with his legs from Mark Davison, though this was a rare incursion up field by the visitors in an opening 10 minutes entirely dominated by Benfield. On 6 minutes, David Robinson’s excellent Crossfield ball set Dennis Knight away and the striker’s powerfully struck low drive was beaten away by Scott Pocklington. Moments later the ball was recycled to Robinson whose testing effort was parried by Pocklington.
The opening goal came after 10 minutes when Davison took aim and attempted to curl one in at the far post. However, it was sailing harmlessly wide when it struck Mark Turnbull who, fresh from being credited with Tuesday’s final goal, could do nothing about the ball ending up in his own net. It was a fluke, but the instantaneous equaliser was not. Josh Scott, stirring memories of his picture book finish in the last home league game against Whitley Bay, executed a perfect low drive into the corner of the net. RCA threatened again when Dominic Moan broke the offside trap but sliced an attempted lob hopelessly wide. Moments later, he was presented with a clear run at goal when Matty Grieve pulled up in agony. Thankfully, Mark Turnbull came in with a superb clearing tackle and Grieve was able to continue after extensive treatment. The lengthy stoppage drew all the passion and spark from the game, which was played at walking pace without incident until the break.
If home supporters had entertained the hope that the second half would bring a better performance, they were to be quickly disabused of such fanciful notions, as Benfield produced 45 minutes as poor as the dreadful loss to Stockton Town a fortnight previous. From the moment a limping Dennis Knight was withdrawn, Benfield offered absolutely nothing going forward. RCA offered little themselves, though they did have Dominic Moan, whose two interventions were crucial in winning the game. Firstly, he appeared at the back post to tap in Davison’s deflected effort on 56 minutes. Worse was to follow 10 minutes later; a leisurely break by RCA became a crisis as the Benfield defence stood off Moan, allowing him to stroke a low drive home without the sniff of a challenge. The home side made one final chance; Jordan Laidler’s free kick was nodded a fraction over angle of bar and post by an unmarked Turnbull, meaning there wasn’t even a consolation to take the edge off the pain of another defeat.
Match coverage (to be uploaded)