Whitley Bay 3
Newcastle Benfield 3
The second Tom Wade era at Newcastle Benfield got off to a cracking start, with a pulsating, end-to-end encounter with Whitley Bay at Hillheads. The two sides went at it hammer and tongs from first whistle until last, producing an elating spectacle that will surely not be bettered throughout the whole of 2018/2019 for sheer entertainment, though the respective managers, Messrs Gowans and Wade would probably prefer their sides to play a little more conservatively in future.
Last week had seen Benfield adopt a 3-5-2 formation that proved highly successful against Newton Aycliffe, but on a horses for courses basis, this week The Lions set up in a 4-2-3-1 formation that, in the final analysis, proved just as effective as the week before’s line up. However, the fact Benfield didn’t return home with all three points had more to do with outrageous misfortune in front of the opposition goal and some seriously preventable mishaps near our own net. On a warm, though incredibly blustery day, Bay debutant keeper Chris Bannon must have thought he was in for an easy afternoon when The Seahorses took a 2-0 lead on 27 minutes that lasted until half time, but how Benfield didn’t go in at the break ahead by a distance was a travesty.
After an even opening, when Alex Nisbet tested Bannon with a low effort and Mark Turnbull showed commendable presence of mind to throw himself in front of a Jack Foalle effort, Bay took the lead from the penalty spot. Peter Glen-Ravenhill got goal side of James Martin and the chasing Benfield fullback was unable to put in a clean challenge, bringing the Whitley forward down in the area. Gavin Caines strolled up and nonchalantly rolled the ball home with Andrew Grainger going the wrong way. Five minutes later Benfield ought to have been level, when Dennis Knight sent in a beautiful cross right on the forehead of David Robinson. Sadly, his effort looped over the bar and, within the blink of an eye, it was 2-0. Out of nowhere Luke Salmon let fly from 25 yards and the ball swerved and dipped like a rapidly deflating balloon, completely deceiving Andrew Grainger. In fact, you could say, Salmon did him like a kipper.
Thankfully, Grainger was on his mettle seconds later when Olly Martin drove in from the left and fired in a testing effort that Grainger brilliantly palmed over. From then, Benfield took control. On the half hour, Turnbull weaved into the area but saw his effort blocked. Almost immediately Brayson seized the ball, clipped it over his shoulder, turned and fired an effort that Bannon saved with his legs. David Robinson was twice denied in 30 seconds; firstly, he hit the underside of the bar with a strong effort. The ball fell to Knight who had an effort charged down. Brayson rescued the attack and played a glorious ball to Robinson whose stylish flick rolled inches wide with Bannon, mouth agape, a mere bystander. Right on the break, Brayson hit the bar and the ball ran free for Glen-Ravenhill to fashion a counter attack that was only ended with a goal saving challenge by Joe Robson, meaning the home side went in at the break with a 2-0 lead.
Seconds after the restart, Benfield had a goal back. Brayson’s astute through ball set Jake Orrell free in the box and he finished with aplomb. Benfield continued to exercise control of the game, dictating the pace it was played at and driving a panicking Bay backwards. It was therefore no surprise when the visitors drew level. Almost inevitably Brayson got the goal, picking up a loose ball at the edge of the box and thrashing it past Bannon at his near post. Rhys Evans then almost put Benfield ahead with a speculative effort from distance, which Bannon did well to tip over. The debutant went from hero to villain when he swept Knight’s feet away, with little danger evident. However, he redeemed himself, by pushing Brayson’s spot kick onto the bar, with Orrell knocking the rebound wide.
A minute later, Bay scored with their first attack of the second half. Substitute Kevin Carr collected a Grainger goal kick and tried a speculative effort, but the ball was blocked and fell to Foalle, who crashed it home. The young striker was the fulcrum of everything good the Seahorses produced and looks to be an awesome talent in the future. It took an instinctive save from Grainger to stop Foalle putting the game to bed on 86 minutes. Benfield would not lie down and accept defeat. Alex Nisbet’s scorching drive cleared the bar by inches and substitute Scott McCarthy seemed to have spurned the final chance when he put James Martin’s low cross over an unguarded net from 6 yards out. Thankfully, a point was still on offer. Pinball in the Whitley box saw Dean Holmes ignore his broken nose and bravely nod against the inside of the post, only for Turnbull to force the ball over the line for a thoroughly merited point.
Match Report Ian Cusack
Video footage Luke Vinton
(To be uploaded)
Apologies for the photos our normal photographer was unavailable.
Yesterday’s had his hands full and refused to share his food.