With Benfield beginning their FA Vase campaign this Saturday, a second round home tie against 1874 Northwich, Wade was happy with McCarthy’s run of form in front of goal before the club’s important fixture.
He added: “He (McCarthy) has scored five goals in his last three games and grabbed two assists at Whickham last week.
“He just needs to get his head down and kick on. He’s a top player who could have scored a lot more but we have to be patient with him as he is looking for his fitness.”
The first competitive encounter between the two sides saw Benfield progress to the third round of the Brooks Miles Cup with a minimum of fuss. Manager Tom Wade rotated his squad, resting some and giving others the chance to state their case for a regular starting both. The boss will be pleasantly pleased by the selection headache caused by another fine pair of goals by Scotty McCarthy, a strongshowing by Dean Holmes and Mackenzie Heaney’s artistry and array of passing skills in a central midfield role. Even Ritchie Slaughter enjoyed himself in an unfamiliar libero role, taking the opportunity to stylishly play the ball from the back, with the outside of his foot more often than not.
Birtley Town, on their first season back in the Northern League, gave an excellent account of themselves, combining youth with experience, spirit with flair. On this showing, they ought to find themselves at home at this level of football quite comfortably and, hopefully, such a well-run club can push to go higher in future seasons. That said, they offered little tangible threat to the home goal, where Andrew Grainger was not required to make a serious save all night.
Benfield’s fluent and fluid team selection saw players swapping places as a regular occurrence. Dennis Knight was as likely to pop up at right back as Rhys Evans was to be found in an inside forward position. Perhaps this is why the home side concentrated more on possession than chances for the opening half an hour. This changed well Dale Pearson’s ferocious effort drew a sprawling save from visiting keeper Mills. Josh Scott was proving to be the usual marauding powerhouse, taking the game to Birtley and he set up McCarthy for the opening goal, when the enigmatic front man turned sharply in the area and stroked an elegant finish into the bottom corner. It could have been 2-0 seconds later, but Mills distinguished himself, scrambling the ball off the line.
As the temperature dropped after the break, Benfield managed the game perfectly, enjoying 80% possession and restricting Birtley to a supporting role. Eventually, Scott McCarthy finished off a glorious 14-pass move by tapping in at the back post after 70 minutes. There could have been more goals, especially when late substitute Paul Brayson set up Heaney, whose controlled side foot effort brushed the bar, but went over. It was the last act of another impressive cameo by the former NUFC academy player.
Man of the Match: Mackenzie Heaney