A pair of exquisite finishes, one in each half, from the ever-reliable Paul Brayson helped in-form Newcastle Benfield to a thoroughly deserved second successive away win on consecutive Saturdays, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Newton Aycliffe that completed a quickfire double for The Lions after a 3-0 win over the same opposition at Sam Smith’s Park early last month. However, unlike the first contest between the two, this was a competitive contest where the hosts showed commendable spirit to fight back in the second half, even equalising after a smart turn and finish in the box by Vincent Gash.
Benfield made one change from the starting eleven on duty in the 3-2 win at Ryhope CW the week before, with Dan Nimmins taking his place between the posts as Andrew Grainger was unavailable. Initially his was a spectating role for, as has been the case so often of late, Benfield came flying out of the blocks from the off. A beautifully choreographed corner routine on 3 minutes saw Ritchie Slaughter connect with Dennis Knight’s driven flag kick, diverting the ball a matter of inches wide. The impressive Dean Holmes drove down the right after 6 minutes and fed Knight, who sent a powerful drive just over the angle after 6 minutes. Less than 60 seconds later, Aycliffe keeper Winter distinguished himself with an impressive tip-over from a Dale Pearson thunderbolt. The resulting corner again saw the Aycliffe stopper called into action, as he was required to go full length to palm away an astute James Martin effort.
Play finally switched to the other end on 13 minutes when Nimmins spread himself well to gather a low Gash effort. Soon after a controversial incident saw the difficulties faced by officials. Benfield captain Mark Turnbull slid in to clear a loose ball out for a throw near the touchline. Aycliffe’s left back Tom Gavin had pulled out of the challenge but was hit by the sliding Turnbull. The home fans screamed for a red card for violent conduct, while the away supporters claimed a fair tackle. The man in the middle gave a yellow for not being fully in control of the tackle and Gavin was stretchered off though, apparently, he suffered bruising and no break.
When the football resumed, Winter made an amazing block with his feet after Knight thumped a low Pearson cross goalward from 6 yards out. Pearson was the next to be denied by the feet of Winter, when a venomous shot on the turn rebounded off the Aycliffe keeper’s shins. The deadlock was finally broken on 38 minutes, when Paul Brayson picked up a loose ball at the angle of the box and floated a delicious effort into the far corner with Winter grasping air. A single goal lead at the break was not a true reflection of the visitors’ dominance, but it gave Benfield something to fall back on.
The second half saw a far more determined showing from Aycliffe, as they forced several early corners that did not cause undue worry for Nimmins. Indeed, Brayson was a whisker away from doubling the lead, when he smashed an effort against the base of the post and wide, with a sprawling Winter nowhere near. However, missed chances almost came back to haunt The Lions, when Gash firstly put the home side level then, straight from the restart, called Nimmins into action. The Benfield keeper’s strong wrist deflected the ball onto the post and impetuosity by the attacking side saw a needless free kick conceded when Jake Orrell was cleaned out as he attempted to clear.
This was the last moment of danger for Aycliffe as Benfield took all 3 points when Pearson’s astute chest pass from Joe Robson’s probing delivery, allowed Brayson to collect the ball, sidestep the entire Aycliffe defence and roll the ball into an empty net from about a yard out. A goal of sublime savagery and a fitting way to collect all 3 points for an impressive Benfield outfit who remain unbeaten under Tom Wade.