Newcastle Benfield extended their unbeaten run to 11 and their winning sequence to 7 games with a routine 2-0 win over a strangely subdued and ineffectual West Auckland Town who, for all their big names and even bigger reputations, found themselves unable to get out of first gear all game. Boss Tom Wade made a couple of changes to the team; with Dean Holmes unavailable, Scott McCarthy was restored to the first XI, while Reece Noble came in for his debut at the expense of Dennis Knight, who’d left the field the week previous towards the end of the tumultuous 5-4 win over Runcorn Town in the FA Vase with a case of concussion. A soaking week had been counteracted by a howling gale on Saturday morning, which died off in time for kick off, leaving the pitch looking immaculate as usual.
In the second minute, Paul Brayson had an effort blocked, with the loose ball travelling to Ritchie Slaughter in a similar position from where he scored the outrageous winner seven days earlier. There was to be no repeat sadly, as the midfielder launched his shot high and wide. Soon though, Benfield took the lead. Good play by Scott McCarthy on the right led to him backheeling the ball into the path of Rhys Evans, whose pinpoint cross was deftly finished at the near post by Jake Orrell. Instead of the visitors responding, Benfield almost made it 2-0 on 18 minutes when James Martin scampered down the left, put in a great cross and Paul Brayson hit his attempt at a defender. West Auckland produced their first effort on goal after 26 minutes; Arjan Purewal made ground on the right and his centre was half cleared to Mitchell, who stung the palms of Andy Grainger; the Benfield keeper claimed the ball after parrying the initial effort. Dale Pearson almost scored an outrageous bicycle kick, but his stylish effort from a Ritchie Slaughter header into the box landed on the roof of the net. Finally, in first half stoppage time, another audacious McCarthy backheel set Brayson free, but his left foot shot was straight at keeper Shane Bland.
The initial stages of the second period hinted at a West Auckland revival, but their possession and determined tackling produced little tangible reward. Indeed, on 54 minutes, it was inches from being 2-0, after Mark Turnbull’s bullet header from a Brayson corner was kicked off the line. Moments later, Orrell set up Pearson for a flashing drive that Bland pushed away at full stretch. Sadly, Bland’s next contribution was less praiseworthy. He mishit a goal kick straight to Brayson about 30 yards from goal. The veteran marksman gathered the ball, drew Bland out of position and comfortably stroked the ball home, to double the home side’s advantage. It was almost 3-0 when Brayson’s venomous effort from a tight angle was fisted clear by Bland. West Auckland almost claimed a late consolation, but Andy Grainger displayed lightning reactions to block substitute Wearmouth’s point blank header and thus preserve a clean sheet.