Newcastle Benfield’s winless run in 2019 now stretches to 6 games over 6 weeks after North Shields followed up their success on penalties at Sam Smith’s Park in the Northumberland Senior Cup quarter final the previous Wednesday, that caused the surprise, untimely departure of Tom Wade from the manager’s chair after only 4 months, with a 4-2 success in the opening league encounter between the two sides.
Despite a strong wind from the west that blew straight down the pitch, this was a good contest, played in a very sporting manner in front of an orderly, appreciative crowd of 257.
Credit must be given where credit is due; this was the best footballing North Shields team I can recall seeing since they joined the Northern League back in 2003; it has taken him a year, but boss Marc Nash and his assistant, one time Benfield boss Tony Woodhouse, have assembled a fine, passing side that showed a lethal instinct in front of goal.
Particular credit must go to young Cameron Cunningham, partnered up top by Gary Day, whose performance as a lead striker was a revelation to those who remember him as a willing but limited target man for The Lions. Also, rolling back the years and helping his team out in a time of keeping crisis, Michael Robinson put in a stupendous shift and was clearly Man of the Match for The Robins.
After a cagey opening, Shields took the initiative and Gary Day put the visitors ahead, by guiding a precise, low shot into the corner after excellent work by Cunningham. Despite playing into the howling gale, Benfield were more than a match for the Robins, with Robinson displaying excellent reactions to block shots by Scott McCarthy and, twice in succession, from Acting Player Manager Paul Brayson.
The latter led to an amazing scramble in the area, which ended with Jake Orrell denied at the back post by a desperate clearance off the line. Just when it seemed Benfield were about to score imminently, Shields inflicted a hammer blow, when Ryan Carr raced on to a through ball and slipped it home past an onrushing Andy Grainger. It could have been curtains for the home side, but Scott McCarthy threw the hosts a lifeline, turning and firing home via the post after Robinson’s mistimed punch fell at his feet, right on the half time whistle.
The second half was an absorbing contest, with the wind abating a crucial factor in the vastly improved spectacle on display. Despite the home side pushing forward for an equaliser from the off, it was Shields who extended their lead. Firstly, an unmarked Cunningham accepted a through ball in the inside left position and finished unerringly under Grainger, before Carr grabbed his second.
The Benfield midfield was notable by their absence as the Shields striker ambled forward and fired a fine effort into the bottom corner. At 4-1 down with 25 minutes left, Benfield introduced towering centre back Jake Thompson, who immediately nullified the threat of Gary Day and effectively shut off any threat from the visitors, who withdrew as Benfield set about salvaging some pride. That they did, when Brayson turned smartly in the area and finished intelligently past a flatfooted Robinson. Indeed, the home side could have salvaged a point, as efforts by Jake Orrell, substitute Dean Holmes and Scott McCarthy all came within a fraction of being a goal. Just as the game was about to go into stoppage time, we had the farcical situation of the referee going down with cramp and a 6 minute delay before he hobbled off and the senior assistant took charge for a brief instant as the game ended without further talking points.
Match Report Ian Cusack
Photos Paul Mcfeeley
Website Steve Boyle