Surveying the panoramic vista of the Eden Fella that lie across the River Eamont from Penrith’s scenic Frenchfield ground as the teams lined up in glorious sunshine, I mused that I’d not seen us win in Cumbria since that momentous evening in May 2009 when Andrew Young’s 86th minute winner brought the curtain down on the Bonny Blues’ former home at Southend Road and the Northern League title to Sam Smith’s Park. While my mind strayed back a decade, Penrith were more concerned with present day events and, straight from kick off, Martyn Coleman does what he always has against us; scored despite Andy Grainger’s best efforts. All hope of a clean sheet gone within 7 seconds. At that point, following the near 2 hour journey, made only after a precautionary pitch inspection, as one of only 4 Benfield fans there to support the lads, I questioned my sanity. However, after 4 seasons in one game, whereby we moved from brilliant sunshine, to ominous gloom, to bucketing rain and machine-gun hailstones and back to blinding sun within the course of 90 minutes, The Lions had produced a quadruple salvo that saw the final score replicate the result at Sam Smith’s back in November, resulting in a happy band of returning Lions wending our way up the M6 and across the A69.
Almost immediately after conceding, Benfield won a corner and Jake Orrell’s delivery was almost forced home by skipper Mark Turnbull, whose audacious bicycle kick drifted wide. After 12 minutes, Paul Brayson’s low cross from the right was exquisitely dummied by Man of the Match Dean Holmes, allowing Dale Pearson a good opportunity that he fired over the top. Holmes himself almost got The Lions level, when he worked some room in the box and stung keeper Johnny Jamieson’s palms with a good attempt. As the pitch that had looked immaculate at kick off become heavier and rutted with play, Benfield got themselves back on terms. Rhys Evans played a superb diagonal ball that was missed by Penrith centre back Kyle May, allowing Brayson to collect the loose ball and finish confidently from a tight angle. Brayson then almost turned provider, setting up Pearson, whose low effort was parried away by Jamieson. The visitors went ahead when a delightful move involving Brayson and Pearson set Holmes free and he beat Jamieson with a composed and classy finish. The half ended in torrential rain, with Matty Clarke firing well over when handily placed in the box for the home side.
Penrith were determined to get something from the game and on 52 minutes, Connor Shields hammered a loose ball against the post from the edge of the box. In a howling gale, accompanied by attendant sleet flurries, both sides battled the elements as well as each other, until a decisive shift in the balance of power was signalled by the unlucky Tyler Bowman sliding a dangerous James Novak cross into his own net at the midpoint of the second period. The sun came out and on came Scott McCarthy and the returning Dennis Knight. Dennis immediately sent Shock away, only for the speedy striker to collide with the diving Jamieson, who sustained an ankle injury and had to be substituted. This allowed home legend Willy Paul to enter the fray, on the day an extension to the Penrith clubhouse was opened in his name. There was to be no fairytale ending on the pitch for him. Indeed Andy Grainger denied master marksman Coleman twice, the second time with a brilliant one handed tip over, before Dennis Knight announced his return with a thumping left foot volley that made the final score harsh on the game, gallant and always welcoming Cumbrian hosts.
Man of the Match:
Match Report Ian Cusack
Action photos thanks to
Ben France from Penrith
Website – Goal Coverage-still photos – Steve Boyle