On a day of incessant downpours, Newcastle Benfield enjoyed the warmest of welcomes at Knaresborough Town’s delightful Manse Lane ground and produced their most scintillating performance in some while, cruising to a 3-0 win that could, and perhaps should, have matched the incredible 1-10 scoreline between nearby Harrogate Railway and fellow Northern League D1 outfit, Whickham. Following Wednesday’s harsh 3-2 home loss to Consett, manager Stu Elliott rang the changes with 5 players coming into the starting eleven for this game. Bearing in mind how events panned out, it was an astute move with Paul Brayson and Ritchie Slaughter delivering the goals, Cyril Giraud absolutely bamboozling the Knaresborough defence all afternoon and Aiden Haley turning in a dominant performance in the centre of midfield that made him Man of the Match.
Roared on by a travelling support that comprised almost half of the 165 present for this game, Benfield began the game right on the front foot. After 5 minutes, the tireless Peter Glen-Ravenhill ran onto a through ball from Matty Parker, but a semi-slip on the sodden turf checked his momentum and by the time he had righted himself, home keeper Sam Lee had spread himself to save with his feet. Soon after, the eternally youthful Brayson tested Lee from a tight angle and the keeper did well to push it behind for the first of 4 successive corners, ended by a Ritchie Slaughter header over the top.
Knaresborough threatened for the first time on 18 minutes, when Andy Grainger comfortably dealt with a low shot by Andy Cooper. Back roared Benfield, with Glen-Ravenhill racing through a static defence and clipping the ball just wide of the post with Lee beaten. A minute later the same player really ought to have scored, scuffing a delicious low cross from Jake Turnbull that had been elegantly dummied by Brayson, into the keeper’s grateful arms. Benfield were almost made to pay when Brad Walker’s shot was palmed away by Grainger, only for it to fall for the opposition number 9 Luke Harrop, who slammed the ball against the inside of the post from 10 yards with the goal gaping.
On 28 minutes Brayson stooped to head an Aiden Haley cross just wide, which signalled a period of scrappy, ineffective play from both sides. Then, on 40 minutes, the breakthrough came; Giraud fed Glen-Ravenhill, who squared for an on-rushing Brayson to bury the chance with aplomb to give the visitors a lead they never looked like relinquishing.
The second period was played in driving rain so intense that it was impossible to take notes. For the first 15 minutes, Knaresbrough lifted their game and pushed the Lions back, but faultless handling by Grainger and typically steadfast work by Mark Turnbull and Brad Varga kept the Yorkshire hosts at bay. Soon tiredness became a factor and the Knaresborough defence struggled to contain a vibrant Benfield side. The game was effectively decided on 74 minutes when Brayson effortlessly curled a delicious bending shot into the far corner. The scoring was completed on 87 minutes when substitute Dennis Knight showed brilliant ball-juggling skills by the touchline, before sending an inviting cross over for Ritchie Slaughter to gleefully rifle home, equalling his goal tally for last season in the process. Soon, the whistle blew and the drenched Benfield heroes were loudly and enthusiastically cheered to the dressing room by raucous, delighted followers of Newcastle’s best non-league side.
Man of the Match:
Match Report Ian Cusack
Photos Paul Mcfeeley