Buoyed up by Saturday’s excellent victory at Knaresborough Town in the FA Cup, Newcastle Benfield claimed their first Northern League win of the season with a mainly superb performance away to West Auckland Town. Somewhat perversely, though perhaps predictable enough in the eyes of seasoned Benfield watchers, The Lions weakest part of the game was in the final 15 minutes when, with a handy 3-1 lead to fall back on and the home side reduced to 10 after the dismissal of substitute David Dowson for foul and abusive language, all of the previous good work was almost undone by a combination of panic, fatigue and poor decision making. Thankfully, West only managed a consolation when Amar Purewal bundled home his second after an extended bout of pinball in the six yard box after a left-wing corner.
Benfield’s plans were thrown into disarray in the warm up when Jake Turnbull pulled up with a leg injury and had to be replaced by Guilherme Balthazar. It did not put the Lions off their game as Cyril Giraud, who was to play a dominant role throughout the contest, set Paul Brayson free in the third minute, only for keeper Tom Flynn to make a smart block. Flynn was helpless after 7 minutes when the visitors went ahead; Balthazar’s astute Crossfield pass fell perfectly for Matty Parker, allowing the young striker to curl a delicious low, curling shot into the bottom corner. A superb, eye-catching goal and a worthy reward for Benfield’s positive start. The tempo was not sustained and Benfield were content to hold West at arm’s length for most of the half, with the other major talking point being right at the end of the half, which saw Peter Glen-Ravenhill racing through on goal with defenders trailing in his wake, only for the all-action forward to lose all composure and blaze the ball miles over the bar.
The second period saw 30 minutes of total dominance by Benfield, with Giraud at the heart of everything that was good about the visitors’ play. Having already broken through the West defence, only to see his pass to Glen-Ravenhill desperately hacked away, Cyril made a more tangible impression by accepting a pass after some excellent work on the right by Glen-Ravenhill, then slotting the ball home via a slight deflection that baffled Flynn. In the seconds after, Glen-Ravenhill sidefooted an effort wide and Brayson stung Flynn’s palms following Giraud passes, before substitute Purewal, looking suspiciously offside, ran onto a loose ball and toe-punted it past the advancing Grainger. There was no need to panic; Giraud skated through the West rearguard and effortlessly curled one into the top corner to restore a two-goal lead.
The result seemed beyond question when Dowson saw red moments later. However, there was the late West rally to endure; Purewal was first denied by a brilliant Grainger save from a downward header, then dispossessed by Novak when ready to pull the trigger, before his second goal. Thankfully, for Benfield fans, time was soon up and a good night on the road had been properly rewarded.
Match Report Ian Cusack
Website/Footage Steve Boyle
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