Newcastle Benfield v Thornaby
Ebac Northern League First Division
Saturday 26th October 2019
On a day when a number of Northern League games were postponed after heavy rain in the preceding 24 hours, the excellent Sam Smith’s pitch was deemed perfectly playable as Thornaby arrived in Walkergate for the second time in little over a month after going down 3-1 in a league cup fixture at the back end of September.
After last weeks disappointing reverse at North Shields, Stuart Elliott and the Lions were hoping for a similar outcome to that league cup meeting but with Dennis Knight unavailable the management team were forced to shuffle their pack and handed a debut to Daniel O’Reilly who recently signed from Ashington.
Thornaby arrived with some significant height in their starting eleven, including the experienced and much travelled Ian Ward.
On a much more settled afternoon than last week, Benfield found themselves unusually attacking the clubhouse end in the first half. Early exchanges were contested in central areas with no real opportunities for either side as Andrew Grainger and James Dawson were reduced to mainly spectator roles in their respective goalmouths.
O’Reilly was looking sharp as he aimed to impress his new club on his debut and after 25 minutes he tested Dawson in the Thornaby goal but the visiting custodian was equal to the effort.
Thornaby were probably shading the half chances which were being created at this stage and indeed Mark Turnbull made an excellent last ditch clearance as Thornaby threatened to take the lead.
Paul Brayson had an opportunity to put the lions into the lead after 32 minutes but his delicate dink was clawed out of the air by Dawson. The Benfield front man was looking like the best outlet for a home goal and linked up well with Parker shortly afterwards but the resulting corner came to nothing. Brayson also had an opportunity a few minutes before half time but his chance flashed wide and the sides went into the interval all square.
Benfield started brightly in the second half as the impressive Haley patrolled the midfield area with Ben Richardson and it was Haley who played a fine ball through to O’Reilly but unfortunately the effort was comfortable for Dawson.
The contest turned rather scrappy in the middle part of the second half which was fully understandable given how energy sapping the heavy pitch must of been for both teams.
Cyril Giraud was starting to influence the contest when he was chopped down on the edge of the area but the free kick from Brayson was to be blocked by the Thornaby wall.
Benfield continued to press for the crucial breakthrough and after an excellent interchange between Novak and Brayson, the lions defender forced Dawson into a save low down.
In the 78th minute, debutant O’Reilly was given a breather and replaced by Kurtis Russell as both sides pressed for what was surely going to be the decisive goal in this contest. Ben Richardson produced a tremendous block as Thornaby sensed all 3 points were heading back down the A19. Aiden Haley then went on a marvellous run before shooting narrowly wide.
Finally in the 88th minute, Benfield broke the deadlock as a fine cross from Russell was glanced home by Cyril Giraud to delight the Benfield supporters in a gate of 194. Having waited so long for the breakthrough, Benfield were in no mood for further late drama and were able to see out the remaining time without being unduly threatened. The goal was probably cruel on Thornaby but after leaving North Shields with nothing last week after similar late drama, it is difficult to feel too sorry for our visitors. In fairness to Thornaby though, based on today, it can only be a matter of time before they pull themselves clear of the relegation zone.
Although over the 90 minutes chances were at a slight premium, there were still fine performances throughout the team with Haley, Kanda and the overall defensive unit having a solid afternoon.
It’s the crucial FA Vase second round clash with Guisborough Town next weekend and after the three points today, the lads should be full of confidence as they start out on the Wembley trail.
Match report Kevin Larkham
Photos website Steve Boyle
Photos Nathan Pearson