Due to floodlight issues, it was an earlier 2pm kick off at Billingham Town on Saturday but come full time, it was very much Knight time as the Lions bounced back from their midweek heartache against Newcastle United under 23’s.
With the energy sapping evening on Wednesday and Hebburn Town in the league cup on Tuesday, Stuart Elliott and his management team made changes for the trip. Mark Turnbull returned from his midweek illness and there was a first start for young Konstantinos Ntampizas amongst the changes made.
It was Billingham Town who had the first half chance but Daniel Flounders header looped over the bar. Benfield had their first real opening after 6 minutes after good play from Aiden Haley and Cyril Giraud set up Paul Brayson but the ball just ran ahead of the frontman and the chance went.
Brayson was involved again a few minutes later when an interchange with Guilherme Baltazar set up Haley but the midfielder dragged his shot wide. Moments later, Town had by far the best chance of the game at that stage but somehow Elliott Beddows effort went over the bar from a central position on the edge of the 6 yard box.
The first yellow card arrived after 16 minutes after a cynical foul by James Frazer took out Aiden Haley. Thankfully, there was to be no lasting damage but unfortunately after hitting the wall from the free kick, Paul Brayson fired the follow up opportunity over the bar.
After 20 minutes Jack Connor slipped at the wrong moment to give possession to Giraud but after feeding Brayson, the effort went over. Benfield were creating some good openings but Billingham Town were still offering their own threats as Lee Moore went close.
The chances became less frequent after the 30 minute mark as a lot of the game was being played in central areas. However, it was the men from Bedford Terrace who were looking a little more likely to score the first goal as we approached the last 10 minutes of the half, however, a number of corners did not ultimately trouble Andrew Grainger in the Lions net.
With a couple of minutes to go before the interval excellent play between Daniel O’Reilly and Paul Brayson created an opportunity for a Giraud header but the effort just drifted wide. Before the half time whistle, there was still time for Luke Hogan to go into the referees notepad after a poor challenge on Giraud.
Five minutes into the second half, Reece Kenney was the next town player to see yellow after a foul on Paul Brayson. The resulting free kick from Giraud was saved by Young in the home goal.
Billingham Town were to take the lead from the penalty spot in the 56th minute. The opportunity actually began with goalkeeper Young racing out of his area to punt a clearance down field. Within a couple of touches the ball fell to Ashley Lavan who was brought down by Brad Varga on what appeared to be his blind side. Elliott Beddow calmly dispatched the spot kick.
The game was to change a couple of minutes later with the introduction of Dennis Knight who was making a welcome return from injury for the Lions. Six minutes later, all substitutes had been made by the management team after the introductions of Matty Parker and Peter Glen-Ravenhill.
Although Benfield were playing more on the front foot, the Billingham back line were looking relatively comfortable. However, all was to change in the 74th minute and like so often in the past, it was Knight who was the catalyst. After controlling the ball on his chest in the area, the striker swivelled and volleyed a stunning effort into the net.
A few moments later after a foul on Giraud, Knight crashed the free kick off the post but unfortunately the rebound did not fall kindly for the visitors. It was definitely Benfield who were sensing 3 points could be within reach as Joe Robson was next to go close with a glancing header.
In the 85th minute Town were reduced to 10 men as Robinson was sin binned but given the time on the clock, this was ultimately a red card in terms of his eligibility for the rest of proceedings. After receiving treatment following a tussle with Haley, it was clear Robinson had spoken out of turn whilst being attended to by the home physio.
Dan O’Reilly shot from distance with 3 minutes to go but the shot was saved low down comfortably by Young.
In stoppage time there was drama which would see Benfield secure a dramatic victory. It looked like Daniel O’Reilly had been fouled in the box but the referee actually gave the penalty for the next passage of play when Brayson was tripped. In the melee that followed, O’Reilly received lengthy treatment, Brayson was booked and Summers was red carded for Town.
As has happened on more than one occasion, Dennis Knight switched off from the dramatics around him and brilliantly fired Benfield into the lead.
With Robinson unable to return from the sin bin, it was 9 against 11 for the last few seconds and thankfully, Benfield were able to see out proceedings to collect 3 valuable points.
Next up for the lads is a trip to Hebburn Town on Tuesday evening in the league cup.