After two dispiriting defeats against Whickham and then Stockton Town, Newcastle Benfield return to winning ways with a 2-1 victory over a strong, impressive Ryhope CW side in a close and absorbing contest at Sam Smith’s Park. The game got off to a scintillating start, with returning former Benfield striker Jack Devlin failing to find a clean connection when unmarked in the six-yard box, with the ball bobbling towards Mark Turnbull, who shepherded it back to the safe hands of Andrew Grainger. The Benfield keeper’s prodigious throw set James Martin away and the young player covered the ground at breakneck pace, bursting into the opposition area, but failing to set himself on his favoured left foot, resulting in an effort from his weaker right side being deflected back to visiting keeper Joe Atkinson.
This was only a temporary respite for Ryhope, as just on 10 minutes, Benfield skipper Turnbull went on a surging run, exchanging an astute one-two with Paul Brayson to find himself in on goal, with only Atkinson to beat. The ball ended up in the back of the net, but in somewhat bizarre circumstances after Turnbull lost his footing and appeared to manoeuvre it across the line with his upper thighs. No matter, The Lions had the lead. Almost immediately Ryhope ought to have been level, when the always dangerous James Ellis crossed for Devlin, only for the former Stoke hit man to completely miss his kick. Inspired by this, Ryhope took a grip on the game, with the impressive Ollie Hotchkiss imperious in central midfield. He set up Ellis on 32 minutes after intercepting a James Novak clearance. Ellis drove the ball towards the top corner, but Andrew Grainger made a superb save. Sadly, it was another temporary respite, as from the resulting corner Ellis forced the ball home from close range.
Benfield were not excessively discomfited and scored what would be the winner less than 2 minutes later. Dennis Knight’s corner sailed over Armstrong’s unavailing jump, allowing Brayson to nip in and head in, without a visiting defender in attendance. From that point until the break, Benfield launched wave after wave of attacks, but were unable to force the ball home. Both James Martin and Brayson were inches away from increasing the home team’s lead as Ryhope rode their luck, going in 2-1 down at half time.
The second period saw a change in the game’s dynamics, with Ryhope in the ascendancy and Benfield displaying impressive fortitude to hold out for the win. As early as 46 seconds into the half, the magnitude of the task became apparent, when Devlin knocked a loose ball home, only to be flagged offside. On 52 minutes, Devlin’s vicious snapshot was palmed upwards onto the bar and over for a corner by a hypervigilant Grainger.
As the game drew on, the increasingly capricious decisions of referee Shane Sugden baffled and bewildered both sides.
Ryhope were unlucky when substitute Robbie Bird turned on the edge of the box and sent a rising drive against the bar and upwards. As the game moved towards stoppage time, Ryhope again had the ball in the net, but it was disallowed for a clear foul on Andy Grainger and that was to be their final hurrah. With Dennis Knight being forced off with an ankle knock, this allowed Steve Bowey to return to the fold and enjoy his fourth Benfield debut. Without question his energy, drive, superb tackling and organisational skills were vital in ensuring the home team took all 3 points in an exhilarating fashion.
Man of the Match:
Match Report Ian Cusack
Photos website Steve Boyle
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