Newcastle Benfield 2 Hebburn Town 2. Ebac Northern League Division 1

After a thoroughly depressing set of results throughout January, Newcastle Benfield restored some pride with an encouraging display in a thoroughly entertaining encounter which they were a shade unfortunate not to win against a Hebburn Town side who, arguably, had one eye on their FA Vase last 16 tie against West Auckland Town the week after.

Match Highlights

Loan signing Thomas Bexton who had made a good impression in his debut at Bishop Auckland was forced to miss out through injury, the same as Mark Turnbull and Richard Slaughter, along with long term absentees Dylan McEvoy, Lewis Scorgie and Joe Robson. Alex Nisbet filled in at centre half alongside James Novak, though he was forced off at the break with a knock, which allowed the imposing figure of Jake Thompson, recently arrived from Queen of the South, to make his Benfield debut.

The South Tyneside outfit, on their first visit to Sam Smith’s since promotion, started off on the front foot. The Hornets had the ball in the net after 7 minutes, when Luke Sullivan, who was to be a thorn in the home side’s flesh all afternoon, tapped in at the back post, only to be denied by the assistant’s flag.

A decent crowd of 175 were in attendance and they almost saw a Benfield goal after 18 minutes, when Paul Brayson’s astute lay-off was fired a touch too high by Dale Pearson. Spurred on by this, The Lions exerted a degree of pressure with a series of testing corners, taken by stand-in captain Dennis Knight. Unfortunately, all the good work went to waste when James Martin was harshly, if correctly, adjudged to have impeded Luke Sullivan in the area. The striker took the kick himself and sent Andy Grainger the wrong way to grab a lead the visitors held until the break, perhaps a shade luckily. Benfield were gaining great traction by the judicious use of diagonal balls and one such pass put Jake Orrell in, only for keeper Jennison to deflect the ball wide. Late in the half both Novak and Rhys Evans saw powerful drives blocked by a resolute Hebburn defence, intent on maintaining their lead.

Benfield’s star performer was undoubtedly Dennis Knight, who revelled in both the captaincy and his midfield playmaker role. It was fitting he scored the equaliser on 56 minutes, when his vicious drive from distance, after Paul Brayson’s astute lay off had set things up on a plate, proved too hot for former Team North custodian Andrew Jennison, who allowed the ball to squirm right through him. It was nothing less than the home team deserved. Twice in the space of 5 minutes, Paul Brayson almost put Benfield ahead. Firstly, a free kick after Dale Pearson was trip on the edge of the box, ended up on the roof of the net. Then a Jake Orrell cross ended up a fraction wide.

As the incessant rain grew torrential, the home side went ahead. Jennison fumbled another Knight thunderbolt and Orrell reacted quickest to put the rebound in. Undoubtedly, Hebburn were second best and potentially hoping for the final whistle and a chance to regroup in time for their big Vase game and twice Paul Brayson broke through and fired agonisingly wide. 

Benfield were to rue this as Sullivan strode forward in the final minute of regulation time and fired in a low strike that left Andrew Grainger unsighted, to grab a point for the visitors. 

Match Report Ian Cusack

Website Steve Boyle

Match Coverage Luke Vinton


Bishop Auckland v Newcastle Benfield Match Report Northern League Division 1

For most of the time since returning to the Northern League, Bishop Auckland have been serial underachievers, whose on field performances have lagged far behind their supporters’ opinion of themselves. However, under the stewardship of Ian Chandler and Brian Rowe, Bishops have finally found a team to match their palatial surroundings at Heritage Park. Today the Two Blues gave a masterclass in counter attacking football and precise finishing.  That said, if one were to reckon up the chances created by both sides, there would be no doubt that Benfield outstripped the hosts by two to one in creativity. It speaks volumes that home keeper Nick Liversedge was Man of the Match by a country mile today.

Despite an encouraging opening by the visitors, including Scott McCarthy being played in by an astute Paul Brayson pass, only for Liversedge to race from his line to block the shot, it was Bishops who went ahead after 10 minutes. Ex Benfield full back Michael Hoganson took an inswinging free kick on the right that Andrew Grainger solicitously tipped over. Despite the referee signalling a corner from the right, Bishops took it from the left and an unmarked Kieran Gailbraith headed home. Of course, the goal should not have stood, but I seemed the only person in the 286 crowd to have noticed this.

Benfield did not allow themselves to be discomfited by this misfortune and took the game straight to their hosts. On 12 minutes McCarthy’s deflected effort fell to James Martin who shot over from a tight angle. Martin was again involved soon after, flashing a ball across the box that Dennis Knight just failed to convert at the back post. Knight hit another effort that deflected agonisingly wide and from the subsequent corner, Alex Nisbet just failed to direct a header on target. Both McCarthy and Reece Noble shot from distance in quick succession, only to see Liversedge twice extend himself to the utmost and tip the ball wide, while Brayson’s free kick from the edge of the box after Jake Orrell had been upended was a shade too high. For Bishops, Chris Winn had twice had efforts held by captain for the day Andy Grainger, though it was a shock when the Two Blues doubled their lead just before half time when Fryatt intercepted an attempted pass by Nisbet, before waltzing into the box and burying a low effort into the far corner. 

In the second half, Benfield came out swinging; Orrell flashed a drive wide and Knight was denied by Liversedge’s reflexes at his near post. However, as the temperature plummeted and darkness fell, Bishops were content to allow Benfield possession and try to this the Lions on the break. This they did with uncompromising ruthlessness, when the previously anonymous Andy Johnson turned in the box and fired past Grainger for 3-0. The game was up, despite Brayson’s glorious volley on 71 minutes that gave Benfield hope. However, when Liversedge denied Dale Pearson with the save of the game and Nisbet’s header from the corner was knocked off the line, the sense that it won’t be your day becomes all too pervasive. So it proved, as Bishops saw the game out to win 3-1.


Match Report

Ian Cusack


Joseph Gorman

(Bishop Auckland)

Newcastle Benfield v Guisborough Town Match Report

Newcastle Benfield extended their unbeaten run to 14 games with a hard working but thoroughly merited away win on a glorious Winter afternoon in North Yorkshire. Guisborough Town’s scenic and well-appointed King George V ground used to be a venue of endless misery for The Lions, but with the monkey off our back in a scintillating 4-0 last year, the belief that oozes through the squad was in evidence again as we shrugged off the disappointment of still being a goal down on the hour, to turn things around and win with something to spare. 

With Joe Robson ruled out for the rest of the season, Richard Pell came in for his debut and the imposing stopper acquitted himself well. New signing Joe Shepherd, who has arrived from Blyth Spartans, took his place on the bench in a squad depleted by Festive commitments elsewhere. Benfield started the game strongly, with James Martin’s swinging cross causing pandemonium in the home defence after 3 minutes. Guisborough’s captain was their keeper Jordan Nixon and he was by a distance their best player. He first distinguished himself brilliantly tipping over a deft Brayson chip on 12 minutes. Less than 2 minutes later, Nixon went full length to touch Dale Pearson’s low effort round the post. The value of those superb saves was underlined on 20 minutes when, somewhat against the run of play, Mason McNeill lashed a loose ball into the roof of the net to put the home side ahead. Benfield sought to respond immediately, and Paul Brayson was denied by a brilliant saving tackle by the impressive Anthony Snook. Dale Pearson flashed a shot inches wide, before Nixon’s third important save denied Alex Nisbet, who powered in a diving header, meaning the Priorymen went in to the break with a single goal lead. 

Half time

One factor that has distinguished Benfield’s play since Tom Wade’s return to the hot seat, has been a refusal to lie down. Hence it was no surprise that the second half resembled a siege on the Guisborough goal. The brave home side kept The Lions out until just before the hour when Dean Holmes stooped to head home Jake Orrell’s peach of a cross, for his first goal in Benfield colours. Soon after Paul Brayson appeared to be cleaned out in the area, though nothing was given. However, the veteran marksman had the last laugh, collecting an Andy Grainger goal kick and steering it effortlessly past the stranded Nixon. It was goal made beautiful by its simplicity. Moments later, Brayson elected to shoot when Pearson was unmarked to his left and the chance was gone. Finally, Nixon kept his best until last, acrobatically flying to his right and palming Orrell’s piledriver over the bar. Nixon went up in a late sortie, but there was to be no fairy-tale ending as Benfield comfortably kept Guisborough at bay for a well-deserved 3 points.

Man of the Match: 

Dean Holmes

 Match Report

Ian Cusack


Steve Boyle

Follow the Lions join the Newcastle Benfield Supporters club

Match Highlights -luke Vinton

Please click on the above link

Newcastle Benfield Match Report and Match Highlights Northern League Division 1 Non League football. Dunston UTS v Newcastle Benfield

Before the game, manager Tom Wade was forced into a defensive reshuffle. With skipper Mark Turnbull only fit enough for the bench, Ritchie Slaughter donned the armband and Alex Nisbet took Sparky’s place at the centre of defence. In addition, McKenzie Heaney was given his first league start on a heavy pitch that had seen the previous 2 fixtures postponed, first because of frost and secondly because of prolonged rainfall. On a mild afternoon, Benfield were soon on the attack against the unbeaten league leaders, who had escaped from Sam Smith’s Park with an undeserved point in an early season stalemate, when Benfield simply couldn’t score for toffee. It seemed the same curse was afflicting The Lions in their first attack; McKenzie Heaney saw his effort hacked off the line and two follow-up, goal-bound efforts by Paul Brayson blocked by desperate defending. Then, in the next passage of play, came the incident that cast an ominous shadow over the whole affair.

Perhaps the most eagerly anticipated Northern League Division 1 game so far this season was marred, if not ruined, by a sickening injury sustained by Benfield’s Joe Robson in the 4th minute. The popular and reliable centre half suffered a triple fracture of the eye socket, cheekbone and jaw after an aerial challenge with Dunston’s Michael Pearson. The UTS player clearly did not intentionally mean to injure Robson, but to lead with his elbow was a reckless act that has ended the Benfield player’s season. Every single one of us associated with The Lions wish Joe the speediest recovery possible. After a prolonged delay, Joe was stretchered off and James Novak came on to replace him.

Clearly the injury had deeply affected the Benfield side and Reece Noble was booked for a brutal lunge on Jordan Nellis soon after. However, better fortunes occurred after 20 minutes when handball in the area saw the visitors awarded a penalty. With regular taker Dennis Knight on the bench, Brayson took the responsibility. While Karl Dryden dived low to his left to keep the ball out, he was powerless to prevent Brayson knocking home the rebound. It was to be a brief period of ascendancy however, as a soft free kick on the touchline on 25 minutes was beautifully delivered by Liam Marrs, allowing Scott Heslop to power home a textbook header into the roof of the net.  Somewhat improbably, this was to be the end of the goals for the day, but not for the want of trying, especially by Benfield. On the half hour, Dale Pearson was scythed down at the edge of the area and Brayson’s free kick was tipped wide by Dryden at full stretch as Benfield began to show mastery and control from front to back. The home side were dangerous from corners and crosses into the box, with Nellis a permanent threat up top. 

After the break, Benfield ought to have taken the lead on 50 minutes; a superb Rhys Evans pass set Jake Orrell away and the young striker was impressively denied by Dryden, who spread himself well at his near post to block a powerful effort. This was an atypical Benfield attack, as we tended to play patient, possession football that pushed the increasingly ragged hosts back. Dunston’s main threat was pace on the break and, in a desperate act of defence, Nisbet received a caution for unambiguously checking Heslop’s progress down the wing. Surprisingly, Dunston’s best chance came from a corner when, with the goal gaping, Andrew Grant-Soulsby shot high over the bar. 

Twice subsequently, Benfield almost the win they so clearly deserved. Dale Pearson was denied by an unbelievable block as he seemed ready to turn the loose ball home and then Dryden came to his side’s rescue with another brave stop. Pearson was clearly identified as the dangerman by Dunston and Jake Stafford was shown a straight red card for the crude and deliberate scything down of the powerful attacker as he broke through the centre late in the game. Sadly, all attacking momentum was lost and Dunston hung on, though they will know that they have been mightily lucky in both games against Benfield in 2018/2019.

Match Highlights below

Match Report Ian Cusack

Photos Paul Mcfeeley

Highlights Luke Vinton

Website Steve Boyle

The Lions roar through to the Quarter Final of the Cup defeating Celtic.

West Allotment Celtic 1

Newcastle Benfield 3

Attendance 100

West Allotment Celtic 1-3 Newcastle Benfield
Match Highlights

Newcastle Benfield advanced into the quarter-finals of the Brooks Mileson Northern league Cup following a comfortable 3-1 away win at West Allotment Celtic.

Benfield took a two-goal lead inside the first 20 minutes, with Dale Pearson opening the scoring before Scott McCarthy fired home to double the Lions’ advantage.
Despite the lack of clear-cut chances for Allotment, the Division Two halved the deficit through Gilberto Chapim’s second half strike before Paul Brayson sealed Benfield the win two minutes from time with a clinical penalty.
Going into the cup tie, Benfield were hoping to extend their unbeaten run to 12 matches under Tom Wade, who has yet to lose a game as manager, as well as achieving their eight consecutive victory in all competitions.

The Lions got off to a strong start, with Mackenzie Heaney’s long-range effort rattling the crossbar from 25 yards out in the early stages of the game.

Benfield were not to be denied though and, after 13 minutes, Pearson gave Benfield the lead. After gliding past an Allotment player Pearson fired an effort from the edge of the box, which flew beyond goalkeeper Finlay Hodgson into the bottom right corner.
Six minutes later, Benfield’s McCarthy got his name on the scoresheet. After winning the ball back from their opponents, Heaney played a ball towards Brayson, before the veteran striker sent a delightful pass into the path of McCarthy, who only needed one touch before drilling the ball into the net.
The difference in divisions took its toll as West Allotment, who continued to battle hard and attempted to make it difficult for their Division One opponents, struggled to force Dan Nimmins into making a serious save.
However, in the second half, Allotment were rewarded for their efforts as midfielder Gilberto Chapim pulled a goal back, riding his luck by avoiding a tackle from a group of Benfield defenders before poking the ball into the bottom left corner to give Allotment hope.
Benfield cancelled out the home side’s chances of forcing the game into a penalty shoot-out as the Lions were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes. As Brayson’s strike was blocked, the ball landed into the feet of Jake Orrell and, although his attempt sailed over the bar, the 21-year-old was bundled over by Tony Lucas in the process.
The penalty was dispatched expertly by Brayson, slamming his spot kick into the roof of the net to grab his 14th goal of the campaign and complete a professional win for Newcastle Benfield to keep their chances of lifting silverware this season alive.
Get yourself along 👇⚽️🏆
Match Report and Highlights Luke Vinton
Website -Steve Boyle

Newcastle Benfield 2 West Auckland 0 Match Report

Newcastle Benfield extended their unbeaten run to 11 and their winning sequence to 7 games with a routine 2-0 win over a strangely subdued and ineffectual West Auckland Town who, for all their big names and even bigger reputations, found themselves unable to get out of first gear all game. Boss Tom Wade made a couple of changes to the team; with Dean Holmes unavailable, Scott McCarthy was restored to the first XI, while Reece Noble came in for his debut at the expense of Dennis Knight, who’d left the field the week previous towards the end of the tumultuous 5-4 win over Runcorn Town in the FA Vase with a case of concussion.  A soaking week had been counteracted by a howling gale on Saturday morning, which died off in time for kick off, leaving the pitch looking immaculate as usual.

In the second minute, Paul Brayson had an effort blocked, with the loose ball travelling to Ritchie Slaughter in a similar position from where he scored the outrageous winner seven days earlier. There was to be no repeat sadly, as the midfielder launched his shot high and wide. Soon though, Benfield took the lead. Good play by Scott McCarthy on the right led to him backheeling the ball into the path of Rhys Evans, whose pinpoint cross was deftly finished at the near post by Jake Orrell.  Instead of the visitors responding, Benfield almost made it 2-0 on 18 minutes when James Martin scampered down the left, put in a great cross and Paul Brayson hit his attempt at a defender.  West Auckland produced their first effort on goal after 26 minutes; Arjan Purewal made ground on the right and his centre was half cleared to Mitchell, who stung the palms of Andy Grainger; the Benfield keeper claimed the ball after parrying the initial effort. Dale Pearson almost scored an outrageous bicycle kick, but his stylish effort from a Ritchie Slaughter header into the box landed on the roof of the net. Finally, in first half stoppage time, another audacious McCarthy backheel set Brayson free, but his left foot shot was straight at keeper Shane Bland.

The initial stages of the second period hinted at a West Auckland revival, but their possession and determined tackling produced little tangible reward. Indeed, on 54 minutes, it was inches from being 2-0, after Mark Turnbull’s bullet header from a Brayson corner was kicked off the line. Moments later, Orrell set up Pearson for a flashing drive that Bland pushed away at full stretch. Sadly, Bland’s next contribution was less praiseworthy. He mishit a goal kick straight to Brayson about 30 yards from goal. The veteran marksman gathered the ball, drew Bland out of position and comfortably stroked the ball home, to double the home side’s advantage. It was almost 3-0 when Brayson’s venomous effort from a tight angle was fisted clear by Bland. West Auckland almost claimed a late consolation, but Andy Grainger displayed lightning reactions to block substitute Wearmouth’s point blank header and thus preserve a clean sheet.

Ritchie Slaughters Runcorn with last minute winner in the Game of the season

Over the years, Sam Smith’s Park has witnessed some great football and some stirring games, but surely none have ever matched the spellbinding brilliance of this tumultuous contest. From the first kick to the very last, the game swung between the two sides as drama was heaped on drama in as enthralling manner as could ever be imagined. Runcorn Town will be bitterly upset to have lost in such scarcely believable circumstances, but they will surely privately admit that the best team won on the day. However, the visitors from Cheshire played a full and commendable part in a titanic struggle, settled by a glorious curling effort into the top corner from outside the area by Richie Slaughter. In truth, it was the only fitting way to conclude such a memorable game.

On a filthy day at the end of a waterlogged week, groundsman Stan Thompson deserves the utmost praise for producing a perfect playing surface that stood up to 90 minutes of bombardment by two sets of gallant players. Every single blade of grass on that pitch was covered by the tireless running of 41-year-old Paul Brayson, who ran his blood to water for the entire game. Brayson’s first run came in the second minute, when he accepted an astute ball from Dennis Knight and curled an effort just wide. Unfortunately, the first goal of the game went to the visitors; a momentary lapse by Rhys Evans allowed Dale Jennings to clip a delightful lob over the head of stranded Benfield keeper Andy Grainger in the 6 minute. The Lions weren’t behind for long, as Dennis Knight collected a loose ball on the right side of the area, evaded a couple of challenges and shot home with unstoppable power and admirable precision. Soon after James Martin was denied his first goal for the club, when a desperate block ended his run into the box, leaving the ball to run for Jake Orrell whose shot was on target, but deflected wide.


Brayson really ought to have put Benfield ahead on 28 minutes, but he poked a close-range effort at the back post into the side netting when it looked easier to score, following Knight’s decisive low cross. Indeed, this miss came to haunt the home side when Joseph Heath’s innocuous long-range trundler left a clearly unsighted Andy Grainger unable to keep it out after the ball came through a crowd of players. This goal rocked Benfield right back on their heels and Runcorn, having scored with their only two efforts on goal, began to exercise a measure of control. Grainger kept the Lions in the contest with a point blank save from Liam Turner on 43 minutes and the crucial nature of this save was reinforced when, with the last kick of the half, Dale Pearson turned in a loose ball in the box after Jake Orrell’s free kick had not been properly cleared.

It is a widely held football belief that a goal at the end of the first half is a precious thing, as it allows the opposition to brood on it during the break. Pearson’s equaliser also had the effect of empowering the hosts who relentlessly pushed Runcorn back for long periods in the second half. Brayson fired just over after collecting a pass from Pearson, before putting Benfield ahead on 52 minutes with a precise finish after Slaughter and Pearson had combined delightfully down the left. This was a tough game and it needed a determined attitude, which the Lions had in spades. Pearson’s contest marauding down the flank gave Orrell a chance after keeper Adam Reid had palmed out a cross, but defenders got in the way. Reid was in the right place to instinctively clutch a Knight header to his chest. Soon after Knight left the field, suffering dizziness after a clash of heads. His replacement Alex Nisbet headed an Orrell cross just wide as Benfield turned the screw. The home side were denied a clear penalty when Brayson’s goal bound shot was turned around the post by a deliberate use of the arm by a visiting defender. The referee claimed to have been unsighted. This did not seem to matter when Brayson’s intelligent pass set the rampaging Dale Pearson away, who then danced round Reid before slotting into an empty net to give Benfield a seemingly unassailable two goal lead on 81 minutes.

Runcorn, to their credit, would not lie down. A bout of pinball in the area on 83 minutes saw Craig Lindfield poke the ball home. Suddenly, there was renewed belief among the travelling contingent and sure enough, their faith was rewarded barely 60 seconds later when a desperate skirmish in the six-yard box ended with the ball in the net. The goal was eventually credited to Danny Byrnes and, just as the crowd had mentally prepared themselves for an extra 30 minutes, Ritchie Slaughter intervened, sending the home crowd into delirium. What a game!

 Over the years, Sam Smith’s Park has witnessed some great football and some stirring games, but surely none have ever matched the spellbinding brilliance of this tumultuous contest. From the first kick to the very last, the game swung between the two sides as drama was heaped on drama in as enthralling manner as could ever be imagined. Runcorn Town will be bitterly upset to have lost in such scarcely believable circumstances, but they will surely privately admit that the best team won on the day. However, the visitors from Cheshire played a full and commendable part in a titanic struggle, settled by a glorious curling effort into the top corner from outside the area by Richie Slaughter. In truth, it was the only fitting way to conclude such a memorable game.

Match Report Ian Cusack

Match Highlights to follow Luke Vinton

Website Steve Boyle

Benfield Bear Leo the Lion (UnKnown)

Newcastle Benfield v Seaham Redstar Match Report

Newcastle Benfield recovered from the early blow of a spectacular own goal by skipper Mark Turnbull to complete a stylish, comprehensive win over a Seaham Red Star side who fell to pieces in the second period and ought to have left Sam Smith’s Park on the end of a far more comprehensive defeat than the eventual 3-1 result. 

Benfield fans have had the dubious pleasure of seeing some truly extraordinary own goals, such as Kenny Boyle’s 40-yard volley into his own net or Steven Tobin’s magnificent diving header past the despairing leap of Andy Grainger; Sparky’s effort wasn’t quite in that class, though he slid in and fired the bar right into the top corner of the net, giving Grainger absolutely no chance. The distinctly anti-Corinthian guffawing and braying, courtesy of a small section of Seaham’s somewhat ungracious support, was soon snuffed out by the award of a penalty for a clear push in the box on Paul Brayson. Dennis Knight stepped forward to confidently put The Lions back on level terms with a decisive finish from the 12-yard mark. However, there was soon danger for Benfield as Gardiner’s effort was deflected up and over a stranded Grainger, only for a covering Turnbull to make partial amends for his earlier blooper. In due course, Turnbull’s total redemption was achieved just before the half hour, when the skipper rose at the back post to arc a delightful header over John Mordey from Jake Orrell’s magnificent cross, giving the home side a lead, they never looked likely to relinquish. Indeed, Benfield could have gone in at the break with the game sewn up, if Knight’s beautifully weighted through ball had not been slid a yard the wrong side of the post by the normally deadly Brayson.

After the interval, the game continued on its course; a flowing, open contest, when defences were never truly at home against quality attackers. Though, as the clock ticked on, Seaham’s experienced front pairing of Michael Chilton and Adam Rundle became less and less involved. The real turning point that sealed the visitors’ fate was the dismissal of Darryl Donnelly for a crude body check on Dennis Knight in the area. Knight had just executed a delightful trap and turn in a single move when he was unceremoniously dumped to the floor. The penalty and red card were inevitable; the goal from Knight soon followed. From that point, the depleted visitors sought only damage limitation as Benfield endlessly carved them open. Brayson hit the side netting from a tight angle, before setting up sub Mackenzie Heaney (who produced another delightful cameo from the bench) with an audacious back heel. 

Again and again the home side drove forward; a wickedly sliced clearance by a disorientated Seaham defender almost resulted in an own goal, before substitute Scott McCarthy accepted a quick Grainger throw and ran the whole length of the pitch, before Mordey denied him with his knees. Despite the endless waves of attacking invention, the Seaham goal avoided further mishap as Benfield elegantly secured their fifth successive win and ninth game unbeaten in all competitions. 

Match report Ian Cusack

Action photos CJC photos

 Next Game…..

Newton Aycliffe Match report

A pair of exquisite finishes, one in each half, from the ever-reliable Paul Brayson helped in-form Newcastle Benfield to a thoroughly deserved second successive away win on consecutive Saturdays, courtesy of a 2-1 victory over Newton Aycliffe that completed a quickfire double for The Lions after a 3-0 win over the same opposition at Sam Smith’s Park early last month. However, unlike the first contest between the two, this was a competitive contest where the hosts showed commendable spirit to fight back in the second half, even equalising after a smart turn and finish in the box by Vincent Gash.


Benfield made one change from the starting eleven on duty in the 3-2 win at Ryhope CW the week before, with Dan Nimmins taking his place between the posts as Andrew Grainger was unavailable. Initially his was a spectating role for, as has been the case so often of late, Benfield came flying out of the blocks from the off. A beautifully choreographed corner routine on 3 minutes saw Ritchie Slaughter connect with Dennis Knight’s driven flag kick, diverting the ball a matter of inches wide. The impressive Dean Holmes drove down the right after 6 minutes and fed Knight, who sent a powerful drive just over the angle after 6 minutes. Less than 60 seconds later, Aycliffe keeper Winter distinguished himself with an impressive tip-over from a Dale Pearson thunderbolt. The resulting corner again saw the Aycliffe stopper called into action, as he was required to go full length to palm away an astute James Martin effort. 


Play finally switched to the other end on 13 minutes when Nimmins spread himself well to gather a low Gash effort. Soon after a controversial incident saw the difficulties faced by officials. Benfield captain Mark Turnbull slid in to clear a loose ball out for a throw near the touchline. Aycliffe’s left back Tom Gavin had pulled out of the challenge but was hit by the sliding Turnbull. The home fans screamed for a red card for violent conduct, while the away supporters claimed a fair tackle. The man in the middle gave a yellow for not being fully in control of the tackle and Gavin was stretchered off though, apparently, he suffered bruising and no break. 


When the football resumed, Winter made an amazing block with his feet after Knight thumped a low Pearson cross goalward from 6 yards out. Pearson was the next to be denied by the feet of Winter, when a venomous shot on the turn rebounded off the Aycliffe keeper’s shins. The deadlock was finally broken on 38 minutes, when Paul Brayson picked up a loose ball at the angle of the box and floated a delicious effort into the far corner with Winter grasping air. A single goal lead at the break was not a true reflection of the visitors’ dominance, but it gave Benfield something to fall back on.


The second half saw a far more determined showing from Aycliffe, as they forced several early corners that did not cause undue worry for Nimmins. Indeed, Brayson was a whisker away from doubling the lead, when he smashed an effort against the base of the post and wide, with a sprawling Winter nowhere near. However, missed chances almost came back to haunt The Lions, when Gash firstly put the home side level then, straight from the restart, called Nimmins into action. The Benfield keeper’s strong wrist deflected the ball onto the post and impetuosity by the attacking side saw a needless free kick conceded when Jake Orrell was cleaned out as he attempted to clear.


This was the last moment of danger for Aycliffe as Benfield took all 3 points when Pearson’s astute chest pass from Joe Robson’s probing delivery, allowed Brayson to collect the ball, sidestep the entire Aycliffe defence and roll the ball into an empty net from about a yard out. A goal of sublime savagery and a fitting way to collect all 3 points for an impressive Benfield outfit who remain unbeaten under Tom Wade.