Newcastle Benfield secured a fine victory over Northern Premier League (North/West Division) Dunston UTS on Saturday, as Paul Brayson rolled back the years with a dramatic late winner.
Both managers named strong sides as focus begins to shift towards the resumption of competitive football. For Benfield young Alfie Gordon started ahead of Andrew Grainger with Mark Turnbull skippering the side alongside Lewis Scorgie. There was also a return for Richie Slaughter in the starting eleven. Meanwhile Chris Swailes outfit were led by ex Benfield man Craig Scott.
The Lions began by attacking the Benfield Road end for the first 45 minutes and started brightly against UTS who were in red for the afternoon. Jake Turnbull almost threaded a fine pass through to Dan O’Reilly after only a couple of minutes but the ball unfortunately just ran ahead of the in form former Ashington man.
O’Reilly was making some intelligent runs in the opening exchanges and next it was Mechack Kanda who almost slipped a perfect ball through but the experienced Liam Connell read the danger and collected.
Meanwhile at the other end Dunston were looking lively without unduly testing Gordon in the Lions goal. There was a chance for Galbraith after Benfield conceded a free kick just outside the area but the former Darlington man fired his effort harmlessly over the crossbar with Gordon untroubled.
Adam Wrightson was looking like he could unlock the Lions defence but the back line held firm and were able to snuff out any danger.
Although the first half was a decent enough spectacle, neither Connell or Gordon were particularly called upon to make anything other than routine saves. Things could have been different should Benfield have been given a penalty after a vociferous claim for a pull back but the referee did not see any infringement.
Chris Swailes was forced into a change as front man Michael Pearson hobbled off after half an hour, as Scott Heslop was brought on. Galbraith was also to make way as half time approached.
Andrew Grainger was introduced at the start of the second half for Benfield with Alfie Gordon able to reflect on a decent clean sheet against a potent strike force. Grainger needed to be aware after only a few moments as Benfield conceded a free kick in the corner, however, Wrightson’s ball into the area whistled behind. Mechack Kanda had an excellent chance at the other end following a fine free kick from Jack Cooper but the chance went begging.
Although the contest was being played at an excellent tempo, both defences remained on top with Craig Scott and Mark Turnbull in particular leading from the front as respective captains. Stuart Elliott introduced Cyril Giraud and Peter Glen-Ravenhill on the hour mark as the Lions pressed to open the scoring.
After a commanding afternoon’s work, Lewis Scorgie was forced off after 70 minutes having taken a bang to the face and although excellent work from Physio Tony Dunn had the Benfield man back on his feet quite quickly, the centre half was to watch the remainder of the contest from the sidelines. Joe Robson and Brad Varga were to ensure Andrew Grainger remained suitably protected with good defending late on.
As we entered the last minute both sides will have been contemplating the clean sheet but there was to be a dramatic finale as Benfield scored a late late winner. After good work from Giraud the ball reached Paul Brayson who in trademark fashion found that little pocket of space to wrap his foot around the ball and fire into the UTS net.
With little further drama in the moments that remained, the referee brought the contest to a close as both teams could reflect on an excellent pre-season workout. Although at this stage fitness is the key, the management team and squad can certainly take plenty of positives from a fine victory against one of the most successful sides in the area in recent times.
Newcastle Benfield 1 Dunston UTS 0