The spoils were shared on a warm August evening as West Allotment Celtic provided the opposition at Sam Smith’s Park.
Benfield decided to look at different options in their starting eleven, with Paul Brayson amongst the substitutes as the Lions attacked the Benfield Road end in the opening 45 minutes.
The early exchanges were predominantly contested in the middle part of the pitch with neither Andrew Grainger or the visiting custodian overly threatened. However, on the quarter hour mark Benfield were grateful to Grainger after slight defensive indecision allowed Allotment to get a shot away but the experienced stopper saved low down.
The game continued to swing from end to end, something which would continue for the duration of the contest with Benfield almost taking the lead after 25 minutes when Jake Turnbull cut inside but the visiting keeper was on hand with a fine save.
There were further half chances for both sides in the remainder of the first half but defences remained on top as we went into the interval goalless.
As you expect in pre-season there were a number of changes at the start of the second half with Brayson, Matty Parker and Lewis Scorgie amongst the introductions for the Lions.
The first goal finally came after 63 minutes with Scorgie the man to break the deadlock. Benfield won a corner on the dugout side in the far corner and having looked up, a perfect cross from Reece Noble was headed home by the centre half who made space to calmly beat the Allotment keeper.
The game had certainly been entertaining and therefore it was a surprise that it had taken so long for the opening goal. The London Bus syndrome was to strike moments later as no sooner had Benfield taken the lead the contest had its second goal. Unfortunately for the Lions, this time it was our visitors who levelled with a fine effort from a Trialist who having found space in the area, drilled his shot into the top corner with the destination of the effort known as soon as it left his foot.
The equaliser certainly filled our visitors with confidence and the lively Baxter was at the centre of their attacking intent. The former Heaton Stannington man thought he had given Allotment the lead with a lofted effort over Andrew Grainger but thankfully for the Lions the chance went over the bar.
Further Lions changes were made including Alfie Gordon being introduced to replace Grainger. The young keeper made a couple of important interventions but his biggest contribution was to come with eight minutes remaining.
After the ball bounced up and hit a Benfield arm in the box the referee had no hesitation in blowing for a West Allotment penalty. The biased view is that the decision was extremely soft but thankfully from a Benfield perspective there was no damage done as Gordon saved the spot kick effort low down to his right.
Jack Cooper had an effort saved from distance and Allotment continued to look dangerous themselves but there were to be no further goals in what had been a thoroughly entertaining affair. Both teams will know that a draw was probably a fair outcome but more importantly both sides will be delighted with this competitive pre-season workout.
Heaton Stannington visit Sam Smith’s Park on Saturday in our next fixture. As per recent friendlies this remains behind closed doors due to current guidelines.