Marske United 1 Newcastle Benfield 0
After getting their title back on track with a hard fought win against 9 man Consett, Marske manager Carl Jarrett opted to make just one change to the starting eleven with skipper Craig Gott, who had served his 2 match ban, replacing Glen Butterworth, who could count himself unlucky to be left out after impressing in the last two games. Benfield’s dangerman was striker Paul Brayson, who had already netted 37 goals in the league this season and had scored in his last 6 consecutive games.
The first chance of the game fell to Marske centre back Darren Hollingsworth but he flicked a header wide of goal from a long Liam O’Sullivan throw in. In a tight opening with chances at a premium the next chance fell to a Benfield centre back. Adam Wheatley was penalised for a foul on Mark Turnbull on the Benfield right and the free kick was swung in by left back Michael Hoganson. Despite a shout from keeper Robert Dean, Tom Bott elected to head clear but the ball fell to the feet of the veteran Stephen Tobin but he shot high over the bar. On 14 minutes a shot from Austin Johnston from a Gott pass also sailed high over the bar as both sides struggled to test Dean in the Marske goal and Andrew Grainger in the Benfield goal. A minute later O’Sullivan advanced forwards and saw his shot take a slight deflection and go for a corner which ended with a shot from Gott which was blocked by Tobin for a second corner which came to nothing. It took until the 20th minute for either keeper to be tested and the first save came in an unconventional manner as Grainger managed to get his chest behind an effort from Johnston which bounced wickedly in front of the keeper. The ball fell to Sam Garvie who quickly delivered the ball into the danger area but the cross just evaded Danny Brunksill and Benfield cleared. A minute later a deep cross from O’Sullivan was glanced wide by Owens as Marske were starting to up the pressure. However, the next chance fell to the away side just before the half hour mark. Breaking quickly from defence Brayson played a lovely ball over the top of the Marske defence for Dan Taylor to run on to but the striker’s shot was weak and Dean saved with ease. On 34 minutes Hoganson became the first player to be booked by referee Terry Fletcher for a block on Josh Macdonald as he tried to latch onto a pass from Gott. The next chance fell to the home team when a trademark long throw from O’Sullivan dropped to Owens but his shot was comfortably saved by Grainger. On 37 minutes O’Sullivan was the creator again when his throw in found Brunskill who turned on a six-pence but couldn’t keep his shot down and it went over the bar. At the other end Wheatley did superbly to clear a looping cross from Michael Riley from just in front of the goal-line before Marske again failed to hit the target when a pass from Brunskill found Owens who beat Tobin but was unable to keep his shot down. On 42 minutes great play from Wheatley set up Brunskill but his shot from 12 yards was well blocked by the Benfield defence. With half time approaching the move of the half from Marske involving Gott, Garvie and Owens ended with Garvie racing into the box and going to ground but referee Fletcher was unmoved and Benfield broke quickly and Bott did well to block a shot.
Marske 0 Newcastle Benfield 0
On 49 minutes Owens was fouled by Carl Paterson and Gott’s free kick fell to Garvie who tried to beat Grainger at his near post but the keeper saved well. Marske had a great chance to take the lead on 52 minutes when a neat pass to Owens set up Gott but the midfielder took slightly too long with his shot, 10 yards out, and the Benfield defence blocked superbly. Just a minute later, Dean was called into action for the first time when a left wing corner was met by the head of Taylor and the keeper pulled off a fantastic save. On 57 minutes the home side had a scare when Hollingsworth went down injured following a later challenge from Taylor after he had cleared the ball but the referee failed to give a free kick. After a spell off the pitch Hollingsworth was fine to continue but was limping heavily. Both sides made their first change just before the hour mark with Christopher Youldon replacing Gilberto Chapim for Benfield and Butterworth taking the place of Macdonald for Marske. This led to a change in formation for the home side to a 4-3-1-2 with Garvie playing behind the front two. Richie Slaughter became the second Benfield player to be booked on 62 minutes when the Benfield number 4 kicked the ball out of Garvie’s hands when the ball had gone out for a throw in. Grainger was called into action on 64 minutes when a long throw from O’Sullivan fell to Butterworth just outside the box and his shot stung the hands of the Benfield keeper who grabbed the ball at the second attempt though the assistant referee’s flag was up for offside against Brunskill. A minute later a foul by Johnston led to a free kick taken by Hoganson which was deflected for a corner. Hoganson’s corner was headed towards goal by Taylor but Dean pushed his effort around the post. The away side were coming more into the game and a surge forward from Hoganson ended with a weak shot that Dean saved with ease. With 20 minutes remaining Marske made their final change with Jonathan Wright replacing Garvie meaning Marske switched to a more conventional 4-3-3 formation with Wright on the right of the front three, Owens on the left and Brunskill down the middle. Wright was in the action within 2 minutes of coming on when a beautiful clipped pass from Gott found Brunskill who laid the ball off superbly to Wright who saw his shot go just over the bar. On 73 minutes O’Sullivan became the first Marske player to be booked for a foul on Riley near the touchline before the Marske left back saw his shot well saved by Grainger from a Brunskill pass. A minute later Bott showed great technique to keep a shot from the edge of the box down but the accuracy was missing and it went wide. At the other end Riley shot into the side netting from a tight angle. With 10 minutes remaining and the game on a knife edge Marske made their final change with Reece Kelly replacing Owens on the left hand side of the front three. On 81 minutes, Wheatley was penalised for a push in the back of Taylor right on the edge of the penalty area but Brayson’s free kick hit the back of his own player, Stephen Baptiste and went out for a goal kick. Moments later Johnston became the second Marske player to be booked for a foul on Riley before the game’s pivotal moment arrived on 84 minutes. Kelly raced into the box and was felled by a challenge by Paterson and despite the assistant referee appearing to signal for a corner, referee Fletcher had no hesitation in pointing to the penalty spot. It was undoubtedly a tight decision with Benfield having an argument that their player had won the ball though Marske would argue that the foul on Kelly came before the ball was won. After the furore had died down and Paterson was booked for protesting the calmest man on the pitch, captain Gott, sent the keeper the wrong way to give Marske the lead. As the game entered the 90th minute there was a hearts in the mouth moment for the home fans when Johnston committed a foul right on the edge of the box but the free kick took a deflection off the wall and Dean was able to smother the ball. The last chance of the game fell to the home side when an accurate pass down the line from Butterworth found Wright who looked up to see the keeper off the line and tried to lob him but Grainger did superbly to get a hand to the shot.
Full Time: Marske 1 Newcastle Benfield 0
Marske: Dean, Bott, O’Sullivan, Johnston, Hollingsworth, Wheatley, Macdonald (Butterworth), Gott, Brunskill, Owens (Kelly), Garvie (Wright)
Subs (not used): Hood, Myers
Newcastle Benfield: Grainger, Turnbull, Hoganson, Slaughter, Tobin, Paterson, Riley, Chapim (Youldon), Brayson, Taylor, Baptiste
Subs (not used): Convery, Bowey, Scorgie, Leeson
As the season gets another game closer to the end, it was North Shields who were the only side to drop points in the top 6, only managing a draw with in form Penrith. Shildon came from behind to beat Bishop Auckland and, as expected, West Auckland and Guisborough dispatched Crook and Celtic Nation respectively. After a recent wobble, Marske have now picked up 6 points from the last two games with two hard fought wins against decent opposition. The title race still looks too tight to call with West Auckland only having one home game left, Shildon are still in two cups and North Shields having no league game for the next two Saturday’s as they chase FA Vase glory. Although Dunston are arguably the outsiders of the 6 they could have a huge say in the destination of the title as they have Guisborough, Shildon and North Shields still to play. As it stands, despite a couple of recent home defeats, my opinion is that Shildon are still the favourites especially as they seem to have the most favourable run in.