Wednesday 18th March 2015
Newcastle Benfield 3 West Allotment Celtic 0
The fevered anticipation, the queasy trepidation, the explosion of colour and passion which funnel into the emotional maelstrom that is derby day. In Catalonia on Sunday night an entire nation will grind to a halt. Meanwhile, in Walkergate on a chilly midweek evening that laughed in the face of an approaching Spring, the buses trundled past oblivious and the mundane rhythms of suburbia went undisturbed. The ‘Coach Lane Clasico’ has not yet seeped in the consciousness like its brash Iberian cousin, but some of us were mildly stirred.
The pedant might point out that the Spanish contretemps is not a proper derby anyway, even if bitter historical baggage might negate that point somewhat. By contrast these two stalwarts of the local non-league scene are separated only by the length of a throughfare best known for its student accommodation and being home to Team Northumbria. So while Barcelona were busy warming up for the big one by casually terminating English involvement in the Champions League, parochial bragging rights were being fought over in front of a vast crowd of, well about a hundred or so.
Maybe it was more. It seemed more since you pretty much knew everybody in attendance, at least by sight. No acrimony, no need for segregation here, the shouts of encouragement which echoed across the pitch sporadically betrayed allegiance, but this was a gathering of like-minded souls as far away from the Nou Camp as you could imagine. The pre-match chatter as the players emerged from the changing rooms surrounded not form or systems but West Allotment’s change kit. In the lights we couldn’t decide between blood or burnt orange.
Benfield’s improvement over the past couple of months has removed any lingering fears of being sucked into a relegation scrap, even if their unbeaten run succumbed to a late penalty against high-flying Marske at the weekend. No such tranquil finish to the campaign is in prospect for the visitors though. A draw the previous evening between two of their rivals in the quest to beat the drop had left the door ajar. They were unable to walk through it.
Despite a busy start, during which a flurry of corners put the home defence under pressure, forcing Grainger to palm out a header and Slaughter to clear off the line, Celtic fell behind to a majestic long-range strike from Hoganson. The keeper might have done better but it was a bolt from the blue, the room given to shoot typical of a first half where space seemed abundant, though it was rarely exploited. The closest the lead got to being extended before the break came when Stoneman almost turned Slaughter’s fierce low cross into his own net.
The boys from the other side of the Coast Road were lively enough to suggest a comeback. Reid’s attempt at a bicycle kick was ambitious. I’ve never seen one scored in the Northern League as far as I can recall. Benfield were pushed back but were most at risk when their untidy fouls allowed free kicks within distance. Grainger was able to wave the wasteful efforts through, and only McGlen’s miscue across goal caused too much alarm. Chapim limped off to be replaced by Scorgie, and as Celtic ran out of ideas the game drifted aimlessly.
Stoneman seemed determined to score at the wrong end. Beal was helpless as another dangerous slice went narrowly over the bar, but not as helpless as he was soon after when Baptist cut in and curled one left-footed beyond his reach. That was the game, only we hadn’t had Brayson’s contribution yet. Not to be overshadowed, he showed the opposition how to take a free kick, firing an unstoppable third and draining the remaining heart from a team who will now have to look elsewhere for those precious survival points.
With minutes remaining, Bowey brought himself on, an ironic twist since his appearance in the Northumberland Senior Cup tie between these two back in October had got Benfield slung out of the competition, in spite of winning comfortably. Having recently rejoined as boss, he had not been registered on the date that the match had originally been scheduled, a technicality he might have wryly brought to mind as a similar outcome was duly wrapped up.
There was no tooting of horns and whirling of scarves, just the usual gentle ripples of applause at the end. We wished our neighbours well in their battle ahead and melted away. This might have been a ‘Clasico’ without the classic, but the three goals were of excellent quality, and as Barcelona paraded their skills on the TV screens glimpsed through windows on the walk back through the estate, I had a little wry grin myself.
Newcastle Benfield: Grainger, Turnbull, Hoganson, Slaughter, Tobin, Paterson, Riley, Chapim (Scorgie), Brayson, Convery (Jones), Baptist (Bowey) Subs Not Used: Leeson, McEwen
West Allotment Celtic: Beal, Pendlebury, Dummett, Allen (Douglas), Stoneman, Hall, Bell, Henderson, Walton, Reid, McGlen (Schekoske) Subs Not Used: Kallis, Mullen, Anderson