Saturday 22nd August 2015
West Allotment Celtic 2 Newcastle Benfield 6
Paul Brayson returned to centre stage as Benfield pocketed their first Northern League win of the season and Coach Lane bragging rights with a stirring second half performance to stun the not so noisy neighbours. Mind you, I’ve never actually heard anyone exercise those rights. Whilst there were a few feisty moments on the pitch, there was a complete absence of any gloating or traditional derby-related jocular banter off it, just an acknowledgement that superior quality won through in the end. It took rather longer than expected to reveal itself though.
Survival in the top flight would once more constitute success for West Allotment and, to that end, a precious midweek conquest of Norton and Stockton gave them the confidence to, in greyhound parlance, ping the lids in this encounter. Benfield were fresh from FA Cup triumph against Yorkshire Amateur, a result which diverted attention from a stuttering start to the campaign that had yielded only a slightly fortuitous point from the visit of Bedlington Terriers. And it was that unsure, disjointed persona which characterised their first half hour here.
By which time they were two goals down. Striker Dale Pearson has been a prolific scorer at lower levels for Hazlerigg Victory and Red House Farm. He looked pretty lively in better company too, first netting a penalty after a foul on David Webster, then lifting the ball deftly over Mark Cook when a pass out of defence saw him one on one with Steve Bowey. The player-boss started at left back but it wouldn’t have been in the script to find himself exposed as the last man, and it was typical of a skittish opening.
There were chances at both ends before Brayson unleashed a trademark free kick from the edge of the area and we were back in business, although Allotment returned to the dressing room with their lead intact. The hammer blow of Michael Hoganson’s recent loss to Spennymoor has restricted Benfield’s defensive options so it was surprising to see the experienced Tobin start from the bench. He predictably appeared after the break, yet it was his fellow substitute who most caught the eye.
Shane Jones is a homegrown talent, the latest to graduate from a productive youth division, and quickly looked the part as three goals in a fifteen minute spell took the game away from the hosts. Jones himself bagged the third of these, a sumptuous dipping curler from the right side which left Dan Mullen clawing at thin air. The goalkeeper hadn’t fully recovered from a nightmarish interlude, an ill-advised hurtle from his line which allowed Dan Taylor to head into an empty net, before, as panic spread uncontrollably, a slashed clearance landed on Brayson’s doorstep.
In this fixture last December the boot had been firmly on the other foot, Allotment overturning a similar early deficit. That time the result remained in the balance until the final whistle but this would be no repeat. Once they hit the front the orange clad visitors powered clear. Brayson completed another hat-trick with ease by tapping in from a corner. Jones, comfortable in possession and showing some impressive touches on a billiard table surface which I’m sure he’d like to pack up and carry around, planted number six into the far corner after smartly controlling a pass.
Despite the direction of travel being relentlessly one way after the break, the match was never short of incident. When the solid frame of Ian Lee was barging defenders out of the way and supplying the knock-downs, Allotment had a front two capable of causing problems. Once he ran out of steam their threat diminished considerably, and their ragged backline looked poorly equipped to keep out their opponents at the other end. Last Wednesday’s clean sheet apart, they have now conceded at least four in all their league games so far.
Benfield repaired the goal difference damage inflicted by their heavy loss to Shildon first up, maybe showcased a player, if they can keep hold of him, who can take some of the onus away from Brayson and be their passport to a higher finish, and of course secured the all-important local supremacy for the time being. Except that no-one really makes much of a fuss over that. Early leaders Morpeth will provide a stiffer test. Winning that one might genuinely be something to crow about.
West Allotment Celtic: Mullen, Kallis, Parkinson (Sayer), Webster, Elliot, Dunn, Keenan, McRoberts, Pearson, Lee (Pocklington), Patrick Subs Not Used: Phillips, Dobson, Wells
Newcastle Benfield: Cook, Turnbull, Bowey, Slaughter, Scorgie (Tobin), Paterson, Convery, Henderson (Jones), Brayson, Taylor, Drane (Walker) Subs Not Used: McEwen, Anderson