Wednesday 26th August 2015
Newcastle Benfield 2 Morpeth Town 2
High flying Morpeth Town had their wings clipped at Sam Smith’s Park, forced to settle for a single point when all three were there for the taking. Top of the table at kick-off, they looked certain to retain their advantage as they pummelled Benfield, establishing a winning position before inexplicably forgetting to finish the job. Last time these two met here the Northumbrians hit six, and for a while a repeat dose was on the prescription. On this occasion however, elation would turn to frustration.
In the first half Morpeth passed with more relish than a McDonald’s Triple Whopper, throwing the kind of shapes you’d expect from a demented reveller at an early Nineties rave. The evergreen Keith Graydon switched one over forty yards which would have had a phalanx of Scousers drooling. At the time we were mesmerised by the audacity of it all, without considering that Cook in the Benfield goal, while not quite able to check his e-mails or Twitter notifications, wasn’t exactly clocking up a laundry bill either.
There’s an old adage (it might be a cliché but I’d have to consult Chris Kamara) that says if you’re able to stay in the game while the waves are lapping against the door, you’ve got a chance. Benfield put the sandbags out, Tobin heading away anything in his orbit, while Drane at left back had the sprightiness to recover whenever he got exposed. The goals looked terminal at the time, and avoidable, but with their foot pressed firmly on the throat, the visitors stopped short of asphyxiation.
A corner routine saw Luke Carr roll a pass into the path of Ben Sayer who, in the period before the defenders deigned it necessary to close him down, found time to crash home a shot. Graydon, juggling one through the heart of the opposition box, doubled the lead and left most observers wondering what the damage might be.
Had Turnbull not slid back across his line to prevent Chilton from crowning another slick move with the finish it deserved, the deficit might have been irredeemable, but the Lions had talisman Paul Brayson up their sleeve. Benched, presumably with a potentially lucrative FA Cup tie at the weekend in mind, he entered proceedings late, and Morpeth had not given themselves sufficient insurance. With a more potent shape, especially now that Shane Jones was liberated out wide, the game at last resembled a contest.
The youngster, a double goalscorer last time out, now turned provider, sending in a sumptuous delivery to Brayson, who dinked the ball deftly over Dryden. Initially, tweaking the tiger’s tail seemed unwise. The Highwaymen, rattled that their dominance had been challenged, set about reasserting themselves with a little more urgency. There were numerous chances, Cook making a couple of important stops, but too few efforts on target. The penalty they suffered for this was literal, it coming from twelve yards after Dan Taylor was felled on the far side. Improbably, Benfield were level.
Still, as spectators checked their watches, there was an opportunity for the boys from up the A1 to almost snatch it back. An assistant’s flag came to the rescue as the ball was bundled home. From my angle it was difficult to see whether or not the decision was correct. It was a heart in the mouth moment, yet it ensured that the points were shared. ‘Daylight robbery’ according to one away follower. It wasn’t, as darkness had very definitely fallen when the equaliser was stroked in, but I knew what he meant.
I was mightily impressed by Morpeth. Blood and thunder’s all very well but I’m a hopeless romantic when it comes to spraying the ball around, and playing the game the ‘proper’ way. To that end, I hope to see them again soon. Their awkwardly appointed little home patch at Craik Park is top of my list of new grounds to visit this season. Reliant on public transport, I suspect I may need to do it before winter sets in, and this has certainly given those plans fresh impetus. That though, is an adventure for another day.
Newcastle Benfield: Cook, Turnbull, Drane, Slaughter, Tobin, Paterson, Convery (Brayson), D.Henderson (Baptist), D.Taylor, Jones, Walker (McEwen) Subs Not Used: L.Anderson, Scorgie
Morpeth Town: Dryden, Hiftie, Novak, Sayer, Swailes, Hall, S.Taylor, Graydon (Nellis), Carr (S.Henderson) Chilton, McAndrew (S.Anderson) Subs Not Used: Taggart, Jewels