SLOW, SLOW, QUICK, QUICK, SLOW
Newcastle Benfield 1 Ashington 2 – Ebac Northern League Division One:
It was all about pace for the Colliers. When they played with pace they looked sharp and bossed the game. But it took them time to get up and running after a slow start and gave Benfield the hint of a comeback when they seemed to take the foot off the pedal towards the end of the game.
It took them about 20 minutes to get motoring with Dan Maguire and Craig Spooner with their early efforts, but both defences were solid enough to prevent either keeper having to make any significant saves.
By the 30-minute mark Ashington had most of the pressure, playing the ball around quickly, matched by equally quick movement going forward. Benfield had to resort to long clearances only to see the ball come straight back at them.
The visitors finally converted their superiority just before the break. They came close when Jordan Summerly hit a powerful shot after the referee played a good advantage. With only two minutes to go, they took the lead: Andrew Cartwright bombing down the right, with Maguire getting to his cross before a couple of defenders and sweeping the ball into the net.
They picked up the pace immediately after the re-start. Ben Sampson got past two defenders before passing to Spooner whose swerving shot forced Benfield keeper Alfie Gordon to palm before being able to take. And it was pace that led to their second goal, minutes into the second half. The ball was hit up to Maguire, he helped it through, Spooner ran behind the defence and guided it past Gordon.
Despite being in control up until the last 20 minutes, they couldn’t find a third goal that would have put the game to bed.
As for Benfield, they started briskly enough with Michael Colquhoun pulling two shots wide and another blocked by Robbie Dale before Ashington got going. After that they were forced to defend in numbers, with only a few clear cut chances. They didn’t help their own cause by not being able to hold on to the ball when attacking and hitting a couple of free kicks in the Ashington half aimlessly forward.
Cameron Gascoigne thumped one shot only to see it blocked by Robbie Dale. Substitute Dennis Knight hit a more powerful shot that Ashington keeper Karl Dryden could only parry, after Colquhoun produced a nice flick pass on the turn to find Knight.
Knight almost capitalised on a mistake by Dale who mishit a long ball from the back, allowing Knight a run at goal. Dryden was able to force him wide left before the sub pulled the ball back to Paul Brayson and the Colliers keeper was quick enough to get back to save his shot.
Benfield saved their best to last. With less than 10 minutes to go, Connor Walker looked as though he’d scored, only for Sampson to make a goal line clearance. From the corner went across the Ashington box where it was met by a low, driving shot into the bottom corner by Gascoigne. And they could have nicked a draw with the last kick of the game but the ball bobbled just as Callum Guy hit it with a clear sight of goal.
It would have put an undeserved dent on the visitors’ promotion ambitions.