Stockton Town FC v Newcastle Benfield
With the management team away, John Fielding and Jason Hamilton were in charge of team affairs tonight and for the first time this season the starting line-up had to be changed mainly because of availability, Joe Carter came into right back in a 4-3-3 system and Chris Stockton started wide left. Max Craggs made his first start since May as he continues his rehabilitation from a knee injury.
It was a slow start by both teams perhaps because of the heavy showers and as in Saturdays match it was Benfields Paul Brayson who looked the most likely. He had an attempt from a corner half blocked that clipped the outside of the post on its way out then just 2 minutes later a smart turn from Brayson inside the area saw his shot on goal tipped onto the bar by Arthur and he was denied again when Nicholson blocked his shot on the edge of the 6 yard box. The resulting corner was intercepted by Chris Stockton and he raced up the pitch to find Bulmer but no one could get on the end of Bulmers cross and the chance was gone. It was the same two who conjured the Anchors first effort on goal when Bulmer stretched full back Evans and crossed, Stockton coming in from the right hit a first time effort which was pushed away low down by his post by Benfield keeper Grainger. Despite Benfields domination of the ball in the first 25 minutes the Anchors could have opened the scoring in this period when Craggs caught the keeper off his line but his 35 yard lobbed attempt drifted wide. Then two powerful goal bound efforts from first Dale and then Nathan Mulligan were deflected wide for corners by Benfield defenders when they could have just as easily flew into the goal.
But it was a false dawn, Benfield took the lead on 35mins as they got in between Stockton’s lines again and the pass out wide was intercepted by Nicholson but unfortunately the ball deflected straight to Dale PEARSON, who would have been otherwise offside, he ran through and finished well into the bottom corner. Benfield were in the ascendency again and apart from a trademark Craggs free kick which had Grainger flying across goal to save, The Anchors looked second best. It was no surprise that the Lions scored a second through Jake ORRELL two minutes before the interval as Stockton gave the ball away again cheaply on the halfway line and a simple ball forward found Brayson in space his mishit shot was turned in by the striker.
Two more chances went begging for Benfield a minute either side of half time however Stockton Keeper Arthur deserves credit for a wonderful save from Pearson soon after the break as Stockton's right hand side failed again to cope with the powerful winger. That wasn't the last time Michael Arthur would deny Pearson and he made two more top class saves from him before Benfield finally finished the game off. A long ball over Dale Mulligans head put in Brayson and as Mulligan chased him into the box the striker cleverly cut across in front drawing the foul and Penalty, the resulting Red Card seemed harsh but that and BRAYSON's emphatic strike from the spot ended this as a contest, if it was one before that.
The Anchors battled on gamely and the introduction of Woodhouse livened them up and gave a bit of threat to the attacks, however save for a couple of scrambles in the 6 yard box after corners they didn't look like reducing the deficit
Bad night at the office but slightly concerning coming so quickly after Saturdays below par effort, one or two players looked surprisingly lethargic for this stage of the season and despite everyone trying their best only a handful came out with much credit, Nicholson and Risbrough did well, Chris Stockton was lively so was Fred Woodhouse when he came on. Michael Arthur got the George Grill and Oscars Bar Man Of the Match for keeping the score from being slightly embarrassing. Lets hope it was just a blip, I'm sure the management will be working hard to get the Team prepared for two tough looking away games coming up. An evening to forget for the stand in management.