Stockton marched on today with a ninth consecutive League victory and yet another clean sheet, the 14th of the season. A first half Woodhouse effort was supplemented with three second-half goals from Roberts, Risborough and Nicholson and it all proved too much for a game Newcastle Benfield side who had keeper Grainger to thank for keeping them in the game for so long.
Manager Michael Dunwell restored Kev Hayes to the lineup after missing the last 2 games with a knock, Jamie Owens moved onto the bench for what was the only game played today in the First Division.
Stockton started confidently against the gusty wind, which never quite reached the speed forecast and and although it did have an affect at times it was very much playable. Benfield almost took advantage of it in the opening minutes when fullback Scorgie sent in a wind assisted piledriver from 30 yards that whistled inches wide of Callum Roberts right hand post.
The visitors contributed to a bright and open game but they never quite got to grips with the movement of the Anchors forwards and Kevin Hayes especially caused lots of problems both out wide and drifting inside into the no 10 role and he played some lovely passes the first of which brought the Anchors first real attempt on eight minutes when the ball in between the defenders found Roberts but his shot was blocked, 10 minutes later it was the same pair inking up this time Robert was in the clear but he hesitated and Grainger managed to get out quickly to him and block the effort with his legs for the first in a string of crucial saves.
Stockton were getting joy on both sides and McWilliams and Franks down the left put in good balls but the Benfield defence managed to deal with them both. The pressure was building and Stockton took a deserved lead on 25 minutes, unsurprisingly it was that man Hayes skipping past the fullback Scorgie and playing in a dangerous cross Franks challenge stopped Grainger from clearing it fully and WOODHOUSE volleyed home the loose ball from about 8 yards.
A momentary lapse in the Stockton defence almost brought an immediate equaliser for the Lions but Hayley dragged his shot wide with the goal at his mercy.
Mikey Roberts was making some great runs and he was found again in space by Hayes but he was closed down quickly and the shot was blocked, Jonny Franks fired in a rasping 30 yarder but Grainger pushed it away with a full length dive to his left HT 1-0
Second half started with the Anchors playing with the breeze and still on the front foot and it wasnt long before Grainger was in action again stretching high to just tip over a Nicholson header from a Hayes cross. Then 2 minutes later Grainger was quick to get out of his box to thwart a Roberts run through but his clearance remarkably ended up curling back behind him for a corner.
The Anchors increased their lead on 62 minutes with a well worked team goal, Portas finding the ever willing McWilliams on the overlap he tucked it inside to Robinson who drew the defender and rolled in ROBERTS who finished well with his left foot from just inside the box.
The Anchors were now in irresistible mood and Hayes decided to try one himself cutting inside and unleashing a powerful shot which brought Graingers best save of the match diving acrobatically to his right. A couple of quick subs unsettled Stockton but just for a few minutes and Benfield gave it a go to get back in the game, Brayson had a great opportunity to make it an uncomfortable last 10 minutes when his run into the box was picked out and with Roberts coming to meet him he slid the ball under the Anchors stopper but the wrong side of the post.
The Anchors burst back into life and Hayes brought another good stop from Grainger, McWilliams firing the rebound just over the bar from 20 yards and with just 3 minutes left Stockton confirmed their domination when Hayes found the run of Mulligan who was away and clear he played it square inside the box to the supporting RISBROUGH who finished nicely.
Just a minute later Max Craggs stinging low drive from 22 yards had Grainger scrambling low down at his right hand post to push it away for a corner. Craggs swung the corner in and skipper NICHOLSON rose at the far post to head it home over Grainger to make it FT 4-0
A pretty comprehensive win for the Anchors today, 43 points collected from the last 45 available and the confidence is flowing through the whole squad, good performances all over the pitch, McWilliams was excellent again, Roberts worked tirelessly and deserved his goal Coulthard and Portas were typically in cruise control but Kev Hayes took sponsor MoM for an all round excellent performance on his return.
Some massive games coming up the next two weeks against top 6 sides Consett and Guisborough but first a huge test in the DCC semi final this Tuesday against step 2 side Spennymoor Town.
Benfield: Grainger, Parker, Novak, Turnbull(c), Scorgie, Robson, Hayley, Noble, Brayson, Cooper, Giraud
Subs: Varla, O’reilly, Baltazar, Slaughter, Elliot
Words: Lee Nicholson
Photos: Harry Cook/Ray Sharpe
Highlights: James Cartwright