Newcastle Benfield 2 – 0 West Auckland
Newcastle Benfield inflicted West Auckland’s first defeat since October as goals from Jake Orrell and Paul Brayson gave the Lions a 2-0 victory at Sam Smith’s Park.
Orrell opened the scoring inside ten minutes after converting Rhys Evans’ cross to fire the hosts ahead.
Brayson added Benfield’s second on 63 minutes following a misplaced pass by Shane Bland to deliver a low finish into the far corner and condemn Gary Forrest’s side to a rare defeat.
The result sees West remain in fourth, five points behind local rivals Bishop Auckland.
In the previous meetings this season, West edged a 1-0 victory back in September courtesy of a second-half strike from Lewis Dodds.
And just a few days later, the two sides clashed once again in the FA Cup Preliminary Round and Benfield’s Dale Pearson scored the only goal in what was another tight contest.
Forrest made two changes from last week’s FA Vase win over AVRO with Denver Morris and Amar Purewal replacing Ross Colquhoun and Paul Connor in a bid to keep the momentum going.
In chilly conditions, Benfield started brighter and carved out their first chance in the opening four minutes as an in-swinging corner picked out Richie Slaughter, who could only fire his effort over the bar from just a few yards out.
Though just six minutes later, Evans’ cross from the right-hand side was toe poked home by Orrell at the near post to give Benfield a deserving lead.
West lacked the urgency they had shown in recent weeks and struggled to get a foothold in the game until the 22nd minute, when Amar Purewal directed a subdued header into the gloves of Andrew Grainger.
Adam Mitchell also had a sight of goal moments later, hitting a right-footed strike from 20-yards out only for Grainger to be alert to the danger once more to make a routine save.
On 37 minutes, Benfield pushed for a second and almost got it in spectacular fashion as Pearson’s acrobatic effort inside the six-yard box narrowly sailed over the bar.
Mark Convery’s side were in control and some extraordinary perseverance from Scott McCarthy found Brayson in the middle, though his left-footed shot was calmly collected by Bland heading into the interval.
Forrest decided to make a change with the aim of clawing something back as skipper Steven Snaith was replaced by new signing Australian James Xydias, who was hoping to make an impression on his debut.
West threatened in the opening exchanges of the second-half as Grainger was forced into action to keep out Purewal’s close-range header following Liam Hegarty’s cross after good work by Xydias.
On 56 minutes, Benfield created a decent opportunity as Pearson’s curling strike was superbly parried away by Bland to keep West in the contest.
That was until seven minutes later when a sloppy pass from Bland was pounced upon by Brayson, who reacted quickest, before slotting the ball into the far corner to extend Benfield’s lead.
Brayson was determined to inflict more misery on West and grab his second of the afternoon though Bland was on hand to make another great save as Benfield controlled the tempo of the game.
Heading into the closing stages, West pushed for a consolation and substitute Arran Wearmouth almost pulled one back only for some fine goalkeeping from Grainger to keep his clean sheet intact as Benfield held on to go 11 matches unbeaten.
West will look to bounce back on Tuesday evening when they travel to Division Two side Thornaby FC in the League Cup Third Round (19:30).
Newcastle Benfield – Grainger, Evans, Martin, Turnbull (c), Robson, Slaughter, Orrell, Noble (Laidler, 81), Brayson, McCarthy (Heaney, 72) Pearson
Subs not used – Scott, Knight, Novak,
Goals – Orrell (10), Brayson (63)
West Auckland – Bland, Morris, Hegarty, Price, Hunter, Snaith (c) (Xydias, 45), Dodds (Francis, 79), Portas, Dowson (Wearmouth, 65) Purewal, Mitchell
Subs not used – Cobain, Bradley
Referee – Jack Gordon
Attendance – 128
Report by Harry Crowe
Photo by Andy Mitchell.