Glen Robertson previews Newton Aycliffe’s game at home to Newcastle Benfield this Saturday…
Newton Aycliffe face one of their most important games of the season this weekend, as they host Newcastle Benfield at Moore Lane Park.
The Lions are two places and three points behind Allan Oliver’s men in the fight to avoid the drop.
A win for the Royal Blues on Saturday – which would be a fifth from six games in 2013 – would establish a healthy barrier at the bottom, but a defeat would see them sucked back into the relegation mix.
Aycliffe go into the game on the back of one of their best away wins since joining the Northern League. Danny Earl and Paul Broom struck either side of the interval at the weekend as the Newtonians beat reigning FA Vase winners Dunston 2-0.
The result sees the club lie in fourth place in the Northern League’s current form table, which ranks teams over their last six outings. Aycliffe’s four wins from their six games leaves them behind just Darlington, West Auckland and Whitley Bay in the standings.
Benfield, in contrast, are 16th, after winning two and drawing one of their last six. But four of those points have come in their last two outings, since Steve Bowey and Gareth McAlindon took charge at the club.
Player/manager Bowey became the third different manager at the club this campaign after joining from Bedlington, and he is being assisted by former Terriers team-mate McAlindon. So far the duo have overseen a 1-0 win over Sunderland RCA, a thrilling 4-4 draw against Guisborough and a League Cup victory over South Shields.
This is Benfield’s ninth year in the top flight and they have only once not finished in the top half – a 12th placed finish last campaign – and are striving to pull away from the relegation dog fight. The Lions won the title in 2009, when Stephen Young scored an 88th-minute winner on the final day of the season against Penrith to secure top spot.
Young returned to the club in the summer from local-rivals Ashington and has scored nine league goals so far this season. He will be looked to as Benfield attempt to break down an in-form Aycliffe defence.
The Newtonians’ clean-sheet at the weekend was their second in their last four outings. Only Celtic Nation have managed to breach the defence more than once this calendar year, during their 2-1 win at MLP. And in Broom, Earl, Fred Woodhouse, Danny Lambert, Sean Reay and Kris Hughes, they possess the firepower to break down opposition backlines.
The hugely important game kicks off at 3pm at Moore Lane Park, with admission £5 adults and £3 concessions.