Newcastle Benfield 1, Newton Aycliffe 2
By Andy McFarlane
Newton Aycliffe ended their Ebac Northern League Division One campaign bringing all three points back to County Durham after their first ever victory at Sam Smith’s Park.
A fortnight after Benfield knocked Aycliffe out of the League Cup following a penalty shoot out, it was points on the line this time as Aycliffe looked to reach their highest ever league finish beating the sixth place of Peter Dixon’s 2015-16 side.
Defeat could have seen an equal sixth place finish but victory, results depending, could see The Newtonians finish in third, a solitary place outside of the play-off spot for promotion into The Northern Premier League.
The visitors started the brighest against a Benfield side, managed by former Aycliffe boss Colin Stromsoy, without particularly testing the stand-in goalkeeper other than him pushing away a Ben Reay strike down to his left.
On the stroke of half time Benfield broke down an Aycliffe attack and following a slip at the back the ball ended up at the feet of former Newcastle United forward Paul Brayson who lifted the ball over Adam Pickford, who rushed out to close down the ball, and it bounced over the line to send the home side in ahead at the break.
Ten minutes into the second period it was all square again as Ethan Wood picked the ball up in the centre of the park and drove forward before playing a sublime ball through the home defence to Ben Reay who did well to slide the ball through the ‘keepers legs and in.
As the clock ticked on, with the home side killing time, Brian Atkinson made a positive change in both shape and personnel, introducing Jack Clarkson in place of Lewis Walton, while having the midfield interchanging positions to ensure that the home side were never sure where the threat would come from next.
The threat did lead to the winner, coming from the unlikeliest of sources, as Aycliffe’s pressure saw them win a corner in the very last minute and, throwing the centre backs forward, Joe Ferguson whipped in an inswinging corner, which hung invitingly, before reaching Callum Munro at the back post and his powerful header flashed past the defenders on the line.
The four minutes of added time came and went but Aycliffe’s dominance continued and the final whistle curtailed another Aycliffe attack.
Saturday will decide the final league table but regardless of results a season which has seen a change in management, a run of poor form, a large turnover of players, has still ended up the most successful one in Newton Aycliffe Football Club’s history.