Ebac Northern League First Division
Sam Smith’s Park
Friday 30th September 2022
Newcastle Benfield welcome Whitley Bay to Sam Smith’s Park on Friday evening for an Ebac Northern League First Division Fixture (19.30 kick off).
Whitley Bay make the short journey along the Coast Road in fine fettle having had their best start to a season for a number of years. Although the Bay won the FA Vase for a 4th time in 2010-11, from a league perspective, there has been less success in recent seasons and indeed last season, the club could have seen a devastating relegation, which was a big threat for a long period. Thankfully, the appointment of Nick Gray during the later stages of the season lifted the spirits of all connected with the Seahorses and having successfully avoided the drop, a promotion challenge is very much on the cards this time around after a summer rebuild.
The Bay come into the contest sitting in 2nd place in the table having won an impressive 8 of their first 10 league fixtures. Away from Hillheads, the record currently stands at 3 wins (Northallerton Town, Crook Town & Sunderland RCA), 1 draw (Carlisle City) and no defeats.
With a mix of youth and experience now complimenting each other within the squad, it is clear to see the new management team including Nick’s trusted Assistant Liam McIvor are shaping an exciting pool of players for the months ahead.
Whitley were most recently in action last Saturday and were 4-1 victors over Ryton & Crawcrook Albion in the FA Vase, a trophy which all at Hillheads would love to see sitting in their cabinet once again. Bailey Geliher grabbed a brace as the club eased into the first round proper to set up a home tie against Billingham Synthonia.
It is a similar scenario for the Lions with Col coming into the club last season ahead of our own summer restructure, although thankfully there was no relegation battle for Benfield. Although it is still very much a work in progress, everyone connected with the club has seen plenty of positive signs as we head into this fixture occupying a place in the top six, as the table begins to settle down.
The lads were last in action on Saturday when they secured a deserved 3-1 victory over Crook Town in the league to retain our unbeaten home record.
With both clubs having identical unbeaten home/away records (we have won 3, drawn 1, lost 0 at Sam Smith’s Park, mirroring the record of Whitley Bay away from Hillheads), a close encounter is anticipated but it is hoped our particular unbeaten record is the one which remains intact.
Cameron Gascoigne is available again after serving a one match suspension last weekend and there are no fresh disciplinary issues for Col and his team to worry about. With a clear week before this game, it is hoped minor injuries have cleared, although the game will come too soon for longer term absentees.
Our visitors also have a clear charge sheet when it comes to suspensions and like the Lions, it has been a free week ahead of this game, therefore a strong squad should be making the short journey.
Former FA Vase winner Ben Richardson was part of the Benfield squad for the 2019/20 season. Ben a combative central midfielder was in and out of the starting 11 but was a valued member of the squad during his short stay in NE6. Ben has been a regular starter in recent weeks for Whitley Bay and should feature.
Meanwhile in the Lions ranks, Cameron Gascoigne, Aiden Haley and Ryan McGorrigan are 3 lads who can all include Hillheads as being a former home earlier in their respective careers.
Saturday 22nd January 2022
Ebac Northern League Division One
Newcastle Benfield 4 (Connor Walker 5, Ryan McGorrigan 22,34,85) Whitley Bay 2 (Matthew Coley 2, Malcolm Morien 18)
A thoroughly entertaining contest on a cold January afternoon at the start of 2022 saw the Lions come out on top after the Bay twice took the lead. Benfield had Ryan McGorrigan to thank after the frontman bagged a treble in front of a crowd of 304.
After Friday it is the small matter of the Coast Road derby as Dean Nicholson brings his Stan team to Sam Smith’s Park on Tuesday evening – 4th October (19.30 kick off).
The Stan took the honours in the annual Jimmy Rowe Memorial Trophy back in July in our last meeting during the early stages of pre-season, indeed this was our first outing of the Summer.
After a tough start, the men from Grounsell Park are starting to find their feet in the first division and an entertaining contest is anticipated.