Consett made it 15 games unbeaten as they saw out the year – and the decade – at Belle View, but had to settle for a point after a 1-1 draw against a battling Newcastle Benfield side.
The Steelmen were without the influential Jermaine Metz – the only player to have previously featured in every game this season – and midfield playmaker Luke Carr. The former’s absence meant skipper Arjun Purewal starting at right-back, with Nick Allen in the centre of defence, while the latter’s saw Jake Orrell in the No 10 shirt, with Andrei-Vasile Ardelean wide on the left.
Consett were first to show, and the lively Ali Alshabeeb had the first shot of the game on seven minutes, but was well off target with his 20-yarder. Good play by Ardelean then saw him set up Dale Pearson in the 10th minute, but his finish lacked power and was an easy save for visiting keeper Andrew Grainger.
The visitors took the lead on 12 minutes when they were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out, and veteran striker Paul Brayson bent the ball round the wall and inside Kyle Hayes’ left-hand post to make it 1-0 to Benfield with their first attempt on goal.
Consett sought an immediate response, and almost got it when Ardelean’s cross from the left eluded Grainger, but defender Joe Robson got a toe end to the ball before Alshabeeb could capitalise from a couple of yards out, and the keeper was relieved to claim the loose ball.
Calvin Smith, who needs just one goal to add his name to the exclusive list of players to have scored 50 or more times for Consett, fired just wide from 22 yards, and then put a glancing header wide from Darren Holden’s cross.
Benfield had a couple of half-chances to increase their lead through James Novak and then Brayson, but the Steelmen equalised with a set piece of their own a minute before half-time, as centre-back Ross Wilkinson rose highest to head home Jake Orrell’s left-wing corner.
Half-time: Consett 1 Newcastle Benfield 1
The first half had been played in a strangely lacklustre fashion, with both sides finding it hard to get any real momentum, but the Steelmen were much better after the break, increasing the tempo and taking the game to their visitors, who sat deep and looked to play on the break.
Orrell had a great chance to give them the lead on 52 minutes after good work by Holden and Ardelean, but Grainger tipped the midfielder’s effort onto the bar and the ball was scrambled away.
Dale Pearson had opened his goal account for Consett with two goals against his old club in the League Cup back in September, but was denied a sniff of goal for more than an hour of this game. All that changed in the 67th minute when an excellent pass by Alshabeeb sent him clean through, but Grainger stood up well to save. Pearson reacted quickest to the loose ball, and tried to tee up Ardelean, but he was on his heels and the chance was gone.
A minute later Ardelean was left with only the keeper to beat after another incisive pass by Alshabeeb, but again Grainger was off his line quickly to save. That was to prove the young Romanian’s last involvement in the game, as the 70th minute saw him withdrawn to make way for Michael Mackay, who was making his long-awaited comeback after having surgery in the summer on the troublesome shoulder injury which plagued him for most of last season.
Mackay was quickly involved, with Grainger just beating Pearson to his hard, low cross, and in the 78th minute the veteran striker almost conjured up a goal for Alshabeeb with another ball in from the left. The young wide man’s header from 10 yards out beat the keeper, but came back off the post into the arms of the grateful Grainger.
The final chance of the game came in the 87th minute, when a poor backpass let in Pearson, but Grainger was again off his line quickly to block, which meant the striker had drawn a blank for the first time in eight games, and Consett had to settle for a point, instead of claiming the three which would have taken them back above North Shields into fourth place.
MATCH REPORT & PICTURES: GARY WELFORD
CONSETT: 1 Kyle Hayes, 2 Arjun Purewal (captain), 3 Darren Holden, 4 Matty Slocombe, 5 Nick Allen, 6 Ross Wilkinson, 7 Andrei-Vasile Ardelean (sub Michael Mackay 70), 8 Calvin Smith, 9 Dale Pearson, 10 Jake Orrell, 11 Ali Alshabeeb. Subs not used: Max Russell, Thomas McAloon, Adam Male, Josh Wilson (GK).
NEWCASTLE BENFIELD: 1 Andrew Grainger, 2 Matty Parker (sub Daniel O’Reilly 75), 3 James Novak, 4 Mark Turnbull (captain), 5 Brad Varga, 6 Joe Robson, 7 Aiden Haley, 8 Reece Noble (sub Ben Richardson 89), 9 Paul Brayson, 10 Mechack Kanda, 11 Peter Glen-Ravenhill. Subs not used: Lewis Scorgie, Stuart Elliott.
|28/12/2019||3:00 pm||Northern League Division One||2019-20|