Northern League leaders Consett were held to a 0-0 draw by Newcastle Benfield in their final game of 2021 – but it took a save of the season contender to deny them all three points.
Benfield were much changed from the side beaten 4-0 in the FA Vase at Sam Smith’s Park last week, and it was one of their returning players, goalkeeper Andrew Grainger, who won his side a point.
The game was entering added time when Consett left-back Olly Scott send over a superb cross from the left, which picked out Colin Larkin.
The veteran striker’s bullet header looked like a matchwinner all the way, only to be thwarted by Grainger, who flung himself across goal to tip the ball over the bar, pictured top.
It was the defining moment of a game which saw Grainger also make good saves from Luke Carr and Dale Pearson, and Consett denied two strong penalty claims.
The first, in the 22nd minute, saw Carr beat the keeper to Jake Orrell’s through ball, pictured below, but get absolutely flattened in the process. The referee waved away Consett’s penalty appeals.
There were a smattering of chances at either end, but it was a day when defences ruled supreme, with both back lines doing their jobs well.
Consett had another strong penalty shout in the 86th minute, when Pearson appeared to be tripped by a defender as he chased a stray backpass, but again nothing was given.
The goalless draw is Consett’s first in 60 games, going all the way back to 4 January 2020, when they were held 0-0 at Northallerton Town.
They remain eight points clear of their nearest challengers at the top of the table, with only a handful of games due to be played over the festive period.
West Auckland’s match today was postponed, so Ryhope CW’s 4-1 win at Newton Aycliffe lifted them to second. North Shields are now third after two late goals saw them come from behind to beat Northallerton 2-1.
- Full match report, stats and more pictures to follow.