Report: Town 4 Benfield 2
Guisborough Town marched on into the First Qualifying Round of the Emirates FA Cup with a strong second half comeback at the KGV on Saturday which saw them overcome Newcastle Benfield 4-2 after twice trailing earlier in the game.
The Priorymen were keen to bounce back to winning ways after a desperately close battle saw them bravely lose their 100% league record at leaders Shildon in midweek.
And Guisborough showed all the fighting qualities they have become renowned for this season with a well-deserved win over Benfield, which has earned them a mouthwatering trip to Evo Stik Northern Premier League side Ashton United on Saturday, 12 September (kick-off 3pm) in the First Qualifying Round proper of the Emirates FA Cup.
On Saturday against Benfield, Guisborough Manager Chris ‘Chardy’ Hardy was absolutely delighted with the resilience and superior fitness of his side which reaped rich rewards in a second half which yielded three further goals for the Priorymen after the first half had ended all square at 1-1.
After the game Chardy commented: “On reflection, the opening 45 minutes produced a performance that was neither poor nor particularly good. Disappointingly, the half seemed to be rudderless and left much room for improvement.
“In the second half we knew that being patient would be key in this fixture, and after twice going behind the lads showed good maturity in the knowledge that as the game went on our superior fitness levels would tell - and that was exactly how the game panned out today and ended with a comfortable and deserved 4-2 victory.”
Guisborough started brightly enough and in the third minute Steve Snaith's snap shot was turned round the post by the Benfield ‘keeper. From the resulting corner Andrew May – named Man-of-the-Match by his manager - got in a good header but the ball went the wrong side of the crossbar.
But Benfield were giving as good as they were getting and six minutes later they took the lead when the Guisborough defence failed to clear a scuffed free kick and the ball fell to Benfield's Jones whose shot found the net.
The Priorymen tried to get their passing game going but were finding Benfield's defence determined and capable of resisting their pressure. The game was being well-contested by both sides but with neither team able to create many clear-cut chances.
Gradually though, Guisborough began to exert some distinct degree of pressure but it was not until the 32nd minute that the home side equalised.
Danny McWilliams’ precise through ball was chased deep into the Benfield half by Danny Earl who held the ball up well waiting for support and then found Luke Bythway, who surged into the box and crashed a shot across the visiting ‘keeper and into the net.
The goal was something of a milestone for Luke because it was his 80th career goal for Guisborough, making him fourth in the club’s all-time top scorer list. The ‘Lionheart’ is now only two goals behind third all-time top scorer Mikey Roberts.
WILTING UNDER PRESSURE
The pattern of the game continued with both teams looking for a decisive second goal with an effort from Danny Earl being scrambled away by the Benfield defenders while Nick Liversedge had to go down smartly to foil one of Newcastle side’s attacks.
Guisborough started the second half in determined fashion with Peter Bulmer going close but it was the visitors who once again took the lead in the 52nd minute. Brayson received the ball in the left hand corner of the box, worked his way across the area and hit a hard shot which looked to be going wide of the post but took a wicked deflection off Danny McWilliams and into the Guisborough net.
Guisborough responded immediately and pressed hard for an equaliser but could not create a telling opening. However, the pressure was starting to tell on some of the Benfield defenders and their clearances became much more hurried than in the first half.
The addition of Connor Smith to the Priorymen's forward line in a 4-3-3 formation gave even more pace to the Guisborough attacks and the Benfield defenders were visibly wilting under pressure.
In the 67th minute, Danny Earl seized on a careless ball out of the Benfield defence and knocked it through for Connor Smith to race into the penalty area and confidently hit the ball past the ‘keeper. This gave Guisborough more self-belief and they began to play with more purpose and confidence as they searched for a third goal.
The Priorymen were now beginning to dominate the game with a succession of attacks and although Benfield tried to rally the Guisborough defence were in no mood to give way.
However, it was not until the 82nd minute that Guisborough finally took the lead when Danny Earl, standing in the goal area, acrobatically turned a corner into the Benfield net.
Four minutes later Guisborough produced the goal of the game as Danny Earl chased a through ball into the left corner, turned Benfield defender and moved in on goal. Following some frantic challenges the ball found Connor Smith on the right and he hit a first time pass to Curtis Round who took a touch before superbly beating the Benfield ‘keeper from 25 yards.
Overall, an exciting game for players and fans alike but a much more measured performance will be needed if Guisborough are to overcome their opponents in the next round of the competition which will be away against Evo Stik Northern Premier side Ashton United on Saturday, 12 September (kick-off 3pm).
Ashton currently lie mid-table in 15th position with six points, five places above Whitby Town who have just one point less. The Evo Stik Northern Premier League is two leagues above the Northern League in the national football pyramid, so this tie will be a huge challenge for Guisborough, with the princely sum of £3,000 awaiting the winners.
• Pic shows Luke Bythway scoring Guisborough's opening goal of the afternoon and courtesy of Yvonne Barker)