West Auckland Town earned a hard-fought point over Newcastle Benfield in an entertaining Northern League Division One encounter.
Mechack Kanda headed the hosts ahead inside seven minutes before Craig Spooner equalised midway through the first half in a closely contested affair at Sam Smith’s Park.
The result sees West in ninth in the Division One table, one place above Benfield.
In the reverse fixture in August, Benfield edged a five-goal thriller at the Wanted Stadium after Matty Parker’s opener and Cyril Giraud’s brace cancelled out Amar Purewal’s double in a 3-2 win.
In similar circumstances to the previous contest, Benfield grabbed an early advantage albeit in simple fashion as Kanda was left unmarked in the centre to divert Giraud‘s corner past a helpless Tom Flynn.
The goal arrived moments after Purewal flashed his shot inches wide of Andrew Grainger’s left-hand post.
Stuart Elliott’s side were on top in the opening quarter of an hour and their attacking trio of Paul Brayson, James Novak and Giraud proved to be a constant threat throughout the half but failed to add to their slender lead as Novak fired over the crossbar and Giraud headed wide from Brayson’s delivery.
Though just six minutes later, West punished Benfield’s sloppiness and pulled level when Anthony Bell’s cross from the left was superbly volleyed home on the edge of the area by Spooner to get his first goal in an Auckland shirt.
In a game of two halves, West started the second period stronger and within two minutes of getting back underway nearly took the lead as Bell latched onto Lewis Dodds’ exquisite through ball, and immediately went for an audacious chip, but Grainger retreated and did enough to tip it over the woodwork.
On the hour mark, West grew in confidence and had a flurry of chances to break the deadlock with Spooner’s free-kick sailing high and wide from 22 yards while Purewal and Adam Mitchell both kept their efforts on target but were denied by Grainger via some exceptional goalkeeping.
Benfield were left stunned on 73 minutes after Brayson was sin binned by referee Christopher Joyce for dissent following a free-kick being awarded to Gary Forrest’s side, resulting in the forward having to leave the field for 10 minutes.
Once Brayson returned to the action, the hosts forced one final attack as stoppage-time approached, substitute Peter Glen-Ravenhill was bundled down by Dodds just outside the box and Flynn produced a fine save to prevent Novak’s free-kick from creeping into the top corner as the points were deservedly shared.
Newcastle Benfield – Grainger, Baltazar (Glen-Ravenhill, 80), Novak, Turnbull (c), Varga, Robson, Richardson, Kanda, Brayson, Haley, Giraud
Subs not used – Konstantinas, O’Reilly, Scorgie, Elliott
Goal – Kanda (7)
West Auckland – Flynn, Hegarty, Dodds (c), Mitton, Cobain, Spooner, Francis, Mitchell, Purewal, Guy (Greenwood, 65), A. Bell
Subs not used – Connor, Turns
Goal – Spooner (31)
Referee – Christopher Joyce
Attendance – 110
Photo by Andy Mitchell