Thursday, 28 March 2019

Newcastle Benfield - Sam Smith's Park



Newcastle Benfield FC
Sam Smiths Sports Ground
Chesterwood
off Benfield Road
Newcastle Upon Tyne
NE6 4NU







Ground Number: 841
Wednesday 27th March 2019
Newcastle Benfield 3-2 Whitley Bay
Brooks Mileson Cup Semi-Final






NEWCASTLE BENFIELD - A BRIEF HISTORY


The club was established in 1988 and have been known under various guises during their history including Brunswick Village, Heaton Corner House, Newcastle Benfield Saints, Newcastle Benfield Park and Newcastle Benfield Bay Plastics prior to switching to their current name in 2007. They started in the Northern Alliance Division 2, winning promotion as champions in 1990. A runners-up spot in 1994 was good enough for promotion to the Premier Division and despite being crowned champions in their first season, they'd have to wait until their second title in 2003 to gain promotion to the Northern League Division 2.  They were runners-up to Ashington in their first season, earning promotion to Division 1 where they've remained ever since. They won the title in 2009 but chose not to take the promotion. Aside from a sticky patch around 2013-14, they've always finished in a top half spot and currently sit 9th in the table.

In the FA Cup, their best run came in 2006. They beat Ryton, Cammell Laird, Hyde United and Guiseley prior to a narrow 1-0 defeat to Conference side York City in the 4th Qualifying Round. There have been several FA Vase runs, bur 2014 represents their best progress where they lost out to St Andrew's in the Quarter Finals. Local cup wins include a trio of Northern League Cups and the Northern Alliance League Cup In 1995.



MY VISIT

Originally, on my week off, I’d been planning to do a game with fellow Milton Keynes based hopper, Chris. However, our options were very limited. I was hoping to persuade him to do Steeton, but he didn’t want to travel that far with work in the morning. The only viable option was Tipton Town, a ground with a running track, which I didn’t fancy. I thought about it for a couple of days, finally deciding to get a cheap Megabus up to Newcastle and also a room for Tuesday night. Having done Dunston UTS on Tuesday, I had the choice of two options for my Wednesday game. Both were solid options without being exceptional but in the end, I chose the cup semi-final at Newcastle Benfield over a league game at Heaton Stannington. The day of the game one and I’d had a fairly late night, with plenty of drink but I awoke feeling fresh as a daisy when the fire alarm went off at 5 am. It turned out to be a false alarm, but I couldn’t really get any decent sleep after that. I watched some YouTube videos and browsed through Twitter before getting up just before 8. I had a shower and got my things together before sitting down to write up last night’s blog. I would have sorted the pictures and uploaded them but due to my Windows tablet randomly restarting, I had to abandon that idea. It was still under guarantee, so I fired off a tweet to Argos to try and sort the issue.





I still needed breakfast, so I headed to Greggs to have a steak baguette, fairly healthy by my standards. I then went to the Metro station to get my day pass, £7.50 which should cover all of my plans today. A metro and a bus later, I was at my first stop, The Angel Of The North. After getting some pictures, I made my way back into Gateshead. I considered going to Gateshead Leam Rangers to get pictures but it was a basic ground and quite a way out. I also dismissed a pint as it was still only 11.30 at that point. Instead, I had a walk around the town before getting back on the Metro. I got a Metro to Tyne Dock, walking to Harton & Westoe who had a smart setup for a step 7 side. From there I got a bus to Boldon CA, right next to Jarrow Roofing where I’d been a few years ago. From there I made my way back I was ready for some refreshment by now so I headed back to Newcastle for a decent lunch at Taco Bell. Fast food, but miles better than McDonald's, there are sadly not many of them about. A Metro to Byker allowed me to visit a pub there, The Cumberland Arms. It was a great pub I'd been to before and seen a Skiffle band at, whilst in the pursuit of good cider. I had a couple of pints, one new one which made me feel good. There was one ground I wanted to visit that had lost out to tonight's game, Heaton Stannington and it was a single bus from outside Morrisons to go and get some pictures. From there, back to Newcastle as I needed a lead to charge my iPad and then a bus along the Tyne to the excellent Free Trade Inn where I had a new cider from Nightingale Cider called Discovery. With an hour until kick off, it was time for me to head to the ground, hopefully finding food on the way. Nothing was found, but I wasn't really hungry anyway.



Getting to the ground just before 7, I paid my £6 entry and £1 for an excellent programme. I was given a nice welcome by the editor who told me to come to hospitality at half time. I headed off to the bar which was very smart. I had a pint of Woodpecker for £3, not real cider but a pint that I'd not had in a while and it was very pleasant. Looking at the form of each side, Benfield were in erratic form, having won 3 and drawn 3 of their last 6 games. Whitley Bay had recently lost 5-1 to Bishop Auckland and 9-0 at Hebburn Town and had made a managerial change with Nathan Haslam taking the hot seat. Since then, they were unbeaten, winning 3 and drawing 1 of their last 4. I went out to watch the game, getting some chips for £1.50. The visitors started on the front foot but it was Benfield that took the lead on 10 minutes, Dennis Knight finishing excellently into the top corner from outside the area. It was all-square four minutes later when sloppy defending allowed Ollie Martin to score with a shot that looked like it may have taken a deflection. Whitley Bay were still on top in the first half of limited chances, they came close to taking the lead when they tried to lob the home keeper. Benfield made it 2-1 on 39 minutes, Knight got his second when a cross was put in from the right and his close-range shot was deflected home. I had some nice homemade soup in the hospitality area at half time and had a brief chat with some of the people at the club. It was a much better second half from the hosts and they looked to have sealed the game on 78 minutes when Knight completed his hat trick when a good ball from veteran striker Paul Brayson found his striking partner who curled a shot past the keeper from around the edge of the area. Whitley Bay got a goal back on 87 minutes, a close-range finish by Andrei Ardelean. The same player looking to have equalised right at the death, but his shot hit the side netting. This sent the majority of the 351 crowd home happy, though Whitley Bay had bought a decent following. Newcastle Benfield will now face West Auckland Town in the final which will be played on Easter Mond
ay.



After the game, I walked back to the Metro and headed back to the city centre. I collected my bag from the hostel and went in search of liquid refreshment. There was a disappointment on that part, a pint of strawberry beer at £7 in a pub called Bacchus was followed up by my third disappointing Wetherspoons of the trip. The Mile Castle had been good last time I was in the area, but this time there was no bag in box cider. I had a bottle of Hazy Hog before walking back to the bus stop. I’d been hoping to make myself a bit drowsy to aid sleep but in reality, I was wide awake. My bus arrived 20 minutes early so I got on. £9.73 was the price I paid which was good value. It was pretty uncomfortable though and I didn’t get much sleep as I didn’t get a double seat to myself. Leeds seemed to love a Megabus, both times the bulk of the people got on here. There were a couple of characters, firstly a bloke that stank of weed, then another without a ticket who spent 5 minutes unsuccessfully try to bribe the driver £100 to let him on. ‘I canna dee it mun’ was repeated several times in a heavy Geordie accent before we left on time. A few driver changeovers later and we were on the outskirts of London around 7. The bus arrived ten minutes ahead of its scheduled arrival time despite plenty of traffic in the city. It was a walk to the tube station and a couple of trains across London to Marylebone. There, I only had a five-minute wait to get my train to Chalfont & Latimer. London had been a lot quieter than on Tuesday for some reason and it was nice to get a seat. I got back to the station at 9, getting home half an hour later. As ever, it had been a good but unhealthy couple of days away.



THE GROUND

SAM SMITHS PARK is a decent setup with plenty of cover. On the far side is an attractive wooden shelter that houses some gym equipment. Next to this is a seated stand, holding around 150. There's another stand of similar size along the other side with a covered terrace alongside it which holds around 200. The rest of the ground is open hard standing. There's hardly anything around the ground that I saw, just a residential area. The bar is excellent, offering a good range in pleasant surroundings. The tea bar is well-priced and also has a good range of items. 


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