My ball! Frustration is probably the best word for RCA's experience today. More photos here.
The start of today’s match was overshadowed when RCA’s new goalkeeping coach Lenny French was taken ill with a suspected heart attack. An ambulance attended and Lenny was taken to hospital where successful surgery was performed. We understand that Lenny is now recovering and he sends his thanks to all who supported him at the ground. We all wish him the very best.
Finch, Clayton Davis, McNab (60), Lilley, Swansbury, Hodgson (84), Charlton, Page, Davison, Larkin, Callen (75). Bench: Elliott (60), Kokoska, McGuinness (84), Moan (75), Robinson.
Grainger, Evans, Martin, Slaughter, Robson, Scott, Orrell, Laidler, Brayson, Hales, Holmes. Bench: Devlin, Pearson, McCarthy, McEvoy, Scott.
Referee: Mr Matthew East Assistant referees: Mr Christopher Armstrong and Mr Mark Bell.
Newcastle Benfield: Paul Brayson.
Turning to matters on the pitch, Newcastle Benfield’s post-match Twitter feed described the game as a “fantastic afternoon’s entertainment.” Hmm. I very much doubt if that’s what RCA players, management, coaches and fans are thinking. This was a very frustrating first match of the season for RCA who finished the game without registering a clear strike on goal. Andrew Grainger, Benfield’s long standing keeper, is a class act and he was very far from unoccupied, but you always felt he was playing within his (considerable) capabilities. He was not effectively tested today. That may be taken to imply a criticism of the strikers. It’s not. The service into them was not good quality today. RCA had plenty of possession, particularly in the first half. The attacking accuracy, midfield creativity and service and defensive cohesion which had characterised the remarkable surge at the end of last season were not on show today to the extent they needed to be against a tough and determined Newcastle Benfield, who will count themselves unlucky not to have scored more than the second half Paul Brayson goal which won the game.
RCA started well and were having the lion’s share of the early play as they attacked up the Meadow Park slope. Benfield’s attacking sharpness was on display on 17 minutes when new signing Dean Holmes, who looked certain to score, hit the post and the ball was blasted over the bar by Jake Orwell. A minute later and a Stephen Callen free kick from the edge of the box was gathered by Benfield’s keeper, Andrew Grainger. On 34 minutes, Mark Davison beat Grainger to the ball, but his lob was too high and the keeper was easily able to collect in front of his goal.
On 50 minutes Paul Brayson - who else? - beat the offside, following good play from Slaughter and Hales, and went through to hit past RCA keeper Keith Finch, who had little or no chance.
Good play from Stephen Callen put Clayton Davis through to the bye line, but his powerfully hit cross hit the post. Colin Larkin drew a foul on the right and the resulting free kick was headed over by Greg Swansbury. Nice play down the left on 63 minutes led to Callen being free in the box, but he shot put past the post.
On 65 minutes Newcastle Benfield had the ball in the net, but the goal was disallowed for a foul on Finch, by Benfield’s centre half Craig Scott. On 72 minutes Joe Robson headed a Benfield corner across the goal and wide. This was during a period of sustained pressure from the visitors. Another Benfield corner was headed behind. The subsequent corner was cleared, but RCA stuttered in their counter attack, eventually winning a free kick on the right in our own half. The long diagonal from Davis was dealt with by the visitors.
There was good defending from Benfield in added time as RCA pressed, without a final product.
A frustrating day for all concerned, especially, I think, for the players. Manager Martin Swales said, “I’m gutted. I could not see us getting beaten at half time with the amount of possession we had, but we lacked quality going into the strikers and huffed and puffed. But, we have a real chance to put things right against Whickham on Wednesday night.”
At times we responded to frustration by compounding it with balls that were too ambitious. In the second half in particular the game was overly feisty and that nearly always suits the side in the lead. For sure, the ball did not run for us, but that’s no excuse over 90 minutes. Credit to Benfield, they did a good job on us today. Everyone will expect a reaction on Wednesday against Whickham at The Glebe. The players are very well capable and will certainly be up for it.
Lastly, it was good to see former League Chairman, Mike Amos, at the match. Mike’s usually a good luck charm for us, but not today. Mike’s lively blog is at https://mikeamosblog.wordpress.com - it’s highly recommended. (I subscribe so it gets plonked into my inbox every morning for a nice read with the breakfast coffee.)