By Andrew McDonnell (@AndrewSJourno)
Paul Brayson’s controversial second-half penalty was the difference as Morpeth Town lost their opening Northern League game 3-2 against Newcastle Benfield.
Paul Robinson put the Highwaymen ahead before Jake Trodd and Tom McNamee turned the game around midway through the first-half.
Robinson scored his second of the game just before the break, which ensured his side went in at the break level.
However, on the hour mark things turned for the worst as Karl Dryden saw red for bringing down the Benfield forward in the area.
Brayson slotted the penalty into the bottom corner before Stephen Tobin had a goal ruled out, but the hosts held out for the win.
The Highwaymen opened up their season last week with a convincing 3-1 win in the FA Cup, and they started in fine fashion this week at Sam Smith’s Park.
Luke Carr’s corner found Robinson on the edge of the area on seven minutes, and the midfielder somewhat replicated his effort last week by lashing into the bottom corner.
However, the lead was short-lived as the hosts were level five minutes later when Brayson’s low cross was turned into the net by Trodd at the back post.
The blustery conditions were playing a big part in the game, and Benfield used it to their advantage on 24 minutes as they went ahead in the game for the first time.
Morpeth cleared the ball out as far as McNamee, who was inside the centre-circle, and the midfielder struck a brilliant shot which sailed over the head of Dryden.
Mark Convery’s side almost went three-up with a few minutes remaining before the break as Lewis Scorgie glanced on McNamee’s corner inches wide of the post.
A defensive error let Scott McCarthy through one-on-one moments later, but after the forward blazed his shot wide, Morpeth punished their opponents.
The visitors went up the other end Carr pushed the ball into the path of Robinson, who placed his shot into the bottom corner via the post.
Nick Gray and Dave Malone wouldn’t have been pleased with what they witnessed in the first 45 minutes, but their side were still level in the game.
And whatever was said at half-time, worked, because they came out a different side, albeit Benfield continued to match them pound-for-pound.
Robinson could have completed his hat-trick shortly after the restart, but he could only hit wide under pressure.
On the hour mark Morpeth found themselves down to 10-men after Dryden came out to challenge the Benfield forward for the ball, but in the process he brought the man down.
Chris Reid was back covering on the line, however, the referee sent the ‘keeper off, although the new rule states otherwise.
Benfield skipper Brayson stepped up and just squeezed the penalty past the outstretched hand of stand-in ‘keeper Keith Graydon.
Brayson found the ball at his feet on 72 minutes via a fortunate deflection off Mullen, but the forward blazed over a glorious chance.
Jordan Fry and Liam Henderson both had chances thereafter, but the latter saw his chance tipped over superbly by Andrew Grainger.
Benfield thought they had a fourth on 80 minutes when Tobin headed home, but the referee ruled the goal out for climbing.
Morpeth continued to apply pressure until the final whistle, and they thought they had their equaliser in the third minute of added time.
Sean Taylor took a free-kick quickly to find Damen Mullen forward in space, and the defenders’ shot looked to be heading into the bottom corner.
However, Josh Scott, who was virtually on the line, guided the ball over the bar and after two corners went begging, the final whistle went.
Newcastle Benfield: Grainger, Turnbull, Scott, McNamee, Tobin, Scorgie, Trodd, Baptiste, Brayson, S.McCarthy, Riley (Blackett, 69 min)
Subs Not Used: Cornish, McEvoy, Coghlan, Errington
Morpeth Town: Dryden, Mullen, Reid, Fry (Fondato, 77 min), Grieve, Hall, Taylor, Graydon, Henderson, Robinson (Chilton, 65 min), Carr (Novak, 74 min)
Subs Not Used: Swailes, Anderson
Goals: 0-1, 7 min, Robinson; 1-1, 12 min, Trodd; 2-1, 24 min, McNamee; 2-2, 45 min, Robinson; 3-2, 61 min, Brayson (Pen).
Referee: Helen Conley
Assistants: Peter Yuill and Paul Cooper