Town survived a last-minute penalty scare to secure a much-deserved point in their final home match before Christmas and the New Year.
Benfield must have fancied their chances of a double after inflicting a heavy defeat on Town four weeks ago, but Jamie Tunstall’s men were determined there would be no repeat of that scoreline at the Calverts Stadium.
They signalled their intentions early when centre-forward McKenzie Dicicco had a shot cleared off the line by defender Sam Dawson after 12 minutes. The Benfield defence stood firm again shortly afterwards when they managed to scramble the ball away from a dangerous corner.
The visitors tried their luck from long range without troubling Ben Fairless, but the Town keeper was grateful to see a powerful shot from Noah Millington scrape the bar and bounce to safety after 29 minutes. Town continued to impress going forward and almost made the breakthrough nine minutes before the break.
Centre-back Luke Drummond forced visiting keeper Andrew Grainger into a good save when he got up well to power a header goalwards from a well-worked free-kick. Ben Jackson also went agonisingly close to opening the scoring.
HT – Northallerton Town 0 – Newcastle Benfield 0
Benfield began to apply more pressure but they could find no way through a resolute Town defence.
Winger Jake Cunningham blazed over the top after 53 minutes and then full-back. Dan Smith saw his free-kick blocked by the home wall shortly afterwards.
Town were always a danger on the break, with Connor Dunlavey and Ben Jackson both hitting shots narrowly wide of the target. Seventeen-year-old substitute Ali Banks also made his presence felt, leading the line well and proving a real handful for the Benfield defence.
At the other end, Fairless continued to impress, making a good stop from Jay Errington after 79 minutes and then denying Benfield player-manager Paul Brayson from a free-kick at the end of normal time.
Brayson was at the centre of the drama that unfolded seven minutes into stoppage time when the visitors were awarded a controversial penalty for an alleged push in the back. The England C international, who has hit an incredible 281 goals for Benfield in a distinguished decade with the club, was out of luck this time. However, his spot-kick bounced off the bar to safety – and home fans felt justice was done.
FT – Northallerton Town 0 – Newcastle Benfield 0
Fairless, Zachariou, Graham, Scott (Spenceley 57’), Drummond, Luck, Chidanyika (McGuckin 61’), Conway (Hopson 57’), Dicicco (Banks 67’), Jackson, Dunlavey.
Sub not used: Tchabo Tchounga
Grainger, Smith (Hall 63’), Gaffney (Russell 80’), Haley (Brayson 90), Scorgie, Dawson,
Bennett, Millington, Errington, Hyde (Green 79), Cunningham (Annang-Colquhoun 73’).