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CONSETT made their own contribution to the pantomime season with some slapstick first-half defending which saw them throw away an early lead and concede four goals for the third successive game. With Dale Burrell joining skipper Carl Piecha and fellow defender Ryan Bell on the injured list, manager Kenny Lindoe made two changes to the side beaten at Billingham Synthonia in the FA Vase. Sam Hodgson, signed recently from Whitby Town, made his full debut at right-back in place of Luke Gilbert, and David Brown returned at left-back. Benfield had one of their trio of Consett old boys, Lewis Teasdale, on the bench, but there was no sign of the other two, Brian Dodsworth and Scott Martindale.
The home side could have opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute when left-winger Adam Scope picked out the unmarked Jordan Lartey at the back post, but he put his header wide. Two minutes later Consett had their first opportunity when Jonjo Dickman played in Jamie Poole, and his shot from eight yards was touched round the post by keeper Andrew Grainger. From the resulting right-wing corner by Harrison Davies the Steelmen took the lead, David Scorer beat Grainger to the ball to head home.
Unfortunately, the men in red were unable to build on their lead, and a disastrous 10 minutes instead saw them chasing the game, instead of being in control of it. Midfielder Paul Antony levelled the scores after quarter of an hour when his cross from the right slipped through Consett keeper Barry Poskett's hands and into the net.
The No 1 made partial amends by tipping over a 25-yard free-kick by Lartey, and Antony hit a rising shot over after robbing stand-in skipper Craig Robson of possession. But the respite didn't last long, as Benfield went ahead on 24 minutes, from another defensive error. Scope's flighted corner from the left beat everyone at the front of the six-yard box, went across the face of the visitors' goal, and Benfield skipper Kevin Leighton, unmarked at the back post, had the simple task of prodding the ball home.
A minute later Consett were really up against it, after conceding another poor goal. A simple punt up the middle by Grainger saw Scorer attempt to head back to Poskett, only for the ball to strike Benfield's leading scorer Michael Chilton on the head and loop past the stranded keeper.
Consett were on the ropes, and Benfield midfielder Shaun McAvoy went close with a dipping effort which had Poskett worried, and then left-back Carl Paterson wasn't too far away with a low drive from outside the box after a corner was only half-cleared.
The visiting strikers were suffering from lack of service, but Marc Walton forced a good diving save from Grainger with a 25-yard free-kick after he had been fouled. Right on half-time the game was almost put beyond Consett's reach when No 9 Anthony Burnell was left with only Poskett to beat, but the keeper saved well, diving at his feet.
It was to be Poskett's last involvement in the game, as he was replaced for the second half by teenager Peter Jameson, after losing a contact lens.
Half time: Benfield 3-1 Consett
Consett tried hard to claw their way back into the game, but were restricted to half-chances by a Benfield defence in which Kenny Boyle was outstanding. Walton shot well wide, Poole hit a dipping effort from 25 yards which didn't bother Grainger, and Mackay had Walton's low, hard cross across the face of goal taken off his toe by an excellent tackle by right-back Mark Turnbull.
Benfield still looked the more likely scorers though, and Jameson had to be at his best to keep out Burnell's shot from Lartey's pass. Then the No 7 was again the provider for Chilton, who turned Scorer inside out before lashing his shot over the bar with the goal at his mercy. Jameson then pulled off a fine double save, denying first Burnell and then McAvoy.
The young keeper, who hadn't played since rashly giving away the penalty which cost the Steelmen the game at Bishop Auckland, could do nothing about the fourth goal, in the 81st minute. Benfield sub Ross Peareth picked up a loose ball on the left edge of the penalty area, made space for a shot, and smashed an unstoppable shot into the top-left corner.
Walton, who had earlier tried his luck with a speculative 40-yarder, did reduce the arrears with four minutes remaining, rifling home from 15 yards after Grainger had saved David Brown's shot. Michael Mackay, who worked hard without getting a sight of goal all night, at last saw the whites of the keeper's eyes in the final minute, but Grainger was quickly off his line to thwart him.
When the final whistle went shortly afterwards, Consett remained in 17th place, just five points above the relegation places, with two out of their next three scheduled games against teams beneath them, Penrith and Tow Law. With the run of games which follows including fixtures against title-chasers Spennymoor, West Auckland and Whitley Bay, they need a morale-boosting win, and fast.
Full time: Benfield 4-2 Consett