The Dynamo stopped the rot in dramatic style as they fought to win a point at a sunny Newburn Leisure Centre. Starting with a slightly makeshift 11, due to injury and illness; Stokoe, Tunesi, Richards, Brough, Brown, Simons and Turnbull were all missing, while Hewitson was only fit enough to take his place amongst the substitutes. Making their full Fenham debuts were Sam Pilgrim at centre back and Niall Clerk on the right of midfield.
There were still a few regulars to give the gold and black a look of familiarity, with Pilgrim joined in the back four by Orkney on the right, Harrison marshalling things in the centre and Chris Thirlwell asked to fill in at an unfamiliar left back slot. In front of them, Danny Arkle was skippering the side for the first time; joined by Miller in the middle with the returning Stephen Smith on the left. Kevin Nichol sat just in behind the lone front man and manager-for-the-day, Michael Greeves. Leaving Chris Hewitson as the lone substitute and assistant manager.
The first half was a very even affair, with both sides having decent chances to trouble the scorers, over the course of the 45, the home side perhaps shaded it, but the Dynamo matched them in all areas of the field with passion, grit and determination.
This set the tone for the second half, with both sides eager to get ahead, but keeping aware that over zealous attacking could lead to counter attacks. The Fenham rearguard stayed strong, with Harrison leading the back four, his supporting cast didn’t let him down – Pilgrim looked assured and comfortable alongside him, with Thirlwell looking like he’d played left back all of his life. Orkney was his usual solid self on the right side.
Arkle seemed to thrive on the responsibility of the captaincy and was a constant voice, rallying his troops on the battlefield, his first mate Miller ran and battled as if his life depended on it. Clerk was making his debut in an unfamiliar right midfield position but bought into the Dynamo work ethic with ease and as such, couldn’t complete the 90 minutes, as a mixture of fatigue and cramp struck, bringing Hewitson into the game with 20 minutes remaining. Nichol also started to feel the effects of his boundless running, as cramp hit the trequartista, but he would battle on.
A succession of Benwell corners would result in a goal mouth melee with minutes remaining, with a push on a Dynamo player inexplicably resulting in a Benwell penalty. The referee judging the pushed Dynamo player had then gone on to fall into a Benwell forward, resulting in the award of the spot kick. Fenham players surrounded the ref, in almost Manchester United style, with Smith and almost Nichol, being booked. After a long pause, McIntosh ensured that justice was served and saved the spot kick, down low to his right. The game got slightly bad-tempered after that, with Benwell players sensing that their moment to win the match might have been gone, kicks on Hewitson and Smith led to a free kick on the each of the area for Fenham; as the fouled player, Smith stepped up and bent the kick around the wall, only to find the home keeper was a match for his effort.
Dynamo would have one final chance to win it, as a Hewitson diagonal would find his left side counterpart; Smith delivered a sweet cross onto the head of Kevin Nichol, who stooped to head for glory, with the ball heading into the bottom corner, the Benwell keeper pulled off another remarkable save.
With time running out, Benwell pushed on and ended the game with three at the back and four up front. Chances came and went but they couldn’t break down a stubborn Fenham defence; with Harrison and McIntosh in no mood to concede.
Eventually time ran out for either side to find a winner, ultimately a draw being a fair result over the course of the 90 minutes. Fenham will take heart from the performance of a patched up side, which played with heart, drive and determination. Arkle was named as man of the match, but in truth, it could have gone to any one of the 11 heroes in the gold and black.