BEDLINGTON Terriers continued their recent fine run of form on Saturday with a comprehensive 6-2 victory over visitors Billingham Synthonia.
Hotshot striker Alex Benjamin was on fire again, bagging four of his team’s goals to extend his lead in the league goalscoring charts, with an incredible 18 in just 12 games.
Changes were necessary after the gritty draw against Shildon in midweek, with Ben Christensen moving into the left back berth, Keith Graydon partnering Ian Dixon in midfield and Ali Henderson taking the place of Steven Stewart to provide width in tandem with Anthony Chapman.
With Anthony Shandran not recovered from injury, new signing Wayne Gredziak retained his place up front with Benjamin.
With keeper Paul Newton still injured, Kevin Morton had the opportunity to build his case for the No. 1 shirt following his stunning performance in midweek.
The Terriers took the game to their opponents from the whistle and their pressure was rewarded with the opening goal in the quarter hour mark.
Henderson played a clever ball with the outside of his right boot into the path of Benjamin, who controlled with his chest before slotting into the bottom corner from 15 yards.
The lead was doubled only two minutes later through the same combination.
Graydon fed the ball out to Henderson, and his early cross saw Benjamin steal in ahead of the Synners keeper and a defender to guide the ball home at the near post from ten yards.
The Terriers were in almost total control of the game, with the visitors limited to sporadic attacks on Morton’s goal.
However, it was only in the final minutes of the half that the hosts effectively made the game safe.
On 41 minutes, a defensive clearance fell to Henderson and after he feinted past one man, he struck an exquisite lob from 25 yards which seemed to float for an age before it dipped just under the crossbar with keeper Porter completely helpless.
Three goals became four within 60 seconds as Benjamin started and finished the move which resulted in yet another triple for the player who cannot miss at the moment.
He crossed the ball from the right, and when Thomas Marron’s attempted block only succeeded in knocking the ball back to the Terriers No. 9, the striker surprised all by smashing with the outside of his boot from the most unpromising of angles to curl the ball into the far corner.
Benjamin could have scored his fourth and the team’s fifth in the final seconds when put through clear on goal, but this time he dragged his effort wide and the shell-shocked visitors had the chance to regroup during the interval.
The respite was to be short-lived, however, as Benjamin earned and converted the penalty won within two minutes of the restart.
Synners substitute David Abel felled the striker in the area, giving the referee an easy decision in awarding a penalty.
And Benjamin yet again showed his prowess from 12 yards, sending the keeper the wrong way as he slotted the ball into the corner.
As Bedlington slipped into cruise control, Synners took the opportunity to strike back twice within seven minutes to put a more respectable look on the score line.
Firstly, the Terriers failed to deal with a long throw into the area and eventually Colin Iley converted from close range.
Graydon almost restored the five-goal lead with a superb 20-yard volley from a clearance from a corner, but the Synners reduced the deficit further on 58 minutes when Richard Storr capitalised on poor defending to score his team’s second of the afternoon.
Benjamin’s strike partner Gredziak should really have opened his account for the afternoon on the hour mark when Benjamin hit the ball across the six-yard area, and with the goal at his mercy from three yards, Gredziak saw his effort blocked by the defender on the line.
Bedlington continued to create chances, but without the same urgency of the first half.
Henderson was eventually replaced by Stewart, and fully deserved the rousing applause after his contribution to the game.
Benjamin spurned another chance by pulling his shot wide when put through by Graydon.
Shortly after Graydon was cautioned, the afternoon got even worse for the visitors with 17 minutes remaining when their skipper Harbron was shown his second yellow card of the game and inevitable red for a late challenge on Christensen.
To their credit Synners never gave up or accepted their fate, and if anything posed more of a threat with ten men than they had with their full complement of players.
However, it was the Terriers who had the final say, and they scored their sixth in the final minute when Gredziak ran on to a flicked pass over the top and although the Synners keeper blocked his initial effort, the rebound fell perfectly for him to use his momentum to power a header into the top corner to complete the scoring.
All in all an excellent performance by the Terriers, and one which consolidated second place in the league, although they have played more games than most teams below them.
This form will stand them in good stead for the tricky FA Vase encounter this Saturday, when defending league champions Spennymoor Town are the visitors to Welfare Park.
Bedlington Terriers FC will be seeking revenge for the last minute loss to the visitors in the FA Cup back in August.