The Northern League at Christmas

With most of Saturday’s games falling victim to the wintry weather, Sunderland RCA’s 2-2 home draw with Billingham Town on Friday night ensured they’ll be spending Christmas Day at the top of the Northern League tree. Behind West Auckland Town – in second place by virtue of an inferior goal difference – come Whitley Bay, 3-1 winners over South Shields with goals from Paul Chow – who else? – Robbie Dale and Michael McMullen. There was seasonal joy at Moore Lane too as reigning Division Two champions Newton Aycliffe beat visitors Norton 3-1 to stay sixth in the table, twelve points off the leaders.

Billingham Synthonia against Bedlington Terriers and Guisborough Town versus Ashington both finished in 2-2 draws. The point moves Guisborough seven points clear of Billingham Town, who were dumped back into the bottom three when Alex Benjamin’s penalty sealed a 3-2 comeback win for Jarrow Roofing at Newcastle Benfield. The Newcastle side had been 2-0 ahead with goals from Mick Chilton and Lewis Teasdale but strikes from Benjamin and Plymouth Argyle target Aristotle Guerin-Lokonga – a recent trialist at Sunderland having played for South Shields United in the Northern Alliance First Division earlier in the year – pulled the visitors level. Benjamin was the Northern League’s top scorer last season while at Bedlington Terriers and had a brief spell at Benfield during the summer before moving to South Shields, Sunderland RCA and, now, Roofing, where he replaces ex-Newcastle, Wimbledon and Dundee United forward Paul Robinson (who has himself now moved on to Evostik side Didcot Town after initially leaving Roofing for Chesham at the end of September). Released by South Shields for allegedly not contributing enough to the team, Benjamin has now hit 22 league goals (including 11 for South Shields and 9 after switching to RCA in October) and Roofing will be desperate to hold on to him until the end of the season at least.

In Division Two, a Liam McBryde hat-trick beat fourth-placed West Allotment Celtic and moved Paul Bennett’s Hebburn Town side into the top half of the table, eight points behind Esh Winning in third but with three games still in hand. After the resignation of Hartlepool United legend Brian Honour, second bottom Horden lost again, 4-3 at home to fellow strugglers Chester-le-Street Town. Whitehaven and Birtley drew 2-2, leaving Scott Oliver’s men four points off the promotion places in eighth.

Weather permitting, Tuesday night sees Consett travel to Ashington, with a Teesside derby between Norton and Guisborough and a rematch between West Allotment and Hebburn scheduled for the following day. There’s a full programme of Boxing Day fixtures, with the Billingham derby and Spennymoor’s trip to Shildon arguably the most enticing. All the games (and just as importantly kick off times) can be seen here.

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