Ward rescues Durham City, and it’s an opening point for RCA too

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DURHAM City left it late before claiming a share of the points against Newcastle Benfield in Saturday’s First Division opener at New Ferens Park.

Benfield goalkeeper Andrew Grainger made an excellent save from Denver Morris before player-manager Steve Bowey turned in the box and fired past City goalkeeper Rhys Jobling.

Adam Furness’s side trailed for 69 minutes and there was precious little time remaining when Ian Ward headed home a cross from newcomer Mark O’Dea to rescue a 1-1 draw.

Sunderland RCA also opened the season with a draw. Few chances were created at West Auckland, where neither side managed to break the deadlock in a hard-fought clash.

West’s Robert Briggs went close and debutant Gavin Barton clipped the post for the Wearsiders.

Not so at Spennymoor Town, who are strong favourites to regain the championship they relinquished for the first time in four seasons when Darlington 1883 claimed the 2012/13 crown.

On the evidence of Saturday’s four-goal thumping of Ashington, Jason Ainsley’s side will take some beating. Gavin Cogdon and the impressive Andrew Stephenson were on target, with debutant Liam Henderson bagging a second-half brace.

Bishop Auckland were within three minutes of claiming all the points at big-spending Celtic Nation for whom Johnny Allen cancelled out Robert Moncur’s early strike.

First Division newcomers Crook Town twice hit back for a 2-2 home draw against Consett, whose marksmen were Michael Mackay and Anthony Lund. Richard Hodgson was the Millfield side’s first scorer, with David Paul also on target late on.

Whitley Bay were surprisingly routed by Dunston UTS despite dominating the opening 25 minutes by which time they led through Jarrod Rivers.

Once Daniel Craggs levelled it was virtually one-way traffic and, in front of a Hillheads crowd of 441, UTS romped home as Michael Dixon, Ben Cattanach, Gary Ormston and a Craig Smith own goal made it 5-1.

New-look Bedlington Terriers edged Billingham Town 3-1 with Mark Doninger (2) and Jordan Mellish on the mark., with 17-year old James Loughborough outstanding.