A hattrick from Harry Cowper was enough to get Benfleet a win in pre-season as they come from a goal down to beat Essex Olympian League outfit Canning Town at Woodside Park.
Benfleet were on the front foot in the opening minutes of the game, but the visitors managed to repel their attacks. During the early moments, Billy Carter looked to send a cross towards the penalty spot, but Canning Town managed to clear, before they also looked to come forward and thought long balls over the top were the answer, but they couldn’t quite make the passes stick.
Town’s Callum Newson looked to weave his way through the defence, but his pull-back was cut out and cleared by the hosts. They immediately looked to attack down the other end, and appealed for a penalty, but the cries were ignored by the referee. Canning Town had a huge chance to take the lead in the 17th-minute as Lewis Belcher twisted and turned in the box, but his effort at goal was well saved by Florent Gislette.
Benfleet continued to dominate the possession as they sought to break down the Town defence, but they struggled to find the right pass or get it through the lines. That showed as a frustrated Taylor Lawrence tried his luck from distance, but his effort was just wide of the target. Despite finding themselves on the back foot, it was the visitors who had taken the lead, just 5-minutes later. Belcher picked up the ball once again in the box, trying to turn the defence, but this time his effort found the back of the net.
The goal gave Canning Town the opportunity to dominate the game, but instead, they found themselves on the back foot. Immediately after finding themselves behind, Benfleet looked to level the game, but a superb save from Deegan denied the hosts an instantly reply. Another good save and a lineman’s flag halted another couple of attacks before Town had settled to deny the hosts any openers.
On the verge of half-time, Town had grown confident with their one-nil lead and looked to apply their own pressure. They had almost doubled their lead as a cross-shot from Billy Evans was tipped onto the crossbar from 25-yards and the goal scorer Belcher looked to square the ball to those waiting in the middle, but it was cleared and the follow-up shot from distance was dragged wide.
Benfleet came out strong in the second half as they immediately applied pressure to the Town defence. Their efforts almost paid off as 2-minutes into the second period, Deegan pulled off a superb save to deny them, scooping the ball off the line with his leg. Canning Town weren’t just going to sit back as they went on the attack 2-minutes later, but another ball that was pulled back towards the penalty spot was cleared by the hosts.
Benfleet had found a foothold in the game and completely nullified the Canning Town threat. An effort from Sam Dulieu forced the Town keeper into another superb save before a corner was swung in, but punched clear. The pressure from Benfleet paid off in the 66th-minute as they found the leveller. Luc Harpon squared the ball to Harry Cowper, who had the easy task of poking the ball into an empty net. A couple of minutes past before the hosts had their second in quick succession. Martyn Lacey made a gut-busting run to receive a ball over the top and fed the ball to Cowper, who rounded the keeper and slotted home for his second of the afternoon.
The two-goals had given the hosts confidence as they came forward once against looking for more goals. Joe Hunter wanted to get a goal and fired a shot towards goal from the edge of the box, but his effort was inches wide of the near post. Attack after attacked eventually paid off as Cowper scored his third of the afternoon to make it a hattrick in the 73rd minute. The forward received the ball over the top and made a good run to get beyond the defender, before calmly slotting past the keeper.
As the game approached the final 10-minutes, Canning Town were down to 10-men as Senesie Banbura was given his marking orders with a red card following a challenge. Initially, it was given as a yellow, but a word with the linesman on the far side saw it upgraded to a red. With the man advantage, Benfleet continued to come forward. Cameron Harris headed just wide of the target, but it was the closest the hosts come in the final 10-minutes.
With two-minutes to play, Town found a sense of relief from defending as they carried the ball upfield and won a free-kick in the Benfleet half. The resulting set-piece came to nothing, but the visitors had one last attack in the 92nd-minute as the forwards carried the ball towards goal, but a shot from a tight angle was well saved.