by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Wednesday 17th August 2023
Chester-le-Street United 0 v 3 Jarrow FC
When you're down and confidence is low the last thing you need to do is turn down a golden opportunity to turn things around. Unfortunately that's exactly what United did last night and by the end of 90 minutes it had cost them dearly.
Chester had gone into the game on the back of four losses from four games. But in truth some of their general play and performances had deserved more. It was a case as First Team Coach Michael Nelson had said of turning those performances into results.
To do that he felt that United had to be more secure at the back and more ruthless up front. Unfortunately the players didn't take that philosophy forward into the game although it could have been so very different.
Take nothing away from a Jarrow outfit that took full advantage of United's failings and were well worth their win particularly with their second half performance. Perhaps the experience and clinical way they played in the second 45 minutes is something United can learn from.
United's youth and inexperience and perhaps lack of physicality in certain areas is well documented and known across the Northern League and is something that they need to address going forward.
It is of course still early days in the season but five losses from five games does not bode well particularly when at times it's United shooting themselves in the foot. If only their shooting at goal was as accurate as that aimed at their feet!
There was only one change in the starting XI from the side that had squandered a two-goal advantage against Horden this previous Saturday. Sam Bajrami coming into the defence as Joe Walls was unavailable. It meant a switch to a back four formation to accommodate the change.
Blink and you would have missed the first significant action of the game which caught everyone by surprise. Jack Ledger's inch perfect ball down the left channel releasing Jude Anderson behind the Jarrow defence and in on goal.
Luke Hudson came across slightly behind Anderson and attempted a last ditch tackle that sent Anderson to the ground before he could get his shot away. 47 seconds in and a penalty to United to give them a dream start.
Anderson got up to take looking for his first goal of the season. But unfortunately for him and his team he failed to convert. As Jak Wells in the Jarrow goal dived to his right Anderson put his shot just off centre and at a good height for Wells who was able to divert the ball to safety with his feet.
It would have been a real boost to United and a shock to the Jarrow system. Instead it was only a corner from Harry Laydon which Jarrow cleared comfortably. Both teams understandably were cautious in their opening after a dramatic start.
Jarrow almost had the next opportunity when skipper Nick Little crossed from the right and Callum Johnston got in for a header but was thwarted by Reyhan Grimaud's challenge and the ball went out for a corner that Karl Morrison wasted with a kick that was too deep for anyone.
Ledger was looking lively down the United left and won a corner at the opposite end off Johnston. Laydon took it and Bajrami up from the back narrowly failed to get his head on the ball when well placed.
Jarrow then went very, very close to an opener on the quarter hour mark. Joe Connor twisting and turning inside the United box to create a clear shooting chance that flew past Kieran Harwood but also the far post by inches.
Dan Robinson then did well in midfield to send a searching ball into the inside left channel for an overlapping Ledger to run on to. He carried it into the box before unleashing a low angled drive from 14 yards that Wells did well to get down to and smother.
Connor was then fouled by Robinson 25 yards from goal and Morrison spotting Harwood off his line tried to take advantage with a quick free-kick but he got the effort all wrong and it sailed way over the bar.
Connor was almost provider again for Jarrow finding Johnston completely free inside the box but the striker failed to control the ball at all and the chance went begging.
After a little flurry from the visitor's United began to get on top. Their movement and passing crisp and sharp and causing Jarrow problems as they tried to come to terms with their younger opponents.
Charlie Loveday showed trademark close control of the ball to fashion a shooting chance at the edge of the box and struck his effort well towards the near post. Wells again getting down well to turn the shot behind for a corner.
Laydon took it and floated it to the back post where Dylan Wilkinson got on the end of it but could only direct his header wide of the target. Back down the other end and Johnston's poor night continued as he headed well wide from 10 yards when was found unmarked from Morrison's left wing cross.
Ethan Gray who had shown in some great link-up play with Ledger down the left then found himself in space more centrally and with a clear path in front of him. He drove to the edge of the box but his finish was poor and he pulled his effort well wide.
Loveday was also looking lively for United and again after creating his own space saw an effort well blocked by the Jarrow defence. The ball came to Wilkinson who tried to square it across the face of the box.
Connor intercepted and looked to set a dangerous counter attack away with an incisive pass to Johnston but this time Bajrami was in the right place to dispossess the Jarrow forward and clear his lines.
For all they United had the better of the possession and looked sharper, Jarrow's more direct play on the counter in particular was always dangerous. Indeed with time almost expiring in the first half they almost found a way through.
A ball found it's way to Connor just inside the box and suddenly he was one-on-one with keeper Harwood and looking a likely scorer. However Wilkinson came from almost nowhere and put in a brave and brilliant block to deny Connor an almost sure opening at goal.
The half ended shortly after with perhaps United shading it but honours even was fair enough for a well contested sporting half. That changed dramatically after the break.
Jarrow brought Michael Tate on for Johnston as the second half got underway and if every you hope a substitution changes the game then Jarrow Manager Kennie Malia's hopes certainly came true.
If the first half had got off to a dramatic start then the second was equal to it and it was Tate at the centre of it. There seemed little danger as the ball fell to him about 25-yards from goal. He decided to try a speculative half-volley from distance.
The ball flew at Harwood in the Chester goal but at a comfortable height. Unfortunately the ball went through Harwood's hands and behind him and although he recovered to grab it after it bounced down, the Assistant's flag correctly ruled that the ball had gone over the line.
A shock to the Chester system and a fortuitous moment for the away team that they celebrated almost with a degree of genuine surprise. It was the second game in a row where Harwood had made a misjudgement from distance.
Chester tried to respond when Laydon took a 25-yard free kick. With the Jarrow defence expecting a shot Laydon instead cleverly found Loveday free inside the box left hand side.
Loveday controlled well and then from an angle drove in a fierce effort that went just inches over the bar. Perhaps he could have kept the effort down but it was still very close to an equaliser.
The goal though had clearly shaken United who seemed to lose formation and focus and instead of not rushing or getting anxious and just trying to play football gave the ball away and suddenly were not in space or looking for the ball.
Jarrow on the other hand looked really hungry and clearly Tate had given them additional impetus. He was looking to get forward at every opportunity and one burst took him clear of the Chester midfield to the edge of the box but his finish was wayward and well over the bar.
It was all Jarrow now and United's two central defenders, Wilkinson and Bajrami were doing well to limit their looks at goal to distance. From one such effort Connor fired another 20-yard effort over the top.
Loveday did have another shooting chance from 20-yards as he once again created space for himself but once again he fired over the top not troubling Wells in the Jarrow goal.
Connor then played a really dangerous cross into the United box which caused a real scramble and United only cleared the ball as far as the edge of the box where Little picked it up.
Taking a good touch he only had Harwood to beat which he did but unfortunately for Jarrow the ball flashed just wide of the far post. Then it was Kian Parker with an excellent ball out wide to Connor splitting the United defence.
Connor controlled well and then fired a low cross into the United six-yard box where Wilkinson was alert to the danger and managing to put in a great challenge on Jarrow's substitute Robert Ene to clear the danger.
It felt like a second visiting goal was coming and it did on 70 minutes. The surprising thing was it came again from almost nothing and was another moment Harwood will be keen to forget.
Again there seemed little danger when Connor had the ball wide on the left touchline some 30 yards from goal. He attempted to swing a cross in towards the back post but it ended up being on goal and with Harwood's positioning not right dropped over the keeper into the net.
Two-down United responded by bringing Dan Walton on rather surprisingly for Loveday and Michael Mallaburn for Brandon Young. In truth though neither got into the game and affected it like Jarrow's substitutions.
A measure of that was that both had only been on the field a matter of minutes when Jarrow went 3 - 0 up on 73 minutes. This time it was cross from the left that picked out the unmarked Ene in the box and the substitute guided it home with a deft header.
United did try to come forward but they were getting over run in midfield and unable to get the ball up to their forwards. When they did either the Jarrow defence dealt with them easily or United didn't get players forward to support.
The last ten minutes or so were played out without any further goal attempt incidents of note. Jarrow completely in control of the game and United unable to respond in kind even after bringing Nathan Conroy on for Anderson.
The final whistle brought another disappointing game and night to an end for a well beaten Chester side. At half-time there had been promise and hope. By the end of the game it was all questions and concerns that need to be addressed.
United are next at FC Hartlepool on Saturday. It could be said to be another tough test and indeed is. But then again when you've played five and lost five every game is a tough test.
These though are the challenges that these youngsters have to respond too and the need to appreciate the physicality and toughness of the Northern League is something United need to get to grips with quickly.
TEAM : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Reyhan Grimaud 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harry Laydon 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Sam Bajrami 7. Dan Robinson 8. Brandon Young 9. Jude Anderson 10. Charlie Loveday 11. Ethan Gray
SUBS : 12. Michael Mallaburn (for Young 72 mins) 14. Harry Marr - DNP 15. Dan Walton (for Loveday 72 mins) 16. Nathan Conroy (for Anderson 83 mins) 17. Gyles Waterston - DNP