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Another Tough Afternoon For United's Youngsters

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division Two - Saturday 17th September 2022

Prudhoe Youth Club Seniors 2 v 0 Chester-le-Street United

After a good performance and solid win in their last outing in the Durham County FA Challenge Cup against Silksworth, United went into the game at Prudhoe hing to get back to winning ways in the league.

Sadly, it was not too be as they once again came up against a tough physical opponent that dominated them from the office and deserved their win and three points against a United side that looked short of invention and guile.

Goalkeeper Kieran Harwood and forward Jude Anderson, the two 16-year-olds that had made full debuts against Silksworth retained their places whilst Alex Fil returned from injury to come back into the side.

Unfortunately, Fil only lasted 23 minutes before once again having to be withdrawn from action with Jamie Gibson from the Reserve side coming on in his place. Even before that enforced change Prudhoe had Chester on the back foot.

After a quiet opening to the game, Prudhoe served notice of one of their strengths on 7 minutes. It came from a long throw-in on the right by Captain Danny Driver. His rocket like delivery reached Matty Law in the box who laid it off to Mark McKeekin who flicked his first-time effort just wide.

The pitch was proving difficult for United to get the ball down and play their normal passing game although they were trying to stick to their principles. Prudhoe on the other hand were getting the ball forward quickly and putting the United defence under huge pressure.

Another Driver throw-in should have seen the home side take the lead on 12 minutes. It evaded everyone and found Sam Dibb-Fuller unmarked at the back post inside the six-yard box but the home foreard could only head it over the bar from an excellent position.

United's first effort on goal came on the quarter hour mark from a long throw of their own. Taken by Thomas Cole he found Anderson inside the box who held the ball up well before laying it back into the path of James Morley who smashed it wide from 16-yards out.

A superb run down the right from Darren Graham carved out a great chance that again should have been a goal for the home side. He cut to the by-line before cutting the ball back to Will Morris who blazed it over the top from close range with the goal at his mercy.

Graham was marauding down the right flank and the next chance came his way when he was found by a good ball from Brad Rogers. Graham cut inside Dylan Wilkinson, but his fiercely struck effort was always rising and too high to trouble Harwood.

Kieran Russell and Morris then combined well on the opposite flank with the latter winning a corner off Cole. Dibb-Fuller swung his kick right under the Chester bar where Keallan Huddleston under pressure did well to head clear.

Against the run of play United almost went in front on 28 minutes. Anderson did brilliantly to chase down Cole's long ball on the right. He turned well and hit a low cross into the middle and the onrushing Jay Gibson threw himself at the ball meeting it with a good header that beat Liam Blair but went inches wide.

Back came Prudhoe with Law showing up well on the right. One long cross looked destined for Centre Forward Craig Fairley, but Harwood came and claimed well. Law then flew down the right side of the box and was tripped just outside of the area by Wilkinson.

Dibb-Fuller's free-kick was a good one, but Cole nipped in smartly to head it out for a corner before Morris could get there. It was a temporary respite for United as the 34th minute corner led to the opening goal of the game.

Dibb-Fuller's low delivery into the six-yard box caused confusion and, in the melee, a first effort was cleared off the line by Huddleston, but it fell to Russel who gleefully smashed it home off the underside of the bar from point blank range. It was a lead the home side had deserved for the pressure they had created.

Law was certainly giving Wilkinson a tough time with his direct running on the right and he set-up yet another great chance that the home side failed to take. This time Law dispossessed his marker in the box before cutting the ball back to Fairley.

The striker looked all over a certain scorer but Cole slid across and managed to distract the home side's top scorer who fired over from barely six-yards out. There were appeals from Prudhoe for a penalty for Cole's challenge but the referee waved them away.

As the game entered injury time in the first half United managed to get up field and win a corner. Taylor Campbell delivered, and Cole got their first but his header was well wide.

The half ended with United's skipper and playmaker Campbell leaving the field holding what looked like a bad shoulder injury. Surely enough when the sides came out for the second 45 minutes, he had been replaced by Ethan Gray.

United almost snatched an equaliser early in the second half when Jay Gibson did well to turn inside some 25-yards out and curl a great effort past Blair in the Prudhoe goal but it hit the outside of the far post and bounced to safety.

But the home side were soon back in the ascendancy with Jamie Gibson forced into conceding another corner. Lewis Exley delivered, McMeekin nodded it down but Dibb-Fuller could only flash his effort wide to the target.

United tried to push forward but too often gave away possession which allowed Prudhoe to get the ball forward quickly and cause problems. One long ball from Russel diagonally gave Law another run at the united defence and his well-struck 20-yarder burst through the hands of Harwood who recovered quicky to smother.

The pressure was again mounting, and a second goal duly arrived for Prudhoe on 53 minutes. Dibb-Fuller dispossessing Wilkinson in midfield before sending Law away again on the right. His cross was superbly delivered, and Fairley met it with an 8-yard header that he flicked over Harwood into the far corner.

Two down and nowhere to go it seemed for a United side struggling to create any real openings. Cole did advance from defence well to hit a strong 30-yard effort on target, but Blair was able to hold it easily.

In truth from the time of the second goal until the end of the game Prudhoe were not stretched and in complete control of the game. they themselves didn't create much more but then they didn't need too against a United side that never got going.

They did though almost register a third goal 15 minutes from time when Russel played a good ball wide on the left to Morris. His cross fell nicely to Exley about 10-yards out, but he fired it inches over the top when he should perhaps have hit the target.

Time was played out with United unable to come up with any serious threat to test a strong Prudhoe defence who were in complete control throughout the game and backed up the solid physical presence of their midfield and willing attackers.

Another disappointing afternoon for Chester who are beginning to find the going hard in this competitively tough league where there are certainly no easy games to be had.

TEAM : 1 Kieran Harwood 2. Thomas Cole 3. Dylan Wilkinson 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. James Bakou 7. James Morley 8. Jack Oliver 9. Jay Gibson 10. Jude Anderson 11. Alex Fil

SUBS : 12. Jamie Gibson (for Fil - 23 minutes) 13. Matthew Pattison (GK) (Unused 14. Ethan Gray (for Campbell 46 mins) 15. Evan Gray (for Morley 66 mins)

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