by Jeff King
Wearside League - Saturday 30th April 2022
Chester-le-Street United 13 v 0 Annfield Plain
The race for the Wearside League Division 1 title will go to the final week of the season as league leaders United thrashed a brave but depleted Plain side. At the same time chasers Darlington Town recorded a 6 - 2 victory over Washington United.
It all means United travel to Wolviston next weekend having to take care of business to ensure they stay at the summit and can take the Championship. It certainly won't be easy as Wolvo are confirmed in the top five of the league after a great season.
United have a ten-goal better goal difference than Darlington so a point may be sufficient but with Town facing the same opposition that Chester demolished on Saturday a draw may not be enough.
Annfield arrived at The Riverside very much a team in turmoil as they try to see out the season and re-group a Club steeped in North East Non-League history. The first half of the season had seen them comfortably mid-table.
The second half has been a catalogue of disasters and it's great credit to all behind the scenes at the Club and those willing to pull the shirts on and cross the white line for keeping Plain going when many thought they would fold.
On Saturday it was a similar story as they kicked-off against the league leaders with only ten players available although reinforcements were en-route. For Chester it was a case of being focused and professional and playing the situation in front of them.
From the off one felt that The Plain players must have known how Davy Crockett felt at The Alamo as they were immediately put under pressure from the marauding Chester army.
Taylor Robinson created the first opening playing Evan Gray, who was in the team from the start, in on goal. The youngster hit his effort goal wards but Jake Burns did well to get down and block the effort. It was a prelude to a busy afternoon for the former Chester stopper.
He again came to his side's rescue inside the first five minutes when Cameron Brewis was one-on-one with him after taking Ryan O'Connor's through ball in his stride only to find Burns equal to the effort again.
It only though was a temporary reprieve in the United storm front and on 5 minutes the floodgates were opened. Elliott Day started the move on the left finding Louis Watts in the centre of the park. Watts sweeping it wide right to Ryan Muldoon.
Muldoon's touch was good and his low cross better as he picked out Brewis at the back post and United's top scorer controlled it well before drilling a low shot past the helpless Burns.
On 12 minutes the lead was doubled. Robinson and Brewis played a neat one-two that sent Robinson in on goal. His effort was blocked by the brave Burns but the ball fell kindly to Dan Lanning who guided it into the waiting, gaping net.
A minute later and it was 3 - 0. Day played a ball inside to Lanning whose delightful first-time flick released Watts into the area and the cultured midfielder made no mistake slotting home in neat style.
Rampant Chester were now in the mood for more and on 15 minutes made it 4 - 0. The tenacious Lanning robbed Joe Johnson about 20-yards from goal and had only one thought on his mind lashing his low shot into the bottom corner.
Plain were getting battered now and on 21 minutes fell even further behind with Brewis being the recipient of more incisive defence splitting play from the Chester midfield. He went through on goal, rounded Burns and slotted into the empty net.
Brewis was certainly in the groove now and almost notched another when his dancing feet took him past Cameron Davison and gave him a clear sight of the goal. His fierce shot taking a deflection off Barry Lindoe and dropping inches over the bar.
A rare foray forward by Plain who were not letting their heads drop nor giving up saw them almost carve out a chance. A lovely nutmeg by Jake Taylor on Day allowed him to find Jamie Dalton in the box but Chester skipper Josh Crews came across and cleared the danger superbly.
Then a free-kick on the left from Craig Pope was cleared but only as far as Lindoe who turned it inside and won a corner as Muldoon got back to clear. Lindo took the kick and swung it in dangerously but Dylan Wilkinson got up to get the ball away with a firm defensive header.
Chester were taking full advantage of the ten-man Plain side and stretching them at every opportunity with good passing possession football. One spell opening up a chance for Lanning who crashed a great effort from distance just wide of the target.
On 32 minutes United went 6 - 0 up and once again it was that man Brewis the scorer. This time Wilkinson made ground from the back to get involved in the build-up which once again ended with a cool finish from Brewis inside the area.
Perhaps United's best move of the half didn't actually bring them a goal! Superb football and mesmeric interplay involving Robinson, O'Connor, Brewis led to a great dummy by Lanning that wrong-footed the defence and put Watts in.
Despite having two bites of the cherry Watts was unable to breech the Plain defence with Burns making a good double save although he was unable to produce more heroics to stop United making it a magnificent seven on 34 minutes.
This time it was Robinson twisting and turning inside the box to create enough space to dispatch a left-foot shot past the stricken Burns. Four minutes later and it was 8 - 0 with youngster Gray getting on the score sheet.
Brilliant control in midfield by Brewis was matched by his vision as he slide a ball through the under siege Annfield defence for Gray to beat the offside trap advance into the area and coolly slide the ball home.
Still Plain battled on. A long clearance from Burns saw Day tussling with Taylor who managed to get the better of the encounter put could only shoot narrowly wide with Mauro Asikaogu having it covered.
On the stroke of half-time Chester struck again. A great ball by Robinson saw Lanning running away from the defence. Pope fouled him but the striker stayed on his feet after the first challenge but went down inside the box on the second one and it was a penalty.
Brewis stepped up and with his usual deadly accuracy and cool aplomb dispatched the kick convincingly to leave Chester nine goals to the good as the half-time whistle came as a relief to the beleaguered Plain men.
At half-time acting Head Coach Lewis Pendleton and his assistants Craig Bewick and Connor McHugh made three changes. Jay Gibson coming on for the injured Ryan O'Connor, James Bakou for Gray and Abdullah Alawahdi for Lanning.
It was the princely power of the Kuwaiti Under-21 international that made the immediate impact. A player that started the season well but after attending an international tournament in Iran in December he's spent a long time out injured.
But he looked back to his sharpest as he put Chester into double figures after 47 minutes. Watts found Day marauding on the left and he found Alawahdi in the box who neatly side-stepped his marker and finished well.
51 minutes and United made it 11 leaving Annfield in oceans of trouble and it was Alawahdi again. A through ball from Day allowed him a run at the defence and he showed great footwork to twinkle through the defence and plant a left-foot shot past Burns.
George Riley then replaced Wilkinson and Lewis Lembikisa came on for Muldoon as Chester utilised their bench to the full. Plain had also been upped to eleven for the second 45 minutes as the cavalry had come over the hill to try and slow United down.
A Brewis 25-yard free-kick flew just over the top before United struck again on 61 minutes. The twelfth goal of the game was another fine flowing football move. Bakou played it wide to Day who found Alawahdi inside. The double-scorer became provider with a brilliant pass to Brewis who finished the move.
Watts then created space to find Lembikisa who cut the ball back to Brewis who's right-foot shot smacked off the post with Burns beaten. Another free-kick just outside the box given for handball saw Robinson's effort flash just wide.
The Bakers dozen came on 78 minutes and it was a double hat-trick for Brewis to celebrate as he notched his 44th goal of the season to go one ahead as the Wearside League's top scorer in all competitions.
Riley found Lembikisa on the right who sped past Harvey Archibald and got to the by-line before pulling the ball back to Brewis who cleverly transferred the ball from right to left before firing it past Burns.
United were still not letting up. A brilliant long ball from Watts across field found Robinson who struck it well only to see Burns make a great flying save. Burns bettered that minutes later from Brewis after Gibson played him on goal.
Burns was not flagging despite having been beaten thirteen times! Watts and Day combined well to give Brewis another opportunity but he delayed slightly allowing Chris Ross to get in a block and allow Burns to save easily.
Chester's last chance of the game fell to Bakou who got on the end of a great ball from Watts to volley a great effort inches over the bar. The referee's whistle for the end of the game came shortly after and completed Plain's brave but ultimately devastated defence.
So, it's all to play for next weekend to see who lift's the Wearside League Division 1 Championship with Annfield Plain having to raise a team for one more effort to complete their season before looking to bounce back next season.
TEAM : 1. Mauro Asikaogu 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3. Elliott Day 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Louis Watts 7. Ryan Muldoon 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Dan Lanning 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Evan Gray
SUBS : 12. Abdullah Alawadhi for Lanning 14. George Riley for Wilkinson 15. James Bakou for Gray 16. Jay Gibson for O'Connor 17. Lewis Lembikisa for Muldoon
SCORERS : Brewis 6, Lanning 2, Alawahdi 2, Watts, Robinson, Gray