By Jeff King
On Tuesday night Chester-le-Street United emerged 6 – 0 winners over Durham United at the Washington Football Hub in their final preseason game before their Wearside League campaign kicks off this Saturdaywith a trip to Annfield Plain.
First team Coach Colin Wotherspoon was delighted with not just the result but the performance as well as he reviewed the position and assessed the game on Saturday.
“Delighted with that,” was his opening comment. “It was the different things in the game which is our last time to get the lads together before the opening game on Saturday. We still had five or six players missing through injury because it’s been a mental preseason.”
“We didn’t finish last season until the back end of June so a lot of the lads didn’t get a lot of time to recover before they were back into preseason again and it’s caused a few injuries. We brought some young lads in from the under-18s and we brought some of the French lads in as well and overall, I was delighted with them.”
The first half saw United establish a 2 – 0 lead at the break and then in the second half they scored four more in a ten-minute period from the 66th minute. I put it to Colin that the performance in the first half might have been the more pleasing of the two periods.
Based on the way the team pressed and hardly allowed Durham out of their own half and in truth could have been more than two up at the break. Wotherspoon actually saw it differently and as ever it’s great to get a coach’s perspective.
“To be far it was the other way for me. The first half we did press well and we’ve done a lot of work on that. But, as I say there’s one or two new faces in there and it’ll take time for them to gel together. When you’re pressing together you have to get it right as a group.”
“If one or two go and someone switches off then you can get played round and about. The pressing was great in the first half and some of the senior players were leading that. The likes of Michael Spellman who I thought was brilliant tonight on that left hand side. He knew when to go and he was always speaking to other people.”
“But, as I say we’ve one or two new lads in the group and the lads weren’t always communicating as well as we wanted. So, it was pleasing to see that pressing in terms of the senior lads.”
“I was pleased with the second half for the reason being that I thought they started the second half better than us. I thought for twenty minutes they were better and it was how we reacted to that and after that I thought in the last twenty-five we were as good as we were in the first half.”
“So, we took a couple of steps back in that first twenty minutes. Fair play to them they stepped it up and looked a lot better and we had to sort a few problems out because they were getting in behind us too easily. It was good to watch them doing that as well as making the changes we did.”
“We made a lot of changes and the lads that went on did well gave us that fresh energy and in the last twenty-five we were great again. That’s why I go for the second half. Seeing us up against it for twenty minutes and then we went again.”
“We were never going to lose the game but in terms of controlling the game that’s what we want to see and I enjoyed in the way we played our football.”
It was an understandable reaction from a considered and measured coach who has to look at the whole picture. From Wotherspoon’s point of view it’s just as important, if not more so, to see how his side copes under pressure.
“That’s what we said to the lads in the dressing room after the game. No disrespect to the team we were playing against as I thought they were good. They never stopped and they were a good honest bunch of lads.”
“They were decent at times as well and they played some good stuff in that period early in the second half. But as I say it was how we reacted to that which was really pleasing and how we got back on track in that last twenty-five.”
“It would have been easy to step back, make a lot of changes and allow them to dominate that second half but we didn’t do that and it was great the way we finished the game.”
So, with the game assessed and bearing in mind the injured players that were out I asked Colin how close they were to knowing their starting eleven for Saturday.
“We’ve got a good idea with the squad that we have available to us for Saturday. It still depends on how some of these lads do the rest of the week. Those five or six that are out at the moment are big players in the side and it’s touch and go however might be available for Saturday.”
“That’s why it was important tonight. We’ve got the big squad so if the lads that are out at the moment don’t make it for Saturday the lads that played tonight showed they can step in and do the job for us.”
“So, yes, we’ve got a pretty good idea although it’ll depend on those injuries but we weren’t far away tonight but we’ve still got a few days and things to go through before we get to Saturday.”
Turning to the game at Annfield Plain I could sense the anticipation in the air not just in Wotherspoon but across the whole squad and Club. Colin is really looking forward to the game.
“Annfield Plain have got great character and the ground has great character as well. I love going to places like that. We went there last year and to be fair we caught them at the wrong time for them as they were in transition at the start of the season.”
“I think we won six or seven one but I don’t think it’ll be anything like that this time. When you go to places like that, that have been in the Wearside League for years it’s really enjoyable and what it’s all about at this level.”
“We’ve got a really brand-new group this year from last. Hopefully we’ll go there, put on a show football wise and hopefully get the right result.”
The dawning of a new season is always an exciting one for every Club with aspirations high and all starting on a level footing. Making a good start can be crucial to a team’s chances. There’s no doubting that with the coaching staff available to United and the attitude around The Club everything is in place to get that good start at Annfield Plain on Saturday.