Alan Hood Charity Cup 1st Round
Chester-Le-Street United 4 v 2 Annfield Plain
Last May the youngsters of Chester-Le-Street United lifted the Alan Hood Charity Cup after a terrific 3 – 1 win at Northern League bound Boldon CA. It was a performance that marked the fledgling Club as one to watch in 2021/22.
On Saturday they began the defence of the Cup against an Annfield Plain side they’d beaten away 4 – 1 in the opening Wearside League fixture of the season. Many thought that this would be a routine fixture and win for United but clearly Plain had other ideas.
United were able to recall Mickey Spellman to the starting XI following injury and there was also a start for Alex Nicholson who had done well in midweek to impress the coaching staff. A coaching staff that thankfully included Didier Agathe returning to the side lines after a spell of sickness.
It was great to see the First Team Head Coach back to direct his side who got off to a fast start. Their first effort came after neat build-up play when Ebenezer Addo found Nicholson wide on the left. His cross into the box was well controlled by Spellman who laid it back to Jak McKinley and the midfielder’s 20-yarder was fractionally over the bar.
Spellman then split the Annfield defence apart with a superb through ball for Cameron Brewis to race clear. Michael Allen in the Plain goal came off his line superbly to make a great black but the ball fell to Nicholson who put a great chance wide of the far post with the keeper stranded.
United looked in the mood but were rocked in the 9th minute when the visitors took the lead against the run of the play. It came from a corner won when Calum Boakes brought the best out of Chester’s keeper Arthur Leblond who flung himself to his right to brilliantly turn Boakes well-struck long-range effort around the post.
Boakes took the corner getting it into the danger area and Stephen Burrows took advantage of poor marking and organisation in the United defence to volley home from close range. The goal naturally buoyed the visitors and rocked United back.
Plain were finding space on their left to launch some dangerous attacks with Boakes well to the fore. Josh Ward was finding it tough to cope especially with a lack of cover on his side and when a second Annfield goal came after 17 minutes it was no surprise it came from this area.
Ward hesitated when in possession and gave the ball away to Matty Allison who took full advantage advancing into the home box before steering the ball unerringly past Leblond’s despairing dive. It was a goal Plain’s adventurous start to the game had deserved.
United now were up against it and had to respond quickly. They were awarded a free-kick 25 yards out. Brewis worked a short routine to Spellman in space but he didn’t get the direction correct and it flew over the top of the bar.
On 27 minutes Chester had a goal rightly chalked off for offside although perhaps they could have avoided that situation. It came from a corner with Brewis’ cross finding the head of skipper Josh Crews.
Crews decided to direct the ball across the six-yard area when perhaps he could have gone for goal. The ball was turned home by George Riley who was clearly in front of the defence.
Plain hit back with an incisive attack that saw Boakes created a good shooting chance but his effort was deflected just wide of the post for a corner which United managed to clear without further danger.
Leblond then produced an inspired piece of goalkeeping to keep his side alive. Daniel Lumley’s superb cross field ball looked destined to put Nathan Allison in on goal. Leblond though alert to the danger came flying out of the box and produced a fantastic diving header to avert the danger.
Nathan Allison then beat Ward on the left and crossed dangerously towards his centre forward Daniel Robinson who looked to have space in the box but once again Leblond came off his line to claim the ball in fine style.
Chester squandered a great chance to get back into the game with ten minutes to play in the half. McKinley made one of his trademark late runs into the box and was found well be Addo. The midfielder found Allan at his best who made a brilliant block.
The ball feel to Nicholson who snatched at the chance and he send it well wide when a bit more composure and a square ball to Brewis might have brought a better reward.
United did though grab a lifeline 5 minutes later with a goal before half-time to get them into the contest. There seemed little danger as Jaden Timmis advance with the ball in midfield but then from fully 25-yards he unleashed a tremendous effort that smashed back off the underside of the bar.
Spellman was quickest to the rebound and looked a certain scorer before being pushed away by Plain’s Burrows. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot despite the Annfield protests. Brewis stepped up and coolly placed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner t half the deficit.
Chester finished the half on the up and on the attack but could not fashion any further efforts and not for the first time this season left the field at the break trailing and looking for a way back.
At half-time Agathe and his staff made two changes with Jay Gibson coming on for Nicholson and new signing from Sunderland, Louis Watts, replacing Ward. The reshuffle meant Timmis slotting into the back three and Spellman moving out wide left with Gibson playing up front through the middle.
The first effort at goal in the second half came from Annfield and again it was Boakes with the effort. This time his crisp shot from just outside the box flew just wide of Leblond’s left-hand post.
The next effort though saw a home side equaliser as once again United were awarded a penalty on 48 minutes. Timmis played a ball into the box for Addo to run on to and as Burrows came across to challenge Addo went down with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Brewis again changing his corner to send Allan the wrong way and now it was game on. Plain responded first with another Boakes drive from 20 yards that forced Leblond into another diving tip around the post.
From the corner Annfield skipper Joe Gill had a free header about 8 yards out but he could only direct over the bar from the good position. With Chester now back in the match and pushing forward at every opportunity the Plain defence was being stretched.
Addo on the right and Spellman on the left were both causing concern and Watts in the centre of midfield was anchoring the side well and helping to drive United forward. The visitor’s stood firm for a while but were indebted to keeper Allan who made a couple of smart saves.
One parry from Gibson was excellent and another one kept Brewis out from completing a hat-trick. Allan was also dealing well with the low crosses that Chester favour and took one or two really well as they fizzed across the box. When he was beaten McKinley’s lovely effort from distance just cleared his crossbar.
It felt though that a goal was coming and when it did it was an absolute beauty that would have graced any stadium anywhere in the world. Ryan Muldoon took Timmis’ throw-in midway in his own half and spun past his opposite number before delivering a superb 60-yard ball to the left.
Spellman took it in his stride and delivered a firm cross towards the back post that found Addo steaming into the box. The pacy wide man decided to hit the ball first time from about 12 yards and it flew past Allan into the bottom corner.
A brave effort from Annfield Plain no looked in vain as Chester not content with a one-goal lead didn’t sit back and clinched the game on 85 minutes when the excellent Spellman got a goal his performance deserved.
Watts found him in space on the left hand-side and Spellman drove past his defender into the box before slotting the ball past the advancing Allan in fine style to make the last few minutes comfortable for Chester.
Last week at Silksworth, United had conceded two goals in injury time that forced a penalty shoot-out. There was no signs of that this time as they comfortably played time out with some well controlled possession football.
A great win for the United youngsters especially after going down by two goals early on. They had to show a lot of composure and character and did exactly that against an Annfield Plain side that gave them a tough game in a competitive cup-tie.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Josh Ward 3. George Riley 4. Jaden Timmis 5. Josh Crews © 6. Jak McKinley 7. Ebenezer Addo 8. Ryan Muldoon 9. Mickey Spellman 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Alex Nicholson
SUBS : 12. Louis Watts for Ward 12. Aymeric Vidot – unused 14. Jack Mortimer for McKinley 15. Jay Gibson for Nicholson 16. Lewis Lembikisa for Addo
SCORERS : Brewis 2 (2 pens), Addo, Spellman