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Derby Day Blues As Town Claim Double Bragging Rights

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Monday 15th April 2024

Chester-le-Street United 1 v 3 Chester-le-Street Town

The Chester Derby for the second time this season. But deferred from Easter Monday because of the atrocious weather was always going to be a big occasion. In the end it was for Town who kept their playoff hopes alive with a great win.

United went into the game having not played for over two weeks due to that weather causing pitches to be unplayable and games to be postponed. That this game was played was down to sheer hard work by individuals behind the scenes who were determined that the game went ahead.

A change in the weather helped and by late afternoon everything was set fair enabling Manager John Gamble to announce the starting XI and match day squad. Following injury there was a welcome return for Captain Dylan Wilkinson.

He came into the starting XI in place of Charlie Loveday who dropped down to the bench as the only change from the side that had won away at Brandon the last time United stepped out.

That was a big win and one that virtually sealed United's safety following other matches that had been played in the Division from other teams. Not that there wasn't anything for United to play for. Local pride being one huge factor.

The other was the chance to arrest a three-game losing streak at home and try to come reverse a trend that had seen United lose 12 games at home this season. Enough for them to go out committed and determined.

However, it was Town that showed the stronger in the early stages with deadline day striker Bailey Judson who had come in from Sunderland West End looking particularly dangerous.

Inside the first three minutes he took a good searching ball from ex-United defender Keallan Huddleston in his stride cut in from the left and just inside the angle of the box curled a lovely left foot effort inches wide.

It was Judson again who went close moments later this time driving a right foot effort just wide of the target after showing good control to take Town's Captain Josh Akal's neat pass inside the United box.

United's response was a good ball to the right wing by Reyhan Grimaud that the marauding Dan Robinson took forward before delivering a low dangerous cross into the Town box that Thomas Orton dived out to take well in front of Kobe Bewicke.

Judson then turned provider for the visitors with a clever ball to Tom Scothern breaking into the box. The midfielder controlled it well before curling a lovely left foot effort past James Hughes that went just over the cross bar.

Grimaud was upended on the left hand side by Gabriel Bada and Jack Ledger took the free kick. He swung it into the box where Ollie Barnett climbed well but could only direct his 8-yard header just over the top.

Free kicks were United's main source at this stage and from another one delivered into the box by Ashton Houlahan, Matty Soulsby was relieved to see his attempted sliced clearance go over his own bar. Ryan O'Connor's corner was comfortably cleared by Town.

O'Connor set United's next open play chance up with good play in midfield that found Ledger who advanced and drove a low 25-yard effort that Orton got down to save comfortably.

Robinson then put another decent ball into the Town box that produced an 'air' shot from Bewicke with the ball falling to Houlahan who crowded out by the Town defence who blocked his attempts to get a shot in.

Despite the half chances created by United, Town were pushing and pressing all the time and having more of the possession and certainly went the closer to breaking the deadlock.

Huddleston again finding Judson who came inside showing good skill to get past United's efforts to stop in before crashing another effort narrowly over the bar from about 20-yards out.

It was the last shot of an evenly, committed tough derby encounter that had been entertaining and intriguing for the large Chester-le-Street footballing crowd that had turned up to watch both sides.

From the off in the second 45 minutes it was Town that looked the more likely as they pressed hard and United were forced to defend deep. Joel Pearson driving well through the inside channel before laying a great ball into the path of Aaron Hardy.

Town's top scorer though was denied an opportunity to add to his tally as Harvey Rudd came across to block the effort at the expense of a corner which lead to Town taking the lead on 48 minutes.

Scothern took it and Liam McBryde peeled away from the United defence who completely lost the striker and he headed firmly past Hughes from inside the six-yard box to open the scoring.

United's response was good but not good enough at first. Grimaud involved in helping Ledger cross dangerously from the left with a ball that just eluded the stretching Bewicke at the far post.

Then Grimaud found Jacob Mallinson on the right for another cross but once again it just failed to find the waiting Bewicke inside the area. United really should have levelled on 58 minutes.

A brilliant run by Mallinson down the right saw him cut across the by-line and put the ball inside the six-yard box where Grimaud couldn't get the connection he wanted and his effort was scrambled off the line By Liam Colledge.

Town responded though and looked to double their lead. Bada hitting a low cross field ball into the United box where Pearson met it on the volley only for Hughes to tip it over the bar in fine style. Scothern's corner was well cleared by Wilkinson.

Scothern then put Pearson through in on goal one-on-one with Hughes. The United keeper forced him wide as he tried to round him. However, Pearson kept control turned back and hit a great left foot shot that Hughes blocked brilliantly.

United though kept plugging away and came back in the game with a vengeance on 62 minutes with a great equalising goal. Bada giving the ball away to Mallinson who immediately found the overlapping Robinson on the right.

He advanced and then rather than crossing pulled the ball back to the edge of the box finding Ledger who steered a sweet left foot low drive past Orton's diving left hand and into the bottom corner.

The goal certainly fired Town up who had been controlling the game well until that point but paid the penalty for not pushing on. Although they nearly profited from two success dangerous Scothern corners.

The first from the left was swung in dangerously and evaded everyone as it flew wide of the far post with Pearson just failing to get a touch as it went past. Then from the other side Scothern drove one across the United six-yard area.

This time Hughes did superbly well to punch away at full stretch under his own cross bar and real pressure from Hardy in particular. Back came United with the next opportunity.

Robinson who was having a good game for United played a superb ball over the top of the Town defence that Grimaud got on the end of but he just failed to lift it over Orton who clawed it away.

The ball fell to Bewicke but the Town defence were quick to support their goalkeeper and scrambled the ball away before the United forward could strike.

It was Town though that eventually took a real stranglehold on the game and went 2 - 1 in front on 69 minutes and almost inevitably it was the influential Judson who gave his side that lead.

Rudd failed to head clear despite two attempts and then Scothern challenged for the loose ball. Mallinson and O'Connor seemed to get in each other's way and the ball was played forward to Judson who suddenly had a run at the United defence.

He showed great composure and presence of mind to control the ball well before unleashing a superb 22-yard effort that not even the agile Hughes could get across to stop it nestling into the bottom corner.

Town were now in the groove and a Akal cross from the right was brilliantly met by Hardy's head from 10-yards but he was denied the visitors' third by a brilliant Hughes reaction save.

From the corner the ball broke to Judson who showed neat footwork to create a shooting chance that once again Hughes did superbly to turn aside. Hughes and his defence were really under siege now as Town turned the screw.

Another excellent save from Hughes spreading himself fully to block substitute Thomas McAloon from getting on the scoresheet. But eventually United did crack again on 84 minutes.

McBryde was trying to get across the United backline just inside the area when Rudd dived in on him and brought the Town striker down giving the referee no option but to point to the spot.

McBryde got up to take the penalty but crashed his effort against the underside of the bar. However, Judson was the quickest to the loose ball and his first touch enabled him to drive the ball past Hughes who got a hand to it but couldn't keep it out.

It was the two-goal cushion that Town needed and in truth they saw the rest of the game out comfortably controlling possession and not allowing United the opportunity to strike back.

In many ways the derby plaudits and win showed up the difference between the two sides. On the night Town's front three were always a handful and the whole side got stronger as the game went on and when they had their chances they took them.

Perhaps also significantly the game's two outstanding performers were United's goalkeeper Hughes who was exceptional in the second half and Town's attacker Judson who netted twice and was a constant menace throughout.

So Town, for now, rule Chester-le-Street but what was encouraging to see was such a big crowd in attendance on a Monday school night. Clearly there's an appetite for Non-League football in the town and room for two teams to exploit that.

TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Dan Robinson 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harvey Rudd 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Ollie Barnett 7. Ashton Houlahan 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Kobe Bewick 10. Reyhan Grimaud 11. Jacob Mallinson

SUBS : 12. Jude Anderson (for Grimaud 80mins) 14. Charlie Loveday (for Houlahan 68 mins) 15. Dylan Robson (for Ledger 84 mins) 16. Liam Paul - DNP 17. Michael Mallaburn (for Mallinson 74 mins)

SCORER : Ledger 62 mins.

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