Disappointing End To Promising Debut Season
Ebac Northern League Division 2 – Saturday 22nd April 2023
Esh Winning 3 v 1 Chester-le-Street United
By Jeff King
The project that is Chester-le-Street United which was born in 2020 from the Park View Academy of Sport football’s programme completed a solid first season in the Ebac Northern League Second Division on Saturday at Esh Winning.
After gaining promotion from the Wearside League in 2022 they competed in Football’s oldest league competition with possibly and probably the youngest ever squad to be assembled in the league.
Sprinkled with 16, 17, 18, 19 and 20-year-old players it took the squad a while to find their feet and come to terms with a tough, hard physical league.
But since the turn of the year the youngsters have grown in stature and few in the top half of the division have finished the season stronger. The final league placing of 12th a fair representation of a season that saw them confirm their status at the higher level.
However, it ended with a bit of a whimper as United couldn’t come to terms on the day with a very difficult pitch that nullified their normal passing game and an opponent that were strong throughout and played the conditions to their advantage.
Esh Winning were worthy winners on the day although United battled hard throughout and played almost an hour with ten-men when goalkeeper James Hughes was sent-off for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity.
At that time United were already two goals down and with no backup keeper on the bench lost Sam Johnson from their forward line as he donned the goalkeeper gloves and jersey.
Johnson had been one of three changes in the line-up coming in for Alex Fil who was only fit enough for the bench, Hughes who came in under the keeper rotation policy and Jack Ledger who replaced the suspended Thomas Cole.
The game started badly for United as they went one down inside the first three minutes. A long ball from the back for Esh was flicked on by centre forward Joe Bates into space on the right.
Ewan Forster did well to chase the ball down and then cross into the middle of the box where Bates had made ground unmarked and he volleyed neatly home giving Hughes no chance.
Chester’s first effort on goal in response came from Harry Laydon who hit his shot from outside the box well wide after skipper Taylor Campbell had won the ball well in midfield.
Only nine minutes had elapsed when Esh doubled their lead. Dylan Wilkinson was adjudged to have fouled Forster some 25-yards out. Cobi Jones stepped up and hit a lovely daisy-cutter that went under the defensive wall and beat Hughes to his right-hand.
A shock to Chester’s system and in truth the weren’t able to get any system really going to try and counter the setback. Dan Robinson did play a nice ball down the right to Johnson but his cross lacked conviction and Esh keeper Jak Wells gathered easily.
Campbell almost made it three for Esh with what would have been a spectacular own goal. Jai Grant hit a dangerous cross into the heart of the Chester box and Campbell’s bullet header interception header flew past Hughes but thankfully cleared the bar as well.
From the corner taken by Jones, a massive scramble ensued in the United area with the ball falling to ex-United defender Liam Colledge who smashed it goal wards only to be denied a goal by a brilliant reflex save from Hughes who blocked it with his feet.
Ethan Gray tried to create something for United when he cut in well from the left and was fouled by Andy Taylor just as he approached the Esh area. Campbell stepped up to take the kick from a dangerous position but his effort hit the wall and was cleared away.
Esh missed a great chance to go three-up inside the first thirty minutes when a Grant corner found Jones unmarked six yards out but he could only steer his header over the bar.
The moment that sent United down to ten men for the third week running came on the half-hour mark. A ball over the top saw Hughes race from his line to try and beat Dan Pringle to the ball. He didn’t make it.
Pringle got their a second or two earlier and as he knocked the ball past Hughes the keeper’s challenge brought him down and the referee had no hesitation not it appeared option but to show the young keeper a red card. Johnson taking his place in goal.
From the resultant free-kick taken by Colledge the ball hit Robinson in the wall and spun up to Bates who volleyed wide from a good position.
Indecision at the back between Johnson and Keallan Huddleston led to United conceding another corner. This time Jones’ delivery found Bates who’s first time effort took a deflection and went just over the bar. Grant’s corner from the other side being cleared.
It was the last action of a half poor in quality but dominated by the stronger more physical Esh side that had United on the back foot for most of the 45 minutes. United failing to find any fluency in their game or any potency up front.
It was no surprise to see John Gamble make three changes at half-time. Fil, Jude Robinson and Emanuel Igiehon coming on for Ledger, Benji Shodeinde and Laydon.
Fil immediately showed his pace and power with a strong run down the right that was curtailed by Lewis Heap who received a yellow card for the illegal challenge. Campbell swung in the free kick but Esh skipper Jonny Swift did well to head it clear.
Esh were holding on comfortably and with solidity as United tried to put them under pressure but time and time again couldn’t find the right pass on the difficult surface despite some possession.
Esh playing more direct actually looked much more dangerous going forward although they too were not really creating any real chances from the pressure they were creating.
Substitute Reece Wilkinson did play a good pass to the creative Jones who almost slipped Forster in on goal but he was denied by an excellent interception and clearance by Campbell.
Another Esh substitute, Sam Haynes, then won a great tackle just outside the Chester box finding Bates with a neat pass. The Centre Forward got his effort on target but Johnson turned it around with his feet for a corner.
Taylor took it and the ball fell inside the area to Heap who’s fierce 8-yard effort took the slightest of deflections which saw it graze the United bar for another corner. Again Taylor’s delivery caused problems.
The ball finding it’s way to Swift who somehow managed to hit the cross bar from point blank range when it looked easier to score. The ball rebounded outside the box to Taylor on the right and his cross was met by Colledge at the back post but he headed over.
On 82 minutes United finally mustered their first shot on target causing the cleanest player on the pitch, Esh keeper Wells into a save and mudding his kit.
Igiehon played a good ball down the right where Fil outpaced and then out muscled Heap before driving into the box and firing towards the near post. Wells getting down to make a smart save.
The game by now those was petering out until a late flurry of activity brough two goals out of virtually nothing. The first being a potential lifeline for United. Igiehon making ground and playing a neat 1-2 with substitute Brandon Young to take him into the box.
As Igiehon looked to pull the trigger, Heap came across and the gangling United defender went down under the challenge with the referee pointing to the spot. United skipper Campbell in what is rumoured to be his last game for the Club stepped up.
He coolly sent Wells the wrong way to bring his side back into the game with barely a minute left on the clock. Any chance though of a late Chester revival was dashed as the hosts completed the scoring deep in injury-time.
A throw-in from the left somehow found Bates in acres of space and he advanced into the area before firing low past a helpless Johnson to make it 3 – 1 with the last kick of the game as the referee blew for full-time almost as the ball hit the net.
So, a disappointing way to end the game and the season for United with Head Coach John Gamble having this to say after the final whistle.
“Today was a disappointing performance and result and I felt we were way below what we are capable of. Credit to Esh Winning for the way they put us under pressure and played the conditions much better than we did.”
“Overall though we must be proud of our achievement this season earning the right to play in the Northern League again next season. Nobody in Non-League has a project like ours especially with no budget to work with.”
“I would like to thank everyone associated with the Club who have made this season. We look forward to next season and beyond knowing our future ahead is a bright one.”
TEAM 1. James Hughes 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3.Jack Ledger 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. Harry Laydon 7. Dan Robinson 8. Ryan O’Connor 9.Benji Shodeinde 10. Sam Johnson 11.Ethan Gray
SUBS : 12. Jude Anderson (for Laydon 45 mins) 14. Brandon Young (for O’Connor 58 mins) 15. John Anderson (for Robinson 67 mins) 16. Alex Fil (for Shodeinde 45 mins) 17. Emanuel Igiehon (for Ledger 45 mins)
SCORER : Campbell