by Jeff King
The Isuzu FA Challenge Youth Cup 1st Qualifying Round - Monday 12th September
Chester-le-Street Youths 3 v 5 Spennymoor Town Youths
After a superb performance in the previous round defeating Chester-le-Street Town 11 - 0, the youngsters of United were looking forward to progressing further in one of the long-standing prestigious FA competitions.
That, at the end of 90 pulsating minutes, they didn't was as much down to disappointing defending and more clinical finishing from Spennymoor. So, it meant that United will have to try again next season in a competition they coveted.
Only two of United's starting line-up hadn't featured in their Ebac Northern League squad this season and one of those, Ryan Wright, is a regular in West Auckland's match day squad. The other 'odd one out' being Harry Laydon.
Playing at The Ford Quarry Football Hub, United made a bright start to the game dominating possession from the off. On 7 minutes they created their first chance of the game. Good work by Wright and Evan Gray earning them a corner.
Ethan Gray took the kick playing it short to Dan Lanning who tried a shot from an angle that cannoned off George Wilkinson for another corner. This time Ethan Gray swung it long and from just outside the six-yard box Liam Colledge got a header in that went just over the bar.
Despite being the brighter and better team from the off, United were given an example of Spennymoor's ability and finishing power as the visitor's went in front on 10 minutes with a counter attack goal.
Sam Johnson lost the ball in midfield under a challenge from Joe Naylor who immediately played a great through ball for the pacy Riley Mouat to race on to. His run took him 1-on-1 with Matty Pattison in the United goal and the Spennymoor striker lifted his effort neatly over the diving Pattison to open the scoring.
United though continued to come forward and were level four minutes later. Good work by Harrison Tully saw him win a corner on the left. Ethan Gray's outswinger saw Lanning go to challenge only to be bundled over by Charlie Upperton.
The referee pointed immediately to the spot and Lanning himself, captain on the night, got up to despatch the kick into the net driving his kick to the right as Harry Alderson chose to dive in the opposite direction.
United buoyed by their equaliser completed a quick turnaround with a second goal on 18 minutes to take the lead and what a beautifully constructed and finished effort it was.
Evan Gray played a neat ball up to halfway to find Lanning. His first time lay-off found Wright who played a delightful ball into the box to find the breaking Elliot McClen. McClen looked up and squared the ball across the box to Tully.
Tully took a great first touch, danced inside his Park View Academy colleague but opponent on the night, Callum Rowell, before placing a lovely right-foot shot into the corner of the net beyond the diving Alderson's right hand.
A superb show of character from United who almost went further ahead on the half-hour mark. Wright was causing problems for Town on the right and his patient holdup play saw him release the overlapping Evan Gray on the right.
Evan Gray's superb cross fount Tully who saw his effort blocked on the edge of the box. The ball falling to Wright though who drove it goalward only to see Alderson make a fine parry to save.
United though were dealt a blow on 32 minutes with the impressive Tully having to limp off to be replaced by Charlie Loveday. It didn't though stop their pursuit of a third goal which they nearly grabbed on 39 minutes.
Great football and passing between Wright and the two Gray's almost saw Lanning in on goal but he was tackled by Harry Laviolette at the expense of a corner. Ethan Gray took it and the ball somehow found Thomas Cole unmarked at the back post. The ball perhaps coming to him a bit unexpectedly and his finish was straight at Alderson who blocked it well.
It was a really open, fast paced game that the two young sides were putting on. United certainly had more possession but Spennymoor always looked dangerous coming forward when they got the ball.
The last effort of the half saw James Carr try an effort from distance that cannoned off Colledge and fell to Johnson who immediately played a great ball over the top to the free-running Lanning. Unfortunately, United's skipper's effort lacked poise as he blazed his effort wide of the mark.
The first 45 minutes had flown past and provided great entertainment with so much more promising to be shown in the second 45. It didn't disappoint with Town pulling level almost immediately on the restart.
Unite were asleep and not ready as a long ball over the top caught them out. Hesitation between Cole who allowed Upperton in behind him and Pattison who didn't come to challenge allowed the Spennymoor player to finish easily and make it 2 - 2.
United were then forced into another substitution with Colledge limping off to be repalced by Emanuel Igiehon. The reshuffle of the defence hadn't taken place when Cole was adjudged to have tripped Naylor inside the box and a penalty was awarded.
Spenny's Wilkinson stepped forward and smashed his kick past Pattison who had no chance and suddenly within four minutes of the re-start Town lead the game.
United were now chasing the game and had plenty of the ball but without creating anything of note. Town were holding them off well looking the more physical and solid of the two sides as they organised themselves well to repel their hosts.
On 64 minutes Town went further ahead and looked to have clinched the tie. This time it was hesitancy across the United back line that allowed Naylor time and space and he lifted a great finish over the static Pattison to give his side a two-goal cushion.
United sent on Jude Anderson for Johnson in an attempt to find a way back into the game and he played a part in United grabbing a potential way back on 70 minutes.
He was fouled centrally some 30-yards from goal and that gave Lanning a chance to try his luck with a free shot at goal. He lined himself up and struck a great effort that Alderson did well to dive to his left and push on to the post.
The ball dropped back into the centre of the box and in the ensuing melee it broke through to Igiehon who lashed it home from close range. Twenty minutes to go and it was game on again.
Once again United pushed and probed and Spennymoor stood firm and defiant and snuffed out anything that United tried to create. United were trying their best to find a way through as the game ticked into injury time.
Could United find one last effort? No, was the emphatic answer as Town played their way out of trouble and with United all pushing forward, Naylor sprinted clear of the chasing defenders before wrong footing the advancing Pattison with a good finish.
It was his second of the game, his side's fifth and the one that confirmed their advancement into the next round of the competition. On the balance of play, the way they defended and finished clinically they deserved the result.
United meanwhile had defended poorly in the second half after a good first 45 minutes and had their hopes of going perhaps one or two rounds further dashed by a frustratingly inconsistent performance.
TEAM : 1. Matty Pattison 2. Evan Gray 3. Ethan Gray 4. Harry Laydon 5. Thomas Cole 6. Liam Colledge 7. Ryan Wright 8. Sam Johnson 9. Dan Lanning (c) 10. Eliot McClen 11. Harrison Tully
SUBS : 12. Jacob Freemantle (not used) 14. Emanuel Igiehon (for Colledge - 48 mins) 15. Charlie Loveday (for McClen 75 mins) 16. Josh Strassheim (not used) 17. Jude Anderson (for Johnson - 64 mins)
SCORERS : Lanning (pen), Tully, Igiehon