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Double Delight For United As They Snatch Dramatic Win


by Jeff King


Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 30th March 2024

Brandon United 1 v 2 Chester-le-Street United


A game that the United management team didn't designate necessarily as a 'Must-Win' game but certainly one they didn't want to lose. Results during the week had meant that a Chester win would virtually see them safe from a bottom three finish.


That was the motivation against a side that had only racked up 10 points all season and were firmly rooted to the bottom of the table. A team United had beaten 3 - 1 at home back in early September which seemed seasons ago rather than months.


Team news around United centred on the defence. With Dylan Wilkinson already out injured, a further change was required as Micky Nelson was unavailable. Michael Mallaburn was also dropped to the bench.


Rookie keeper Ryan Johnson was also left out with James Hughes returning in goal and Charlie Loveday and Ashton Houlahan restored to the starting XI for this vitally important game.


Loveday almost inadvertently produced an assist on 3 minutes that should have led to a United goal. He closed down Brandon keeper whose clearance ricocheted off him with the ball falling to Houlahan.


From the edge of the box and with out of position Houlahan unfortunately put a great chance wide of the post. Despite the miss United looked in the mood and continued on the front foot.


Lovely combination play between O'Connor and Jacob Mallinson put Jack Ledger away on the left. Ledger played it back inside to O'Connor who skilfully skipped past a defender and crashed 20-yard left foot effort narrowly wide.


It was certainly all United in the early going. Kobe Bewicke on the right found Houlahan who in turn from midfield slid a beautiful ball through the Brandon defence to send Jacob Mallinson through on goal.


Unfortunately as Mallinson bore down on the target the ball took a horrible bobble and he shanked his effort well over the bar. On a level playing field it would have almost certainly required at least a save from Liam McGarth in the Brandon goal.


Brandon's first chance came when Lewis Rees crossed from the right fell to Louis Anderson in the box but Ledger did well to get a block in and snuff out the chance. Then Dan Robinson upended Ezzeldin Elbasty on the edge of the box.


Kieran Paranaby stepped up and curled the free kick around the Chester wall but it flew just wide of the diving Hughes' left hand post. United responded with a brilliant run from Mallinson whose final cross was just too high for Bewick.


Back came Brandon with Elbasty looking dangerous. He was involved in a nice three-man move with Leo Garbutt and Rees that saw the home side win a corner off Robinson. Parnaby delivered and Anderson headed wide from 8-yards out.


United were looking good in possession and probing with Houlahan and Mallinson prominent but their final ball was lacking as they looked for an opening.


United had a great chance to take the lead on 24 minutes. Houlahan playing a ball wide to O'Connor who found Mallinson inside the six-yard box but the midfielder was unable to hit the target from close range.


Brandon responded when Anderson put Elbasty through 1-on-1 on goal but Hughes made a brilliant point blank stop to deny the Brandon striker. The ball bounced off Hughes and Elbasty bundled it home but used his hand and the goal was disallowed.


Ollie Barnett won a good challenge at the back and then played a good ball forward to Bewicke who flicked it on to Loveday. He cut in from the left and from just inside the box drove it low only to see McGarth dive across well to save.


Elbasty was proving a real handful for the United defence but once again was denied by Hughes. He cut inside the box and curled a left-footed effort towards the top corner which Hughes did brilliantly claw out at full stretch.


The home side and Elbasty went even closer when Rees swung a corner out to him just outside the box. Elbasty hitting a superb volley that cannoned back off the cross bar. It was to prove decisive as United went in front on 40 minutes.


Houlahan picked a ball inside the Brandon defence to give Bewicke a run at goal. He hit a great shot that beat McGarth but came back off the bar. The ball dropped to O'Connor 10-yards out who controlled it well and finished coolly past the stranded keeper.


Parnaby then almost fashioned an equaliser for his side with a free kick that found Elbasty completely unmarked in the box but from a great position on the six-yard box but he blazed wildly over the top.


The last opening of the half saw Parnaby shoot from long range with the ball taking a wicked deflection of Reyhan Grimaud and bounced awkwardly in front of Hughes who did well to smother the ball.


Brandon went looking early for an equaliser early in the second forcing two successive corners both delivered by Parnaby. The first Rees almost forced home from close range with Robinson scrambling it off the line.


The second saw substitute Josh Jukes arrive late to getting in front of the defence but headed wide from 6-yards out in the centre of the goal. Then Elbasty got away finding McGivern coming forward but his 22-yard shot flew over the top.


United began to respond with Mallaburn who had come on in the first half for Loveday set up Bewick 22-yards from goal but his shot flew just over the bar with McGarth struggling to get to it.


United then missed a glorious chance to double their lead. Hughes' long kick was flicked on by Mallaburn to Houlahan on the right wing who delivered a great cross into the middle but Bewicke unmarked headed wide from 6-yards out.


Chester went close again shortly afterwards when O'Connor did brilliantly to win a ball in midfield and then play a 1-2 with Bewicke advancing into the box and shooting past both McGarth and the far post.


Then from a long Mallaburn throw-in substitute Dylan Robson looped a header over McGarth but it came back off the bar and was cleared to safety. United unable to force a second goal were rocked when the home side snatched an equaliser.


It came on 78 minutes. A long ball from the back saw Hughes do well to come off his line to beat Elbasty to the ball and clear. Unfortunately for him the ball fell to Rees who from 25 yards produced a good finish into the empty net.


United were now on the hunt for a winner and Bewicke was fouled fully 25-yards from goal. Houlahan tried his luck and saw his on target effort tipped over by McGarth for a corner.


Houlahan delivered and Declan Moss headed it clear to the edge of the box where O'Connor volleyed it back viciously but unfortunately straight at McGarth who held it well.


Brandon then nearly went in front when a good attack saw the ball find Rees just inside the box but he saw Hughes make a great diving save to keep it out. It was a save that gave United the spark to find a winner on 89 minutes.


It came when Harvey Rudd did brilliantly with a superb burst down the right to get away and then cross to the back post where Mallinson retrieved it an rolled the ball across to O'Connor who lashed it high into the net from 16-yards out.


Skipper for the day and a double strike to see his side home and record a double League game victory over the side that now look doomed to finish bottom of the Division.


Perhaps this was the victory that finally lifted United into a position of safety for the season. Time will tell but it was certainly a much-needed three points and yet another win on the road.


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


SUBS : 12. Michael Mallaburn (for Loveday 34 mins) 14. Jack Wilson (for Houlahan 90 mins) 15. Dylan Robson (for Grimaud 62 mins) 16. Ben Lawton - DNP


SCORERS : O'Connor 40 mins & 89 mins.






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