by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 11th February 2023
Chester-le-Street United 4 v 0 Brandon United
After the tremendous ten-goal win at Willington in midweek United went into Saturday's game looking to build on that result. They also had a chance to make it a double over Brandon whom they beat away earlier in the season 3 - 2.
Since that result Brandon had been one of the form teams in the division and at one stage had climbed into the top six. However a change in Management and a shake-up of their squad meant they came to The Ford Hub with only one win in their last six.
They had however drew 0 - 0 on the same night United smashed ten past Willington and were still sitting in 8th place in the League prior to kick-off.
Once again United were unable to field an unchanged starting XI. Midweek hat-trick hero Sam Johnson was out through injury with top scorer Benji Shodeinde stepping up from the bench.
Reyhan Grimaud who has come on after 20 minutes against Willington for the hamstrung suffering Ethan Gray also came into the XI as Gray had failed to recover. It was Grimaud's first start in Chester colours in an official competitive fixture.
From the off United looked sharp and confident and attacked the Brandon defence. Keallan Huddleston played a measured long ball to Jay Gibson who laid it off to Dan Robinson on the right.
Robinson's excellent cross being diverted for a corner by Adam Metcalfe's header. Taylor Campbell took the kick and swung it in viciously to back post where Brandon keeper Aaron Skelton palmed it away for a throw-in.
That meant Thomas Cole time and his Exocet missile of a long throw caused a real scramble in the visitor's box with Shodeinde turning the ball towards goal only for Metcalfe again to come to his side's rescue hacking the ball clear.
Some lovely football followed from United as they probed for an opening. Neat play from Campbell found Robinson on the right who made ground before playing a great 1-2 with Ryan O'Connor then drove in a cross that deflected off Scott Oldfield and needed Skelton to palm it round the post. The resultant corner was cleared.
The long passing from the back by Chester kept finding their targets. Cole's diagonal picking out Gibson who held off a challenge before finding Grimaud at the edge of the box but his first time effort was blasted well over the bar.
In United's next attack Shodeinde won a corner off Jack Beverley. Campbell delivering to the back post for Cole to get above the Brandon defence inside the six-yard box but from a tight angle he headed high and wide.
Brandon were hanging on and conceding a lot of free-kicks as their frustration grew. Following another foul which saw Drew Lake booked Campbell swung in a free-kick that was met by Brandon Young but he couldn't control his header and the ball drifted wide.
Tempers threatened to spill over and Gibson was booked for a foul that saw the Brandon bench react angrily as well as several players surrounding the referee. Adam Knowls then tried to make ground on the right but ran the ball out of play.
His reaction to the Assistant's decision caused the referee to be involved and the Brandon midfielder was sin-binned for dissent for ten minutes. A ten-minute spell where United couldn't take any advantage although on the half-hour mark they almost did.
Superb footwork by Campbell on the edge of the box opened the Brandon defence up and he found O'Connor who crashed his shot on target where Skelton produced a fine parry but the ball came out to Shodeinde who smashed ithome only to be correctly ruled offside.
Robinson then set-up Shodeinde inside the box but the striker decided to hit it with the outside of his right-foot and it flashed just wide. Campbell then conceded a free-kick which he didn't agree with and the referee decided his reaction was also worthy of a sin-bin.
The loss of their skipper and talisman did slow United down but even with ten men they stayed on the front foot and Gibson almost set-up a goal. He did really well to go past Carl Malpass before firing the ball across the six-yard box. Shodeinde met it but saw his effort brilliantly blocked by Beverley.
With five minutes to go before half-time Brandon had their first shot at goal. It came from a David Mitchell free-kick that was headed to the edge of the Chester box by Cole. The ball fell to Malpass who fired it wide from a good position.
Campbell was back on and prompting his side forward. A nice chipped ball forward saw Robinson flick a header on to Shodeinde who burst into the box, got to the by-line and pulled the ball back dangerously but there was no United player able to get on the end of it.
As the game entered the second minute of injury time it appeared despite the almost constant United pressure the resolute Brandon defence was going to hold out and just as thoughts turned to half-time Chester struck.
Great play by Grimaud and Gibson found O'Connor inside the box it looked an open chance but at first O'Connor hesitated before regaining his composure and firing it home to open the scoring.
There was barely time to kick-off before the referee blew for the end of the half and United left the field with a spring in their step after finally breaking down the visitor's defensive wall.
United should have doubled their lead five minutes into the second half. Cole played a long ball out of defence which was misjudged by Beverley allowing Shodeinde a clear run on goal. Unfortunately Shodeinde tried to be too precise and with only Skelton to beat his shot cannoned off the cross bar.
It was constant United pressure but they were not converting openings. Gibson found Grimaud on the left and he drifted inside the box but then when well placed decided to lay the ball off to Shodeinde who once again hit his shot too high from the edge of the box.
Then O'Connor produced a great bit of play. Firstly putting in a great tackle to win the ball and then putting Gibson through one-on-one with Skelton who did well to partially block the effort and then was helped out by Metcalfe who covered well to scoop the ball away from the goal line.
Finally the second goal came on 58 minutes and it was no more than United deserved although once again they were made to work hard for it and Brandon keeper Skelton will probably feel hard done by.
Campbell once again splitting the visitor's defence with great footwork taking him into the box. His shot was well struck but Skelton did well to turn it aside. It fell to Shodeinde inside the six-yard box who somehow managed to stab the ball against the post with the goal gaping.
The ball though was not cleared and fell to Young about 8-yards out. He fired it on target and once again Skelton parried superbly. The ball this time rolled to Campbell and although the angle was tight he managed to get his effort on target and although Skelton got hands to it he couldn't keep it out.
The second goal was the cushion United needed and now they really began to turn the screw. The midfield trio of Young-Campbell-O'Connor completely dominating proceedings and orchestrating the attacks.
On 63 minutes two became three. This time Young won the ball in midfield and played it superbly through the Brandon defence into the stride of Gibson who finished in real style lifting the ball over the advancing Skelton from 12-yards.
United's confidence just grew and grew and they were playing the ball right to left, left to right and even through the middle with Campbell the squadron leader and O'Connor and Young his trusty wing-men. O'Connor almost playing his skipper in with a great ball into the box but Skelton came out and blocked well.
Campbell then set-up Robinson on the angle of the 18-yard box and his fierce shot was well held by the diving Skelton. With the game in the bag United took the opportunity to send on the substitutes but didn't slacken off.
On 82 minutes a fourth goal arrived much to the delight of everyone in the Club. Huddleston's diagonal ball from right to left found Grimaud. He danced inside the box and then turned back onto his right foot before slipping the ball past the helpless Skelton to completely finish Brandon off.
It was a joyous moment for the Reunion Islander who has been at Chester-le-Street United and Park View Academy since he was 16.
When the final whistle went United had completed that double over Brandon and followed up their midweek win at Willington. Four more goals and a clean sheet was almost like four points with the boost to the goal difference.
The challenge now for this emerging United side is to keep the run going. They've moved out of the relegation zone and with two great results have made great strides in a week.
After the loss at Washington the feeling was it was now or never and the now means that whilst they are far from out of the woods they can at least see a clearing to aim for.
TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Thomas Cole 3. Jack Ledger 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. Brandon Young 7. Dan Robinson 8. Ryan O'Connor, 9. Jay Gibson 10. Benji Shodeinde 11. Reyhan Grimaud
SUBS : 12. Charlie Loveday (for Shodeinde 78 mins) 14. Mackenzie Stores (for Grimaud 83 mins) 15. James Morley (for Robinson 80 mins) 16. Elliot McClen (for Gibson 78 mins) 17. Emanuel Igiehon (for Ledger 83 mins)
SCORERS : O'Connor, Campbell, Gibson, Grimaud