by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Friday 2nd September 2022
Billingham Synthonia 3 v 2 Chester-le-Street United
A disappointing night in the end for United as they conceded three second half goals to slip to a second league defeat in just three days on the road. This was a game they completely dominated in the first 45 minutes before getting it all wrong in the second.
After a tough game at Horden on Tuesday where they lost 2 - 1 several of the first-team squad were involved in the 11 - 0 demolition of Chester-le-Street Town just 24 hours later. So, for some this was their third game in three days.
Was that a game too far for some. It didn't look like that in the first 45 minutes but certainly did in the second where United threw away a two-goal lead to earn plenty of plaudits but in the end no points for their efforts.
United had Jay Gibson back from illness in the side and James Bakou also came in for his first start of the season. With the exception of goalkeeper Mauro Asikaogu this was pretty much a full-strength United line-up that kicked off the game.
Chester were immediately on the offensive from the kick-off quickly settling into a nice routine and showing their passing range with Taylor Campbell at the heart of it all pulling the strings.
After dominating possession, United took the lead on six minutes with a brilliant goal. Josh Crews played the ball across the back line to Dylan Wilkinson's whose floated ball found Alex Fil five yards inside his own half on the left touchline.
Fil set off in a determined manner cutting infield immediately and driving towards the centre of the pitch going past two defenders. In front of him Dan Lanning made a great run to pull the defence wide and Fil went for the gap.
He arrived at the edge of the box and from there hit a lovely low right foot shot that nestled in the bottom corner beating Chris Davidson's despairing dive. A great start for United.
It got even better on 11 minutes as United raced into a two-goal lead. It came from a stunning 22-yard free-kick from Campbell. The ball was centrally place and the mercurial midfielder stepped up and curled an absolute beauty into the top corner of the Synner's net well outside Davidson's right-hand.
Campbell almost repeated the dose minutes later. It was perhaps a couple of yards further out and slightly to the right, but his strike was excellent again, over the wall and heading to the same top corner but this time Davidson did get across and made a brilliant save.
It was all Chester in the first half and the home side's frustration boiled over on 23 minutes. Jay Gibson was fouled by Connor Johnson some 40 yards from goal and as he got up, he was met by Billingham skipper Danny Earl.
An altercation ensued instigated by the home side's skipper and when the dust settled the referee after taking advice had no hesitation in brandishing a red card to Earl.
United went looking for a third to kill off the game against their ten-men opposition. Ryan Muldoon played a short free kick to Campbell in the inside right position. His lovely cross was floated invitingly into the Synners box.
Davidson came to try and claim but Josh Crews got their first and the United skipper's flicked header went inches wide. Campbell was well in charge of the game and created the next chance.
He played a great through ball to Dan Lanning's feet. The striker took it well and turned sharply away from the defence on the edge of the box. He hit a lovely shot that was on target, and it took an excellent block from Davidson to keep it out.
Muldoon was next to open up the Synners defence with a superb ball inside the right-back Joe Carter for Fil to run on to. He controlled it well before playing it back to Gibson who was well placed just inside the box, but his effort went over the top when he perhaps should have hit the target.
At the half United were more than good value for their two-goal lead and in truth could have been further ahead. That they didn't get that crucial third goal that their play deserved was in the end something that proved crucial.
There was perhaps no sign of the drama about to unfold as United continued in the second half as they had ended the first. Fil played Lanning in on goal but his first-time strike although well hit was straight at Davidson.
Lanning certainly needs no second invitation to have a strike at goal and when United won a free-kick fully 30 yards out he stepped up again to hit a long-range effort that went past the wall towards the bottom left-hand corner, but Davidson was down well and saved easily.
A lovely move almost brought Chester the third goal they craved. A nice ball from the back by Wilkinson was well taken down by Gibson and laid into the path of Campbell. He switched the ball to Muldoon on the right who cut inside and from just inside the box curled a left-footer inches wide of the far post.
The game changed completely on 55 minutes when Synners were handed a way back into the game. Carter robbed Fil in midfield and set-up a good counter attack that saw Danny Chapman upended in the box by Crews who received a yellow card. Chapman got up to dispatch the penalty past Pattison with ease.
Five minutes later and further trouble for United as a long ball from the back caught out Crews on the halfway line who misjudged the flight allowing Ash Lavan behind him. Crews instinctive pull-back on Lavan earned him a a second yellow card meaning his second dismissal of the season.
Billingham were now very much in the ascendency and looking threatening. Neat build-up play on the right was broken up by Thomas Cole who passed back to Pattison. Unfortunately, his weak clearance only fell to Lavan on the edge of the box who was able to advance and beat Pattison at his near post for the home side's equaliser.
Pattison atoned minutes later with an excellent double save. After Synners worked a neat attack Chapman got in on the left but Pattison did well to turn the 14-yard effort around for a corner.
From the kick which drifted to the back post the ball was teed-up for Lavan who's shot was stopped by a combination of a diving Pattison and a clearance off the line after the keeper had slowed the effort down.
The game was now very open and United hit back well. Another expertly taken free kick from Campbell beat the Synners defence and Ryan O'Connor had a great chance at the back post but could only side foot wide.
Campbell was still the man that looked likely for United to open up the Synners defence. After a corner was cleared back to him, he crossed to the back post where Cole headed into the middle finding substitute Benji Shodeinde unmarked 8 yards out, but his free header went well wide.
A point apiece looked like being a fair result, but Billingham had other ideas as the game entered its final minute. United had chances to clear their lines when under pressure including another poor effort from Pattison who was also let down by his defenders.
The ball eventually fell to Lavan who drifted in from the left going past James Bakou easily and then with no-one coming to close him down he drilled the game winner past Pattison into the bottom corner.
It was the last act of a superb second half comeback that had seen Synners who looked dead and buried for so long come back dramatically to take all three points. The game turned on Crews' first rash challenge which stemmed some awful defending and individual errors in the United ranks.
All of which meant that their excellent first half performance will not be remembered as long as their second half capitulation as once again United have to re-group and go back to the drawing board.
TEAM : 1. Matty Pattison 2. Thomas Cole 3. Dylan Wilkinson 4. Taylor Campbell 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. James Bakou 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Jay Gibson 10. Dan Lanning 11. Alex Fil
SUBS : Jack Oliver (not used) ; Jude Anderson (for O'Connor) ; Ethan Gray (not used) ; Benji Shodeinde (for Gibson)
SCORERS : Fil, Campbell