by Jeff King
Pre-Season Friendly - Monday 17th July
Chester-le-Street United 4 v 1 Hartlepool United Academy
A shade over 48 hours after holding Championship Middlesbrough's Under-18s plus one or two older players to a 1 - 1 draw, United were at it again and in some style as well.
This time there opposition was also from just down the A19 with a mainly Under-18 side from Hartlepool United coming to The Riverside for Chester's third pre-season friendly.
Another set of players looking to make a breakthrough at a professional level, albeit a lower one, were expected to give United another tough test as they continue to build towards their opening Ebac Northern League Division 2 opener on Saturday 29th July against Boldon CA at The Riverside.
The starting XI saw little difference from the 1 - 1 draw against 'Boro. Kieran Harwood getting the first 45 minutes between the posts before James Hughes came on and Michael Mallaburn starting in place of Dan Robinson who dropped to the bench.
LINE- UP : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Reyhan Grimaud 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harry Laydon 5. Dylan Wilkinson (Captain) 6. Emanuel Igiehon 7. Michael Mallaburn 8. Brandon Young 9. Jude Anderson 10. Charlie Loveday 11. Ethan Gray
SUBS : Joe Sykes, James Hughes (GK), Dan Robinson, Sol Burton, Leon Kirton, Nathan Conroy
Unfortunately we were unable to obtain a Hartlepool team sheet which we apologise for. More our fault than theirs as circumstances left us with not enough time to confirm the visitor's line-up.
The game could not have got off to a more sensational start as United swept in front with their first attack inside the first thirty seconds and rock Pools back.
Young picking up the ball virtually from the kick-off and driving forward with purpose. His intelligent ball to Loveday on the left allowed the twinkling footed forward to weave his way to the byline.
Loveday's pull back was perfection and Gray steamed into the six-yard box to side foot it home and register his second goal of pre-season and give his side the perfect start.
United clearly meant business and swept forward with Grimaud bombing on the overlap from right back taking Loveday's pass in his stride and only being denied a crossing opportunity by a covering defender conceding a corner.
Laydon and Loveday worked a lovely short corner routine allowing Laydon to advance dangerously into the box where he unleashed a powerful angled drive that beat The Pools keeper but smashed back into play off the near post.
A measure of United's early dominance and pressure saw the Hartlepool No. 9 deep in his own box early on having to make a great clearing header from Gray's excellent left-wing cross.
The corner was half cleared and Loveday once again fed Gray on the left. This time his cross just evaded the unmarked Igiehon in the centre of the box. The ball dropped to Wilkinson who came in on the blindside but from a difficult angle he could only guide his free header wide.
Young was in fine form in United's midfield. Winning the ball regularly, driving forward and initiating attacks. His link-up play with the buzzing Gray in particular causing Pools problems.
One such drive and superb ball inside the full-back from Young to Gray gave the wide man a great chance but his well hit angled left-foot drive flew just wide of the far post.
At this stage United were totally dominate with Gray an excellent option wide on the left. Another cross into the opposition box was only cleared as far as Grimaud advancing forward once again. He found Mallaburn but he snatched at the 25-yard shot and sent it well over the bar.
Pools first meaningful attack showed they were dangerous and almost brought an equaliser. The #11 did well to setup #9 who turned sharply inside the six-yard box before firing in an effort that brought an excellent point-blank save from Harwood.
It was only a temporary blip for Chester you doubled their lead on 24 minutes. Superb set-up play by the incisive Young saw him play an excellent through ball into the path of Gray bursting into the box. He took aim and fired his left-foot cross shot into the bottom corner giving him and United two goals on the day.
Five minutes later it was 3 - 0 and threatening to become a rout. Grimaud strting the move with a forward movement and pass to the 'Charlie Cooke-sque' feet of Loveday who showed exceptional skill again to get into the box and pull the ball back to Anderson who finished clincally from just outside the six-yard box.
Anderson almost had a double moments later with a crisp right-foot drive from the edge of the box that the Pools keeper just about managed to get across too and fumble around the post. The resultant corner coming to nothing.
Pools has another reasonable chance late in the half when a short corner taken by #4 saw him swap passes with #10 before advancing into the Chester box to hit a shot that Mallaburn did well to block bravely.
The final effort of an excellent half for United fell to Loveday when a defensive error left him 1-on-1 with the keeper but although he hit a good shot on target the keeper did even better to turn the effort aside.
An excellent 45 minutes work by the young Chester players and they continued in the same groove after the break. This time, unlike previous games, without a host of half-time substitutions.
Brilliant play by Laydon saw him find Anderson marauding into the Pools area before unleashing a good shot on target that drew a great save from the Kepper to keep the score line at 3 - 0.
Hartlepool had changed formation and personnel and it almost paid dividends. #2 moving into midfield to good effect to set up #9 just inside the area but although he curled his shot past the diving Hughes it also curled beyond the far post.
Hughes then took his time with a clearance and floated a beauty deep into Pools territory that saw Loveday nod the ball forward to outpace the defence but the Keeper alert to the danger came off his line well and claimed in front of United's forward.
Pools did grab a lifeline on 61 minutes with a goal that Hughes may well have thought he should have done better with. #14 flicked the ball through the Chester defence and although Hughes looked favourite to get to the ball he hesitated.
It was just enough for the impressive #9 to get to it first nick it past the United keeper and slot the loose ball into the empty net. The signal for John Gamble and Micky Nelson to make several changes to the personnel to preserve their 3 - 1 lead.
Two of the players that had stayed on though almost created a fourth Chester goal. This time Gray turning provider to find Ledger moving up from left back to hit a 25-yard screamer that took a slight deflection to fly just wide for a corner.
Gray swung in the kick and the Pools defence allowed the ball to bounce dangerous which saw Grimaud get on the end of it at the back post but he could only direct his header onto the post from which it bounced to safety.
On 69 minutes though United did restore their three goal cushion with a deserved Loveday getting on the score sheet. Substitute Conroy with the initial hold-up play finding Sykes on the right. His ball into the box found Loveday who finished neatly with his left foot.
Burton then got into an awkward tangle with a Hartlepool forward and conceded a free-kick about 22 yards out/. #3 stepped up and curled a lovely ball over the wall that Hughes had to move quickly to his left to make an expected covering save.
Chester almost made it five on 80 minutes. Conroy holding the ball up well before giving it to Loveday who set-up Robinson just inside the box. His shot was well-struck and beat the Pools Keeper but he was fortunate to see it cannon back off his crossbar.
The final action of a great afternoon's work for United actually fell the way of the visitor's. #9 feeding #10 just inside the box who did get a nice effort on target but Hughes was alert to it and positioned himself well to make a comfortable save.
So, it's two wins and a draw from the pre-season games so far. Eight goals scored and only two conceded. A big test though awaits United this Saturday as they ravel to Ebac Northern League Division 1 Tow Law Town to complete their friendlies.
United will have to do so with several first choice players missing as they travel to Morocco to represent England for Park View Academy in an International Schools Tournament. A tremendous honour for the Park View set-up.
The 11 and indeed the squad that turns out this coming Saturday may well give a few clues to the following week's opening NL Division 2 encounter against Boldon CA when the Park View students will still be in Morocco.