by Jeff King
Ebac Northern league Division 2 - Tuesday 20th September 2022
Bedlington Terriers 3 v 0 Chester-le-Street United
Already ravaged through injuries and suspensions, United were further hit before the kick-off with Captain Taylor Robinson and fellow first-team regular Alex Fil ruled out through injury. Dylan Wilkinson taking the captain's armband from Campbell.
The Terriers went into the game as heavy favourites having only lost once all season in the league. United in contrast had lost their last three league games and hadn't recorded a success since mid-August at Jarrow.
It was no surprise to onlookers that in the end it was another tough and pointless night for a young United side that never let their heads drop but also never looked like causing the home side much trouble.
Indeed, they actually had the first on target effort of the game when Jay Gibson turned on the edge of the box but on a difficult pitch that needed cutting couldn't get his foot fully through the ball and Adam Cameron saved easily.
Both teams were struggling on the surface to get much passing football going. Something that played to the hosts advantage as they seemed more suited and used to the conditions.
Jacob Cairns getting away on the right before delivering a good right-wing cross that found Joe Thompson unmarked in the box, but he could only direct his header well wide.
Good play by Ethan Gray on the left found Sam Johnson inside the box. He switched it right to Evan Gray whose effort was deflected outside the box to Jack Oliver, but he put his shot well over the bar.
Bedlington though were beginning to ascertain themselves in the game and putting pressure on the Chester defence. James Wilson with a good hit from fully 25 yards that flew too high.
Terriers skipper Sam DInsley then played a lovely ball across to Joe Ames on the left. His cross found Thompson in a good position, but he scuffed his shot only to recover quickly and stab the ball past Kieran Harwood only to see Keallan Huddleston clear off the line and keep the game scoreless.
Wilson then won a corner off Huddleston which Joe Richardson swung to the back post finding Kristian Sands, but the angle was tight, and the big defender couldn't hit the target.
The Terriers were awarded a free kick and Josh Morton stepped up and hit a fierce 25-yard drive towards goal. Harwood misjudging the flight slightly but managing to fumble the ball around the post for a Bedlington corner that was easily cleared.
Thompson was the next Terrier to find space winning a ball just outside the Chester box and having a good left foot strike which was straight at Harwood who held it easily.
An already injury-ravaged Chester side were dealt another blow when on 37 minutes James Bakou limped off to be replaced by Jacob Freemantle in an enforced change.
Freemantle was quickly into the action. Finding Johnson with a good ball from midfield. His deep cross was retrieved by Elliot McClen who turned it right to Evn Gray but his cross this time looped over the bar.
United were under pressure and conceded three free kicks in quick succession but although all were played into the Chester box, the defence stood firm and cleared their lines under pressure.
Into injury time and Chester were indebted to their 16-year-old goalkeeper Harwood for keeping the score line blank at the break as he made an outstanding double save.
A long ball into the United box saw Ethan Gray hesitate and allow Cairns a great chance. He struck it well, but the diving Harwood made a brilliant block. The ball though fell to Thompson but at point blank range Harwood's excellent recovery allowed him to make an even better save.
Goalless at the break but the home side had the slope with them in the second half and the worrying statistic for United that The Terriers had won every game this season at home when kicking in that direction.
United's half started with a booking for Oliver for a foul on Gilberto in a dangerous position. Ames struck a lovely effort for Bedlington that flew narrowly wide. The Terriers had certainly started in determined mood.
That effort paid off on 52 minutes with the opening goal although it was somewhat fortuitous. A corner on the home team's left was swung into the Chester six-yard area. In a crowded area a Chester defender tried clear only to see the ball ricochet off Wilson and bounce over the line.
On the balance of play Bedlington deserved it but it was a cruel way for United to concede. It also made the task even harder with the goal lifting the home side's confidence and denting whatever United had.
But United did show character at only one-down. They won a throw-n level with the 18-yard line. Thomas Cole and the defender's header fell to the feet of Evan Gray whose first-time effort was deflected wide off Callum Carney.
Back came the home side and Ames made good ground going across the United box to create a shooting opening that he smashed narrowly over the cross bar. A second goal looked threatening and came again slightly unluckily for Chester.
United had pushed forward looking for an equaliser and were caught on the counter by Bedlington. Wilkinson did win the header on half-way but appeared to be pushed. His header wasn't as strong as a result and Carney headed over Wilkinson and Cairns had a free, uncontested run at goal.
He steadied himself as he approached the box and slid the ball neatly past the advancing Harwood to double The Terriers lead and took them into a comfort zone from where they could control the game against a United side struggling to creat anything at the other end.
McClen was withdrawn by Chester giving a first team debut to 16-year-old Jack Ledger, but it was two Terriers substitutes that combined for the next chance that should have seen them go three-nil up.
Jack Watson produced a long cross to the back post and with Harwood not committing to the ball it fell to Dario Dos Santos who put it wide with the goal at his mercy.
Chester threw on yet another 16-year-old to the fray with Michael Mallaburn replacing Ethan Gray. It, again, did not stem the tide of Terriers attacks and on 77 minutes it was 3 - 0.
It came from a free kick wide on the Bedlington right. It was taken by Dan Lowther and he hit it deep into the box where Sands completely unmarked and in acres of space met it with an impressive volley which flew past a helpless Harwood.
To their credit Chester kept battling and almost grabbed a consolation late in the game. A lovely move saw Cole find Mallaburn neatly who in turn picked out Ledger just inside the box. He laid it back to Freemantle who crossed to the back post where Gibson was inches away from getting a decisive touch.
The whistle for full-time went seconds later and condemned United to a fourth league defeat in a row and gave Bedlington three goals and three comfortable points as they maintained a promotion push.
This was a game where for the first 45 minutes United did well to hold out Bedlington and were compact and tidy without looking threatening. However, once the first goal went against them Chester never looked like coming back.
TEAM : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Thomas Cole 3. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 4. James Bakou 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. Jack Oliver 7. Evan Gray 8. Sam Johnson 9. Jay Gibson 10. Eliott McClen 11. Ethan Gray
SUBS : 12. Jacob Freemantle (for Bakou - 37 mins) 14. Jack Ledger (for McClen - 65 mins) 15. Michael Mallaburn (for Ethan Gray - 75 mins)