by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division Two - Saturday 13th August 2022
Brandon United 2 v 3 Chester-le-Street United
A dramatic late winner from Centre Back Keallan Huddleston got United back on track in another tough encounter on the road this time at Brandon United. This was Chester's fourth away game in The League and their second victory.
It takes them into the top half of the division at present with seven points from five games. All seven points being gained away from home as United come to terms with the rigours of this competitive and physical League.
There was good news before the game with the return to the squad of first-choice goalkeeper Mauro Asikaogu and centre back and last season's Wearside League Captain Josh Crews.
First team Head Coach John Gamble, himself returning from a European scouting mission, decided to rotate the squad and bring both players back into the fray for their first outings of the season and returned Crews to captaincy duties.
Further changes to the line-up that lost 6 - 2 at Birtley Town in midweek saw Huddleston come in for Thomas Cole and James Morley for Ethan Gray. Crews effectively replacing Sam Johnson who started a 3-game suspension for his sending-off at Ryton.
Brandon had started strongly in The League and went into the game unbeaten in their first three games including a midweek 1 - 0 win over Easington Colliery. United knew that they faced another tough afternoon in the scorching heat of a summer August afternoon.
Crews actually started a little nervously on his return. Just recovering from i jury and with a lack of match sharpness he gave the ball away to Will Morris. The wide man advanced down the right before firing in a cross to the near post that Asikaogu claimed easily.
Benji Shodeinde who has been one of the real plusses for United so far this season showed his strength whilst holding up a ball before Andrew McCrossan impeded him. Taylor Campbell curled the free-kick into the box.
The ball fell to Shodeinde who wriggled free of his defender but just ran out of room as he looked to cut the ball back into the middle from the by-line. United were then hit with an injury blow. Dylan Wilkinson limping off after 10 minutes to be replaced by Cole.
Nice play by Ryan O'Connor freed Shodeinde on the right and he did well to win a corner for United. Campbell floated it into the box where Alex Fil got up well but couldn't direct his flick header to a teammate.
A great surging run from Morley cutting in from the left opened up some space and he found his opposite wide colleague Fil on the right. Fil did well to burst past McCrossan and then pull the ball back towards the waiting Dan Lanning only for Graham Lazenby to intercept and clear for Brandon.
United were doing well in the middle of the park retaining possession and showing good commitment to win it back when not in possession. Ryan Muldoon gave a great example of this winning the ball well before releasing the marauding Fil.
This time the wide man's delivery was a a little over hit and drifted out of play on the far side. Chester showed they could mix the play up as well when a long ball from Huddleston almost put Shodeinde in with Brandon keeper Arron Skelton doing well to clear before the forward got there.
Cole then gave the ball away needlessly to Leo Garbutt who found Matty Moffat going forward. Moffat laid a great ball into the path of Morris who advanced dangerously into the box.
Muldoon though had tracked the run and forced Morris wide so when the cross came in Crews was able to clear it at the expense of a corner which was easily cleared by the Chester defence.
A superb United move almost gave them an opening. Lovely play from O'Connor saw him find Shodeinde who laid the ball back to Campbell. The midfielder slipped the ball inside the home defence towards Lanning but Lazenby was alert to the danger and cleared before Lanning had the chance to line up a shot.
Morley was showing up well on the left and played a long diagonal ball across the field to pick out Fil behind the Brandon defence. Fil did well to cut the ball back to O'Connor advancing into the box but his shot took a slight deflection giving Skelton an easy save.
A lovely passing move from United involving Muldoon, Morley and O'Connor saw Campbell given space he slipped the ball through to Lanning but a dangerous position was dealt with by Glen Caygill.
However his clearance only reached Muldoon about five yards outside the box but he couldn't control his left-foot effort that flew well over. Chester were now getting on top and confidence was rising.
O'Connor found Morley who did well to find Muldoon in space. Unfortunately once again the effort from just outside the box was too high although it was a lot closer than the previous effort.
The opening goal for Chester arrived on 33 minutes and what a beauty it was. It came from another incisive pass from Campbell to Fil on the right. This time his pull back found O'Connor who took a great touch with his right-foot to create a shooting chance.
The second touch was even better as he crashed a brilliant left-foot effort from 20-yards right into the top corner of the net past the despairing dive of Skelton to give Chester a lead their play had deserved.
The confidence was now oozing out of the young United side and their possession football had Brandon, at this stage, chasing shadows. Another Fil right-wing burst saw the beleaguered McCrossan bring him down.
Once again Campbell was the taker and found Crews up from the back who got up well to power a header narrowly wide from 8-yards. Brandon looked like they wanted the half to end and get into the changing rooms to re-group.
But on the stroke of half-time their interval talk became a bit more difficult as United struck again. It was an excellent team goal as well. Crews winning the ball on halfway and then advancing inside the Brandon half to find Muldoon.
Muldoon slipped the ball inside McCrossan and Fil was away again. This time his low cross from almost on the by-line was perfect finding Shodeinde unmarked at the back post who slid in meet the ball and put it into the empty net.
A buoyant United side bounced off the pitch at half-time leading by two goals and with an incredible 45-minute possession stat of 82% of the play. Clearly Brandon had some thinking to do.
United opened the second half well initially. Huddleston finding the always willing Shodeinde who's run almost took him clear off the defence before Caygill intercepted giving away a corner. Campbell's in-swinger this time claimed well by Skelton.
Then, suddenly, Brandon really switched on and started pressing United higher up on the pitch and came into the game well. Cole fouled Garbutt on the left but as the ball broke to Moffat the referee played a good advantage.
Crews though took one for his team pulling Moffat back to end the attack. He was rightly booked and the referee also cautioned Cole for the initial foul. David Mitchell hit the free-kick into the danger zone and saw Cole do well to head clear in front of Moffat.
Huddleston then gave the ball away to Moffat in a good area for Brandon. He found Morris on the right and his low cross fizzed to the back post where Garbutt narrowly missed getting on the end of it. It was Morris' last contribution.
He was replaced by Nathan Plews who became the home side's second substitution as McCrossan had been replace by Josh Reay at half-time. The replacements did seem to inject more urgency and purpose into Brandon.
They were now really coming into the game and pushing Chester back at every opportunity and they grabbed a life-line back into the game on 63 minutes with unsurprisingly Moffat involved.
Morley was caught in possession by Cain Jones who then played a great ball inside the Chester box for Moffat to run onto and he flicked the ball over the advancing Asikaogu to bring his side back into the contest.
Within three minutes the game was level. Moffat again involved as he was adjudged to have been fouled by Crews in a central position 20-yards from goal. Reece Brown stepped up and curled a beautiful low left-foot effort around the wall and past Asikaogu's dive finding the bottom corner.
It was certainly game on with Brandon looking and sounding confident. They could perhaps sense that they'd eroded Chester's confidence but to their credit the youngsters held firm and cleared their lines as Brandon pushed.
Indeed Chester re-grouped well and began to push forward again after weathering Brandon's pressure. A free-kick from Campbell towards Crews saw Moffat do well in defence to head clear giving United a corner.
The corner was headed out by Caygill and O'Connor picked up the loose ball. He showed nice footwork to open up a bit of space but curled his effort wide of the far post. Gray came on for Morley and John Anderson for O'Connor as United pushed.
Campbell found Lanning who played a superb inside ball to Fil but as he was about to pull the trigger Reay did well to block him. United gaining a corner. This resulted in a chance where Chester should have retaken the lead.
Campbell's kick evaded every one and Cole came steaming in at the far post but with the goal gaping he could only head over the top when a goal seemed certain. Jack Oliver coming on for Muldoon with five minutes to go before the game was restarted.
Brandon responded with a nicely hit daisy-cutter from another substitute Liam Graham but Asikaogu got down to save easily. Then as the game entered injury-time United did snatch a late goal that proved to be the winner.
It came from a corner that was cleared by Brandon with the ball falling back to the feet of Campbell. His cross was deflected off the head of a Brandon defender and fell to Huddleston who had stayed forward.
The Centre Back showed great composure and awareness to hit the ball on the volley from close range past a helpless Skelton. The Brandon players sank to their knees whilst Chester celebrated in the corner.
It was the final decisive action of a pulsating encounter that had seen Brandon stage a spirited fightback in the second half after being outplayed in the first. They tried to fashion another opening in the few remaining minutes but once again Chester held firm to take an excellent victory and all three points.
TEAM : 1. Mauro Asikaogu 2. Keallan Huddleston 3. Dylan Wilkinson 4. Taylor Campbell 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. Alex Fil 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Dan Lanning 10. Benji Shodeinde 11. James Morley
SUBS : 12. Thomas Cole (for Wilkinson 10 mins) 13. Matty Pattinson (unused) 14. Ethan Gray (for Morley 80 mins) 15. John Anderson (for O'Connor 81 mins) 16. Jack Oliver (for Muldoon 85 mins)
SCORERS : O'Connor, Shodeinde, Huddleston
Next Up : Jarrow (away) Wednesday 17th August @ 7:30pm