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Kobe At The Double As United Finally Break The Drought

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 3rd February 2024

Chester-le-Street United 2 v 1 Bedlington Terriers

The song may say that 3 is the magic number but for Chester-le-Street United they'd argue that 1115 is indeed the number they prefer.

That's the number of minutes that had elapsed since United's last league goal when Harry Laydon scored against Newcastle Blue Star on 26th September 2023 and Kobe Bewicke equalised in this game against Bedlington.

Not content with breaking the drought Bewicke then struck again thirty minutes later to also give United their first league win since 23rd September when they beat FC Hartlepool 2 - 1. A mere 12 league games ago.

It was indeed a great day, at last, for all connected with Chester to finally 'get the monkey off their backs.' In doing so they also boosted their chances of avoiding relegation although are still entrenched in the League's bottom three.

United's starting XI showed three changes from the side that had lost at Horden 7 days earlier. Micky Nelson, Sam Bajrami and Jack Wilson out with Nelson and Wilson dropping to the bench and Bajrami not in the squad. In their places came Liam Paul, Ryan O'Connor and Ashton Houlahan.

The Terriers arrived in 3rd place in the table but minus a recognised goalkeeper as the selected player failed to turn up. Midfielder Kevin Carr taking the keeper's shirt and gloves.

Bedlington had seemed reluctant to play the game which considering the distance between the side's both in form and places seemed strange. The pitch was heavy but the referee deemed it playable. Perhaps the goalkeeping position had influenced the Terriers thinking?

Whatever the game did kick-off and Bedlington almost scored or perhaps should have scored after 20 seconds. A long ball from the back was missed by both Dylan Wilkinson and Liam Paul falling to Matty Nelson.

Nelson was about 20 yards out but rushed his shot with only James Hughes to beat and shot tamely straight at the United keeper who got down to save the effort easily.

Bedlington had started well with Nelson prominent. He made ground on the left before sending in a low cross to find Joseph Thompson who's first effort was blocked by Wilkinson.

The ball rebounded back to Owen Imeson who saw his first-time effort also blocked this time by Paul as United were scrambling in defence under constant Bedlington pressure.

Sam Dinsley setting up the next chance with a run to the byline then cutting the ball back to Nelson in the box again. This time the Terriers #11 was thwarted by an excellent covering tackle by Wilkinson.

Under pressure and then an early substitution with Ben Lawton limping off to be replaced by Charlie Loveday, Chester were struggling to get a foothold in the game although Houlahan did have a pot-shot from a 30-yard free kick that was well over.

Bedlington then produced the move of the game thus far when Dinsley made great ground before finding Nelson who slid Imeson through on goal 1-on-1 against Hughes. But the finish didn't match the approach play as Hughes saved easily.

Bedlington were certainly on top but not looking clinical when it came to the final third. Mistakes in the Chester defence from both Paul and Harvey Rudd not being punished.

However it was no surprise when the Terriers finally added bite to their bark and took the lead on 26 minutes. It came from a Matty Hayton assist after he clashed with Wilkinson on the left.

Hayton appeared to bundle the Chester skipper off the ball but the referee allowed play to continue and Hayton's low cross into the six-yard box was met by Nelson who got in front of Hughes to side-foot home.

Chester responded and finally broke forward. A brilliant Dan Robinson pass through the visitor's defence saw Loveday with an opportunity. But before he could shoot George Hayton came across with a great clearing tackle.

It was a temporary reprieve for United with Bedlington soon back on the attack and almost doubling their lead when Thompson's effort from just outside the box beat Hughes but crashed back off the bar.

Then from a Danny Anderson corner, Jack Watson got free at the back post but his goal bound header was cleared off the line by Jack Ledger. Almost immediately afterwards the 'woodwork' came to United's aid again.

A sweeping move started by a driving run from midfield by Dinsley saw him find Matty Hayton inside the United box. The striker showed good strength to hold the ball up and then lay it into Nelson's path who shot past Hughes only to see the ball come back off the post.

The last word of the half went to Chester with O'Connor's corner not being fully cleared and landing to Loveday who from 12-yards out could only drive his shot over the top.

As the sides trooped off Bedlington were probably wondering how they were only one-up whilst United were just glad to be still in the game. United made a substitution during the half-time break with Michael Mallaburn on for Rudd.

Initially the visitor's started the second as they'd finished the first. On top and pushing forward. Thompson's cross being headed clear by Wilkinson but into the path of the driving Anderson.

Anderson getting into the United box but seeing his good strike blocked well by Wilkinson. However, Chester were seeing more of the ball now and starting to find space in the Bedlington half.

Then it happened! The moment that everyone at Chester had been waiting for over four months and 1115 minutes. A goal! And one that brought them level in the game. It came on 52 minutes.

Loveday had the ball on the left and crossed dangerously from the left. Carr was under pressure and could only palm the ball into the path of Bewicke who was in the right place at the right time only 6-yards out to smash it high into the net.

It was the young striker's first goal for the Club since his move from Prudhoe and suddenly the fog seemed to lift. Confidence flowed and United looked like a different team.

But Bedlington weren't third top for no reason and went in search of the lead. That man Nelson going close. Getting in on the left hand side of the box he unleased a great low cross shot that evaded Hughes' dive but was inches wide of the far post.

On 71 minutes United almost snatched the lead. Bewicke was fouled on the left hand side and Ledger stepped up the free kick delivering over everyone to the back post. Wilkinson met it well on the volley but couldn't keep it from flying over the bar.

Mallaburn then did well to drift in from the right wing before setting up O'Connor for a 20-yard shot that was deflected out for a corner. Mallaburn worked a short corner routine with Houlahan and then drove into the box.

He went down under a challenge in the crowded area and the referee deemed that he was pushed illegally and awarded the penalty on 82 minutes. Bewicke stepped up and calmly sent Carr the wrong way to put United in front.

United were indebted to Hughes for preserving their lead when Dinsley and Natty Hayton combined to send substitute Michael Luaba clean through on goal. The Bedlington forward did little wrong as he tried to slide it past Hughes.

The keeper though was alert to Luaba's intentions and got down quickly to make a superb 1-on-1 save and keep his side a goal to the good. Late substitutions for United saw Nelson and Wilson come on for Paul and Houlahan.

As time ticked down United almost nabbed a third. Carr cleared the ball downfield from a back pass at the edge of his area. The ball landing at the feet of Reyhan Grimaud who instantly tried to return it over Carr from fully 40 yards.

It was great vision from Grimaud but he was out of luck as Carr scrambled back into position and made a good diving save. the last action of the game and a win, at last, to United.

Bedlington were in the end made to pay for poor finishing in the first half in particular and failing to capitalise on their dominance. United on the other hand grew into the game and once they equalised were the better team.

Relief then all around The Riverside as United finally not only scored but secured a vital three points in their relegation fight. It was a win and a battling performance that for once perhaps backed up many a thought that this is a side better than their league position indicates.

TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Harvey Rudd 3. Jack Ledger 4. Reyhan Grimaud 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Liam Paul 7. Dan Robinson 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Kobe Bewicke 10. Ashton Houlahan 11. Ben Lawton

SUBS : 12. Charlie Loveday (for Lawton 12 mins) 14. Jude Anderson - DNP 15. Michael Mallaburn (for Rudd 46 mins) 16. Jack Wilson (for Houlahan 87 mins) 17. Michael Nelson (for Paul 85 mins)

SCORERS : Bewicke 2 (1 pen) 52 & 82 minutes.

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