by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division Two - Saturday 7th January 2023
Chester-le-Street United 3 v 4 Bedlington Terriers
It had been over a month since United had trotted out on to the park in competitive action. A case of scheduling and bad weather not allowing them to build on the excellent 2 - 1 away win at Redcar Town.
The converse of that disappointment was the availability of so many players that had returned from injury and eased and nursed knocks, niggles and twinges. The squad announced before the game being one of the strongest Chester had been able to list all season.
First Team Coach Kris Thackray freely admitted before the game that it had been the hardest squad and final eleven for him to choose this season. Several players that have had first-time opportunities this season missing out as 3rd placed Bedlington came to the Ford Quarry Football Hub.
In the end United's lack of experience, concentration and physicality were probably the biggest three contributors in them not being able to take at least a deserved point from a committed and at times very good performance.
Plus, that last kick drama!
Bedlington to their credit came and dominated early. Had a great 30 minutes in the second half and in Matty Hayton and Joe Thompson have two strikers that will worry any team in the league.
Over the 90 minutes they probably just shaded the contest but they knew they'd been in a game at the end and were fortunate to walk away with all three points against their young opponents.
Perhaps it was their experienced Northern league nous and ability to physically dominate when required that just about got them over the line. Add in their ability to start both halves in the right manner and be at it from the start which made a difference.
For United the learning curve continues. Plenty of positives to take from the game and plenty to get better from. A strong consensus was that if they can just learn from their mistakes and play their football for ninety minutes they'll win far more games this season.
The Terriers actually went ahead with virtually the first meaningful attack of the game inside the first three minutes as the United defence failed to deal with two crosses the second of which led to the goal.
The first cross came from the left by Joe Thompson. This evaded United's defenders but Joe Ames' glancing header only flicked towards the right touchline. Kevin Carr did well to retrieve and fire a low cross to the back post.
Joe Thompson came on to the ball inside the six-yard box completely unmarked and had the simple task of tapping it home past the stranded Kieran Harwood. A disastrous start for the home side.
The Terriers took heart from their goal and pushed United back at every opportunity and pinning their opponents deep into their half as they dominated the game.
A great move almost brought them a second. Joe Richardson up on the left from full-back played a neat ball into the box to Hayton. The centre forward held it up well before laying it into the path of Gilberto Chapim on the edge of the box who fired his effort narrowly over the bar.
United's first good bit of attacking play saw Jay Gibson and Jude Anderson combine well before Anderson was fouled by Richardson on the right. Taylor Campbell whipped in the free kick to the back post but Alex Fil just couldn't get on the end of it.
The same players were involved in United's next forward effort. This time Jude Anderson slipping Gibson in on goal only for Josh Morton to come across and concede a corner. Campbell delivered looking again for Fil at the far post but Sam Dinsley got in a fine clearing header.
Bedlington almost grabbed a second but in failing to do so suddenly found themselves on the receiving end of a United comeback. Harwood made a mistake initially only partially clearing the ball straight to Hayton.
Hayton turned the ball inside to Ames who hit a good low shot that Harwood recovering his position saved well and then sprang up to set his side away down the right hand side.
Dan Robinson made great strides and released Jude Anderson who's first cross hit Richardson but came back to him. This time he measured his low cross to the back post perfectly and saw Gibson slide in and bundle the ball into the empty net to level the scoring after 22 minutes.
One became two in dramatic fashion within 90 seconds. This time a ball found Benji Shodeinde on the left. he held it up well and passed to the supporting left back Ethan Gray.
Gray curled a beautiful ball over and around the Bedlington defence that drew Adam Cameron off his line and he could only watch on as Brandon Young timing his run from midfield got onto Gray's ball and coolly lobbed the stranded keeper to give United the lead.
Bedlington began their search for an equaliser with Dinsley playing a ball over the top towards Hayton. Harwood though was alert to the danger and came out of his box to head the ball away. Carr picked it up and knowing Harwood was off his line tried to hit the empty net from 25-yards but his effort drifted wide.
Bedlington's skipper Dinsley was proving to be a good source of inspiration for his side and burst forward from his right back slot to test Harwood from fully 25-yards our. The United keeper though did well to dive low and smother the stinging effort.
Harwood did even better soon after when Joe Thompson wriggled free inside the box and hit a great 12-yard effort at goal that saw Harwood make a great block to keep out.
Bedlington were pouring on the pressure. Ames winning a corner off Fil that Carr delivered into a dangerous area. Once again Joe Thompson did well to strike a vicious effort on target but Campbell made a brave block to keep his side in front.
Chester then almost went further ahead. Once again the excellent Robinson was involved. Finding space on the right flank to find Jude Anderson inside the area. The striker turned sweetly and struck a good low shot only to see it deflect inches wide of Jacob Cairns for a corner which came to nothing.
United were suddenly playing some great attacking flowing football with plenty of players getting forward. Gibson found John Anderson in midfield who did well to create space and find the ever willing Robinson on the right.
The youngster's cross was a deep one and Fil who had stayed forward following a corner did get his head onto it at the back post but it was just too high and he couldn't direct or control his header.
The last action of a pulsating open half fell to the Terriers and they really should have taken it and gone in level at the break. Cairns picked up the ball in the centre circle and spotting space in front of him made a brilliant burst forward and into the United box.
He stood up a lovely cross to find Joe Thompson completely unmarked five yards from a gaping goal. It looked easier to score than miss but somehow Joe Thompson managed to plant his header wide of the open goal. It all meant United lead as the whistle ended the first half.
Whatever was in the half-time tea and tactical talks for both sides, Bedlington definitely got the better of the deal as they roared out of the traps to start the second half in similar vein to the first and were level inside three minutes.
Chapim burst into the Chester box and did well to hold up the ball, get it under control and despite pressure fire a teasing low ball across the sic-yard line where Hayton was alert and first to it to steer home his 19th goal of the season.
He almost got his twentieth moments later once again showing great awareness to get onto Carr's astute pass 14-yards out but he fired narrowly wide of the target. But he wasn't to be denied and on 54 minutes put the Terriers back in front from the penalty spot.
It was poetic justice for Hayton as he was felled by a clumsy challenge by Dylan Wilkinson inside the box. It looked 50/50 but the referee decided in the away side's favour. Hayton dusted himself down and although Harwood went the right way the ball jus evaded his despairing dive.
It was now Chester's turn to search for an equaliser and they nearly found it from Robinson. Substitute Sam Johnson found him in space on the right and Robinson decided to go for goal from an angle and saw his shot fizz across the face and just beyond the far post.
Terriers were certainly biting into their challenges as they looked to hold onto their lead. They conceded a succession of free kicks. The first of Campbell's deliveries was only half cleared and Gibson found Johnson who showed great footwork to create a shooting chance from the edge of the box but could only fire it over.
The next infringement saw Bedlington decide not to form a wall as the ball was fully 40 yards out. It didn't deter Campbell who smashed it goal wards but straight at Cameron who although fumbling it slightly recovered before any Chester player could take advantage.
On 77 minutes Bedlington hit what surely should have been the final blow with their fourth goal of the afternoon. They'd always looked dangerous especially when they found Hayton and Joe Thompson and so it proved.
Substitute Joseph Thompson who had done well since coming on made ground to the byline on the right and pulled the ball back into the path of Ames. His low shot was parried by Harwood who perhaps should have done better and was helpless to retrieve as the ball rolled to Joe Thompson who tapped home unmarked.
United replied with Johnson brought down just outside of the box. Campbell again stepping up but curling the free kick not just over the wall but over the bar as well.
As the game entered injury time Terriers had another chance to completely kill off the contest. Chapim getting inside the home box before firing in an effort from 10-yards that Harwood did brilliantly to palm away with his left hand.
With 93 minutes on the clock bedlam broke out. Filwho had been switched to right wing back by United went marauding down the right and deep in to the Bedlington box before cutting the ball back to Robinson who neatly stroked it past Cameron to reduce the deficit.
Then, unbelievably, United were given a huge chance to grab a point as they stormed forward again. Again it was Fil the instigator with another determined run into the box that saw him tripped as he was about to shoot. Penalty!
Fil took responsibility himself driving the spot-kick to Cameron's right but the Terriers keeper was equal to it flying across to make a superb save. As the ball rolled away the referee blew the final whistle giving Bedlington all three points in a dramatic finish.
It was tough on Chester and Fil. He has to be given credit for being prepared to step up and take the kick but bigger credit to Cameron for keeping it out. Perhaps on the day it would have been harsh on Bedlington had they not completed the win but then, that's football, and United were left to rue the missed opportunity.
TEAM : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Dan Robinson 3. Ethan Gray 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Alex Fil 6. Dylan Wilkinson 7. Jude Anderson 8. John Anderson 9. Jay Gibson 10. Brandon Young 11. Benji Shodeinde
SUBS : 12. Ryan O'Connor - (DNP) 14. Sam Johnson (for John Anderson 56 mins) 15. Charlie Loveday (for Shodeinde 72 mins) 16.Keallan Huddleston (for Gray 77 mins) 17. Elliott McClen (for Jude Anderson 89 mins)
SCORERS : Gibson, Young, Robinson