by Jeff King
Wearside League Division 1 – Saturday 7th August 2021
Annfield Plain 1 v 4 Chester-Le-Street United
The youngsters of Chester-Le-Street United got their league campaign off to a winning start with an impressive away win at Derwent Park on Saturday. In truth the final score line may have slightly flattered the hosts as United dominated from the off and throughout the 90 minutes.
But with youth comes an understanding that experience has to be gained and the watching on coaching staff will know that there’s still a lot more to come from their young charges as they grow together.
After establishing a 3-goal advantage after a mere 48 minutes the foot came slightly off the gas as United cruised to a victory rather than being selfish and ruthless. But it’s a minor and perhaps even churlish point as there’s not many teams can win 4 – 1 away from home and still see room for improvement.
Within the first three minutes United had a great chance to open the scoring but Captain Josh Crews free header from a Jak McKinley corner flew just over the bar from ten yards out. However, the first goal was not long on arriving and came in the ninth minute.
George Riley’s excellent through ball from the back saw Dan Turner time his run perfectly to sprint clear of the defence. Plain keeper James Cann did well to block Turner’s first effort but the midfielder steadied himself for the rebound and fired high into the net from inside the six-yard box.
It was an impressive start and Chester’s central midfield trio of Taylor Robinson, McKinley and Turner had already got a stranglehold on the game allowing those around them to flourish. It was McKinley that had the next opportunity.
He picked up the ball halfway inside the Annfield half and drove towards goal only to be upended just outside the box. He got up himself and sent a lovely curling free kick narrowly over the bar.
Ebenezer Adoo was causing problems with his pace down the right and when he got away once again he had time to look up and deliver a deep cross to the far post. McKinley met it and cushioned a volleyed pass into the path of the onrushing Cameron Brewis.
The striker’s effort looked goal bound but took a deflection off a home defender and flashed just wide. On 25 minutes the visitors should have doubled their lead. Another free kick just outside of the box gave Micky Spellman a chance to curl a fine low effort around the wall and on target.
Cann initially failed to gather the ball and it fell to Adoo about 8-yards out. The wide man seemingly having an easy chance to tap home but somehow Cann got across not only to parry the first effort but also to smother Adoo’s follow-up for a brilliant double save.
Keaton Senagoga was the next one to have a decent chance although perhaps he should have fed the better placed Brewis as the pair broke from halfway on a two to one situation. Brewis held his run and looked well placed but Senagoga chose to shoot and it went tamely wide.
It was only a brief respite for Annfield as United finally doubled their advantage in the 35th minute.
This time it was Spellman with a superb pass from the left through the inside-left channel that saw McKinley in the clear and he produced a low cool finish from just inside the box.
United were now really in the mood and playing some really attractive, expansive and lovely football. One move saw a sweeping cross field ball from Crews found Adoo on the right who in turn picked out Spellman inside the area. The attacking midfielder’s effort going just wide of the target.
Right on the stroke of half-time United will feel they should have gone into the break three up. McKinley made space brilliantly spinning away from his defender to set up Turner with a great chance.
Turner perhaps hit the effort a little too close to Cann who was able to push it on to the cross bar and it dropped over for another corner. From a short corner routine Brewis’s cross picked out Crews who once again headed just over from a great position.
The half-time whistle came as some relief to Annfield Plain and perhaps left the United contingent scratching their heads a bit at going in only two ahead.
There was no time though for reflection or regret as within three minutes of the restart United made the game virtually safe with their third of the afternoon. Brewis started the move flicking the ball over the defence to find Robinson on the left-hand side of the box and then was in the right place to meet Robinson’s low ball into the six-yard box to ram it home.
On the hour mark the United coaching staff made their first substitutions of the game. Senagoga being replaced by Jay Gibson, Josh Ward coming on for George Riley and Thomas McIntyre for Brewis.
It took a little while for the subs to get into the game which went through a relatively quiet period where the home side actually got a bit of a foothold in the game without creating anything to trouble United keeper James Anderson and his defence superbly marshalled by Jaden Timmis.
Inside the last twenty minutes Gibson did wriggle free inside the area but his low effort was smothered well by Cann. For Annfield experienced midfielder Connor Brown was doing his best to stem the side and urge his team forward but they always looked second best.
United in fact were a little too eager as time ticked on as they fell victims to the offside trap laid by the home defence’s high line on a few occasions just mistiming their runs through. When United did get it right with ten minutes to go they were denied what looked like a clear penalty.
It was McKinley bursting through and with the goal at his mercy he appeared to be brought down by Joe Gill. The referee waved away the penalty claims which seemed strange as McKinley was in such a good position he had no need to go down unaided.
The incident seemed to spur Chester into late action. Adoo showed great feet and trickery on the right and found Robinson on the edge of the box who curled a great effort inches over the top of the bar.
Then the tireless Turner and McKinley combined beautifully to send the latter into the box and his low drive was stopped but fumbled by Cann who recovered well to smother from the predatory Gibson who was looking for the rebound.
With barely two minutes left on the clock the home side got their first shot on target and what an effort it was. Out of nowhere substitute Carl Malpass latched on to a square ball and from fully 30-yards crashed a left foot rocket into the top corner of the net giving Anderson no chance.
The goal gave Plain brief hope but it was extinguished immediately as virtually from the kick-off United restored their three-goal advantage. Spellman was sent free on the left and he made great ground before crossing low for McKinley to meet the ball on the edge of the six-yard box to delightfully flick it past the helpless Cann with the outside of his right foot.
It proved to be the last decisive action of the game with United happy to go off with three points and a comfortable 4 – 1 away win. There will no doubt be tougher tests ahead in the campaign but the performance and manner of the victory bodes well for the weeks and months ahead.
TEAM : 1. James Anderson 2. Jaden Timmis 3. George Riley 4. Jak McKinley 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Taylor Robinson 7. Ebenezer Adoo 8. Dan Turner 9. Keaton Senagogo 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Mickey Spellman
Subs : 12. Jay Gibson for Senagogo 14. Thomas McIntyre for Brewis 15. Josh Ward for Riley and 16. Dylan Wilkinson for Crews.
Sub Not used : 13. Arthur LeBlond.
SCORERS : Dan Turner, Jak McKinley 2, Cameron Brewis