by Jeff King
Wearside League - Tuesday 5th April 2022
Chester-le-Street United 1 v 0 Durham Corinthians
On a breezy, rainy cold April evening it was always going to be a tough test for United against a Durham Corinthians side sitting in fourth place in the table. And so it proved with Jay Gibson's 61st minute header separating the side's at the end of 90 well contested minutes.
Chester made two changes from the side that recorded an emphatic 8 - 1 victory over Norton & Stockton Ancients the previous Saturday. Two-goal substitute Jack Mortimer earning a place in the starting XI with Dan Lanning dropping down to the bench.
Arthur Leblond also came in to take the goal keeper's jersey from Mauro Asikaogu as United continued their rotation policy in that position. Asikaogu named as one of the substitutes.
It was Mortimer who created the first chance of the game for his side inside two minutes. He got away from the defence to the by-line and cut the ball back into the middle. The Durham defence only cleared the ball to the edge of the area.
The ball found it's way to Cameron Brewis who hit it too well and it flew wind-assisted well over the bar. Louis Watts then knocked in a great ball to the back post where Mortimer got on the end of it but could only guide his header wide from a tight angle.
Corinthians replied on 9 minutes when Josh Harker played in Dan Weaver on the right and he hit a fierce angled shot that Leblond did well to turn away for a corner which was cleared by the Chester defence for a throw-in.
Max Stoker the Durham skipper hurled a long throw deep into the heart of the Chester defence which caused a bit of a scramble before George Riley cleared his lines well.
James Bakou then did well on the right side to fashion room for a cross that was hit deep to the back post where Gibson was waiting to pounce. However, he was denied the opportunity thanks to a great clearing header from Stoker.
Taylor Robinson who has been in great form recently began showing his influence in midfield and picked out Elliott Day on the left with a brilliant cross field ball. Day controlled it well and fired a low cross into the Durham box.
Once again though Stoker was there to clear the danger this time at the expense of a corner which came to nothing. Chester then produced a lovely sweeping move involving Cameron Brewis, Bakou and Robinson to force a corner.
Robinson's kick drifted over everyone and Day recovered it just outside the box getting in a dangerous cross that Josh Crews got up too but could only head well over the top.
Whilst United were the dominant side, Corinthians were playing some neat football, were organised in defence and were making life difficult for the league leaders. They were certainly matching United's injury as the game progressed.
Once again Bakou almost turned provider. This time his right-wing cross was well met by Gibson's powerful header but Harry Renwick in the Corinthians goal was able to make a comfortable catch.
Brewis was next to try and unlock the stubborn Durham defence. fashioning an opening with a clever ball to Mortimer. Mortimer played it inside to Gibson who laid the ball back into the path of Robinson. His rasping drive from the edge of the box though was well held by Renwick who was in a good position to complete the save.
Brewis then slipped a ball inside the Corinthians defence that found Day in space but the wide-man's angled effort flew just over the top. Chester were certainly pushing but has to be wary of their opponents still being well in the game.
Evidence of this was another long Stoker throw-in which was headed out of the area by Crews falling at the feet of Alex Morland who hit a great long-range strike that was always climbing as it flashed over the bar.
Perhaps United's best two chance of the half fell late in the first 45 minutes. Both fell to Mortimer. The first saw his effort blocked after Brewis had once again released Day on the left who found the striker inside the 18-yard box.
The second, which was the last significant action of the half, was when the United striker was found beautifully by Robinson but his left-foot effortfrom 14-yards went inches over the cross bar with Renwick well beaten.
Goalless then as the second half opened with the first chance falling the visitor's way. A free-kick on halfway taken by keeper Renwick found Stoker just inside the Chester box but his flick header was easily caught by the alert Leblond.
Chester perhaps should have taken the lead on 55 minutes. Riley advanced from the back and with the pitch opening up he crashed a brilliant effort off the underside of the bar.
The ball fell kindly to Mortimer just outside the six-yard box and he looked a certain scorer as he only had Renwick in front of him. Somehow though the Corinthians keeper adjusted his position superbly to Mortimer with a brilliant block with his feet.
The goal though Chester craved and deserved finally arrived on 61 minutes. Bakou won a corner on the Durham right off Morland. Brewis took the kick and swung it in dangerously. Gibson timing his run perfectly met the ball full-on with a neck-busting header that flew past the helpless Renwick into the net.
Not long after Brewis almost made it two when his 25-yard free-kick earned after he was fouled by Stoker took a deflection off the wall and crashed against the cross bar once again.
Although there was plenty of endeavour and time for both sides to make further marks the defences of both side's were pretty solid. Substitute Dan Lanning on for Mortimer showed plenty of dash up top for United but the resolute defending restricted United.
At the other end, Corinthians did try to push for an equaliser and Leblond got in an unnecessary tangle with his defenders but Dylan Wilkinson came to his rescue to clear a dangerous chance.
Then as game entered nervous injury-time Crews did give the ball away in what could have been a fatal position but once again Riley was alert to the danger and preserved United's 1 - 0 score line as the final whistle sounded soon after.
On the face of it 1 - 0 sounds tight and it was as Durham made it very difficult for United all game. Both side's will have better offensive days whilst both defences held firm and played superbly.
On the balance of the game and the chances United were deserved winners but will be glad to see the back of such dogged and determined opposition.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3. George Riley 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Louis Watts 7. James Bakou 8. Cameron Brewis 9. Jay Gibson 10. Jack Mortimer 11. Elliott Day
SUBS : 12. Dan Lanning for Mortimer 13. Mauro Aiskaogu (unused) 14. Alex Nicholson (unused) 15. Lewis Lembikisa for Day 1. Evan Gray (unused)
SCORER : Gibson