by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 7th October 2023 Chester-le-Street United 0 v 1 Prudhoe YC Seniors
Ultimately this was a disappointing afternoon for United. They've played some good football recently but haven't always got the results their endeavours have deserved. On Saturday this was different as they could easily have lost by more.
That said they did have a glorious chance very, very early on that could have changed the destiny of the game but once it wasn't taken and the game settled down it was the visitor's that deserved the spoils and took all three points.
James Hughes was back in the United goal and it was nice to see Dan Robinson returning from a longish-term injury. Starts also for Harry Marr and Michael Mallaburn as John Gamble and Micky Nelson re-shuffled their available pack.
It was Mallaburn that could have really made his mark with less than 30 seconds on the clock and given United a flying start. Harvey Rudd playing a great ball down the right channel that was controlled by Reyhan Grimaud who found Ryan O'Connor.
O'Connor did superbly to get inside the box and to the by-line before cutting a great ball back to the six-yard line to Mallaburn but unfortunately the United forward's finish from a great position was weak and Matthew Cassap saved easily.
Prudhoe then had a great chance of their own when winning a corner on United's left. Ben Dibb-Fuller worked it short before receiving the ball back and crossing to find Brad Lowes unmarked at the back post but he could only head wide from a tight angle.
Prudhoe's captain Kieran Russel them almost put his own side in trouble. He gave the ball away to Marr in a dangerous position and Chester had a breakaway 2-on-1 situation. Marr delayed and then made a poor pass trying to release Grimaud and David Below nipped in to clear.
Back came the visitor's and Lowes great ball to the right gave Dibb-Fuller an opportunity to attack the United defence. He outpaced Jack Ledger before sending in an excellent cross.
Hughes came to claim it in front of Kobe Bewicke but spilled the ball giving Bewicke a chance but Rudd was quickly there to block the striker's effort and United cleared the loose ball.
Dibb-Fuller then split the United defence with a great ball that gave Finlay Baty a run on goal with a decent chance but the wide man's finish was weak and didn't trouble Hughes.
Prudhoe were now starting to get on top and United's cause was further hampered when Grimaud was forced to leave the game early and Dan Walton came on in his place.
Captain Dylan Wilkinson and Rudd were having to really marshal the United defence but also showed their footballing ability. Especially when Rudd intercepting a forward pass saw space in front of him.
The newest recruit to the United cause drove into the space and then from fully 30-yards smashed in a long range effort that Cassap parried, fumbled and then recovered before a Chester player could mount a challenge.
The only goal of the game came on 19 minutes when Mallaburn gave the ball away midway inside his own half and wrong footed his own defence. Lowes taking full advantage to find Matty Law unmarked in the box and he turned neatly 10-yards out and fired home past a helpless Hughes.
Chester and Mallaburn almost responded quickly. Walton held a ball up well in attack and found O'Connor who played a great through ball to Mallaburn but the angle was just a little too tight and the forward ran out of room.
Lowes was really prominent and prompting the play for the visitors and good play saw him find Law in the inside left channel of the United box. Law struck his effort well but the angle was tight and Hughes was able to save comfortably.
Wilkinson then played a lovely through ball from the back all along the carpet that send O'Connor into the box but just as the midfielder was about to pull the trigger Jordan Plunkett got across to make a great interception.
Baty on the left then delivered a great ball into the United box that fizzed dangerously across the face of the goal with no-one from Prudhoe able to get a decisive touch. Wilkinson then had to be alert to clear another dangerous situation.
He got in timely to stop Dibb-Fuller's clever ball to Law with the ball falling about 25-yards out to Lowes who hit a fierce first time effort that was on target but saw Hughes well placed to hold his shot.
Mallaburn then won a corner off Plunkett that Ben Glendinning took. His delivery was headed clear but recycled by Harry Laydon who quickly returned it to Glendinning. He cut inside but from 12 yards out put his right foot shot over the top.
Chester were under pressure but Rudd and Wilkinson continued to help their defence soak it up and launch counter attacks. One such attack saw Laydon find Marr on the left hand side of the box.
Marr cut a lovely ball back into the path of the onrushing O'Connor breaking late into the box but from barely six-yards out O'C0nnor snatched at the chance and sliced it well wide.
O'Connor almost atoned with a brilliant ball over the top of the Prudhoe defence that Robinson bombing forward from right back was first to get too and then crossed a lovely ball to the back post that was just too high for the unmarked Mallaburn.
Prudhoe the were denied a second by a brilliant bit of defending by Rudd. A swift counter attack saw Lowes find Bewicke who raced into the United box but was prevented from testing Hughes by the Rudd's superb last-ditch tackle.
Below then did really well to come forward and get into the United area and then turning a ball across the face of the home goal that first Bewicke and Law just failed to get what would have surely been decisive touches.
As the side's trooped off at half-time United had probably played the more incisive football but Prudhoe looked strong across all areas and capable of holding Chester at bay.
United had the first real opening of the second 45 minutes and depending on your viewpoint it could have been unlucky or perhaps should have been taken. It was Glendinning with the chance.
Robinson with great play on the right getting into the box before finding Marr who intelligently laid the ball back into the path of Glendinning just outside the box. His first time shot flying inches over the bar from a clear opening.
If there was doubts about United's chance then Prudhoe should definitely have done better with the next one. Law's superb ball over the top of the United defence putting Dibb-Fuller in on but he could only blast the chance wide from an excellent position.
Law then picking up a loose ball just outside the Chester box worked a great position for himself but again the finish lacked finesse as he too blazed over when he should have hit the target.
Law did get his next opportunity on target as he burst through the middle of the Chester defence to find himself one-on-one with Hughes. The United keeper doing brilliantly to palm the visiting striker's effort on to the post from where it bounced wide.
Prudhoe were proving to be their own worst enemies in their attempts to kill the game off. This time Law was the provider. He did brilliantly on the left to make it into the area before finding substitute Sam Peat unmarked six-yards out.
But once again a Prudhoe player failed to hit the target as Peat snatched at the chance and smashed it well over the top of Hughes' cross bar top let United off again.
United almost made them pay but this time Prudhoe's defence outplayed their wasteful attack and kept them ahead. Robinson's superb right wing cross was cushioned beautifully by Marr's downward header.
Walton was first to the ball but as he tried to turn it home from close range Plunkett was on hand to make a superb block and clear the dangerous situation.
Suddenly United were back in the game. Laydon initiating some good play in midfield to find Glendinning who rolled the ball into Marr's path and his 20-yard right foot bullet flew inches wide of the target with Cassap struggling.
Prudhoe's reply saw them win a corner on the United right. Substitute William Morris delivered well and Plunkett at the back post got there first just inside the six-yard box but could only steer the chance wide.
United made late substitutions to try and find an equaliser and had some good possession and pressing late on. Three times they won throw-ins level with the penalty area.
Mallaburn's long throw delivery on each occasion caused problems in the visitor's box but the Prudhoe defence stood firm and solid and managed to clear the ball at every opportunity.
As time expired the visitor's almost sealed the deal on the day as a counter attack saw another substitute, Craig Fairley spin free inside the United box. His 8-yard effort was struck well and on target but Hughes made a brilliant reflex save.
Unfortunately despite his efforts there was no time left for United to cash in on their fortune with the whistle going second later to see Prudhoe holding on to take a well deserved three points.
There's no doubt that United were in this game right to the death but had little end product. Prudhoe on the other hand had several good chances to increasee their lead but wasted them all but it did not cost them in the end.
TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Dan Robinson 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harry Laydon 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Harvey Rudd 7. Harry Marr 8. Ben Glendinning 9. Reyhan Grimaud 10. Ryan O'Connor 11. Michael Mallaburn
SUBS : 12. Jude Anderson (for O'Connor 63 mins) 14. Joe Walls (for Glendinning 74 mins) 15. Dan Walton (for Grimaud 17 mins) Joe Sykes (for Marr 81 mins)