by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Ernest Armstrong Cup - Wednesday 8th November 2023
Prudhoe YC Seniors 1 v 3 Chester-le-Street United
This perhaps was the most complete all-round team performance from United this season. Some might say it was a shame it didn't reap three league points but winning any game especially against tough opposition is always good.
It helps breed confidence and a feeling that engenders progress and belief that nights like these can be turned into longer periods like this and therefore create a winning habit and mentality that will serve United well in the future.
Let's hope so anyway!
It was also good on the night to see that the enforced break the awful weather has created has benefitted United's squad. The likes of Charlie Loveday, Reyhan Grimaud, Ryan O'Connor and Harry Laydon all returning from injury to play a part.
There was also a senior United debut for Park View Academy Ben Lawton who despite playing for United in the FA Youth Challenge Cup had until his transfer been part of Sunderland West End's Northern League second division squad.
This was also a very good entertaining, open game played on a pitch that was way, way, way better than most were expecting after all the heavy rain we've had recently. A good effort from those involved at Prudhoe to produce such a pitch.
However in the opening ten minutes there was little to suggest we were going to end up with such an entertaining night and game. Both sides looked rusty early on and struggled to find much cohesive play.
When they did it was United who were to the fore first. O'Connor playing a good ball into the box for Grimaud overlapping to run on to. He had not one but two shots blocked as he won a corner for his side that came to nothing.
O'Connor then tried his luck from 20 yards after good work from Loveday set him up but saw Thomas White in the Prudhoe goal get down well to collect the effort at his right hand post.
A great tackle on the left by Jack Ledger led to Jude Anderson getting a run on goal but Brad Rogers cut across to block the strikers progress for another corner. Laydon's delivery was cleared but retrieved by Harvey Rudd.
Rudd sent in a good cross that Anderson got on the end of it but his header was well wide of the target. Then O'Connor played Lawton in to the box who won yet another corner.
United tried a short kick routine between Laydon and Loveday but failed to get the ball into a dangerous area and the opportunity was wasted. Their next corner almost immediately after when O'Connor found Anderson with Rogers intercepting was delivered better but the Prudhoe defence held firm.
With almost their first meaningful attack Prudhoe went ahead against the run of play on 25 minutes. It came from a good move initially from the back. David Below playing a neat ball into midfield to skipper Adam Bell.
Bell played a great ball down the right to Rob Wilson who made an excellent overlapping run that resulted in his dangerous cross being diverted for a corner by Ledger.
United dealt well with the corner but didn't react well to the second ball. Liam Dalton winning the first header and then Bell getting a second header that looped over the United defence finding Craig Fairley free.
The striker didn't hesitate nor waste the free opportunity half volleying past a helpless James Hughes from around six yards out to give Prudhoe the lead.
Amazingly though United responded within a minute although the equaliser had a touch of luck as well as bravery about it and came from O'Connor who had made a fine start to his return to the team.
A loose ball on the edge of the box say O'Connor challenge Below to a 50/50 ball and Below's intended clearance cannoning off O'Connor's brave block and looping over White's head to give United an equaliser.
O'Connor was playing some lovely passes from midfield and found Lawton on the right with another. The tricky wide man delivered a great cross to the back post that Below did extremely well to clear in front of the predatory Anderson.
Prudhoe then missed a glorious chance on the half-hour mark to retake the lead. Good approach play from Bell and Will Morris opened up the United defence finding Fairley who cleverly laid the ball off to Dalton.
Dalton was completely unmarked 10 yards out but snatched at the chance and blazed it well over the top from a great position. The game though was opening out with dangerous situations at both ends of the pitch.
Wilson delivering another low cross that fizzed across the United box with the stretching Fairley narrowly failing to get a decisive touch. That at the other end it was O'Connor again narrowly failing to create a chance for Laydon.
Laydon benefitting from Captain Dylan Wilkinson playing in the holding midfield role was able to push forward more often and was only denied a clear look on goal when Josh Robbins got in a last ditch clearance to clear O'Connor's great ball in.
Laydon took the resultant corner short to Lawton who delivered a pin point cross finding Anderson but unfortunately the striker couldn't get a decent contact on his header and it went well wide.
It was the first of three headed chances that Anderson couldn't quite get a positive connection on and bring United a second goal. The second coming when Loveday nicked a ball in midfield drove across pitch and found Lawton on the right.
Once again the cross was a decent one but the angle was tight and against Anderson who flicked his header over the bar. Then a brilliant cross field ball from Laydon found Ledger marauding forward on the left.
He delivered an excellent ball into the middle but this time although Anderson's header was firmer he again failed to get it on target as from 8 yards it went over the top. United though were creating chances and looking good.
When the half-time whistle went they were on top going to the dressing room in respect of possession and territory but not in terms of goals with the sides level and still 45 minutes to play.
It was Anderson again causing problems for the Prudhoe defence as the second half opened. twisting and turning on the edge of the box he created space for a shot that Rogers did well to block.
Despite United being on top it seemed as if the home side had the better and more clear cut chances. A lovely ball from Dalton swept wide to Josh Scott who fired in a chest high cross.
Rudd putting his body on the line dived to head clear but Morris was quickest to the loose ball but once again was profligate in his finishing as he blazed a great chance over the bar.
from an O'Connor free kick midway inside the Prudhoe half the home defence did well to scramble the ball clear with Wilson playing it out for a throw-in. Grimaud took it and delivered it long into the box where Rudd flicked it on.
Lawton got on the end of the flick and hit a great volley that looked goal bound until Below deflected it wide with a blocking header. It was a corner and United took full advantage of that kick to take the lead on 57 minutes.
Laydon delivered and Emanuel Igiehon timed his run perfectly meeting the ball on the full inside the six-yard box powering his header past the helpless White in emphatic style.
It was a game that was really flowing well at both ends and being played in a highly competitive but excellent spirit. The words 'typical cup-tie' uppermost in the mind.
A lovely Chester move saw Rudd win the ball well at the back before finding Ledger moving forward down the left who in turn found Loveday in space. The wide man played a great ball into Anderson about 12 yards from goal but once again the angle was tight and he could only fire over.
Then another Grimaud long throw caused problems the ball falling to Lawton who only half hit his effort towards goal but Anderson swivelling on the ball helped it on and the ball deflected for another corner.
Laydon swung it on and over White's outstretched arms only to see Robbins cleared superbly from under his own cross bar. United though should have increased their lead on 66 minutes.
A combination of Anderson and Loveday pinched the ball off Prudhoe about 30-yards from goal and Loveday immediately sent Anderson through one-on-one with White. The keeper doing well to block Anderson's initial effort.
The ball though fell to Loveday but with White out of position he could only lift his effort over both the keeper and the bar. It was Loveday again five minutes later that had another great chance that was squandered.
Put through on goal by Laydon's incisive pass with only White he didn't get the ball wide enough to prevent White making another great saving block to keep his side in the contest.
Then United were left to bemoan some really bad luck. Anderson won a corner that Laydon and Loveday worked short for the Laydon to create a nice angle for a cross that he delivered superbly.
Rudd did brilliantly to get on the end of the ball and sent a superb header flashing past White only to see the ball hit the inside of the right post and bounce to safety. Would these missed chances cost United? Almost was the answer.
They were indebted to keeper Hughes who made two stunning saves in a matter of minutes. Morris completely opened up the United defence with a brilliant ball that freed Wilson for a run at goal.
Wilson measured his cross shot well but Hughes advancing well to narrow the angle made a brilliant stop with his feet to keep the effort out. He then did even better seconds later.
Scott's right-wing header was superb, Fairley's point blank firm header inside the six-yard box was well directed but Hughes' reflex save was simply magnificent as he somehow turned the ball away to maintain Chester's lead.
Then Scott and Fairley combined again with the centre forward firing inches over the top from just inside the box as Prudhoe cranked up the pressure looking for an equaliser to take the tie into a penalty shoot-out.
But United were also looking for a third to kill the game off. Lawton cutting in from the right showed great skill and control before finding Laydon who slid it through for Loveday but he saw Below come sliding in to deny him a run on goal.
United made their first change when Michael Mallaburn came on for Loveday but he almost saw Prudhoe draw level before he had a chance to get into the game. A lightening counter attack saw Wilson feed Scott who's right wing delivery fizzed low across Chester six-yard box where no-one was there to get a telling touch.
With two minutes of normal time remaining Igiehon conceded a centrally placed free-kick 22 yards from his side's goal. Scott stepped up and although his fierce effort beat the wall it didn't beat the well placed Hughes who held the shot well.
Mallaburn's first involvement was an excellent one with a terrific long cross field ball that released Lawton on the right. Once again his cross was excellent and once again found Anderson.
Unfortunately once again Anderson failed to hit the target from a good position as he headed over from inside the box when centrally placed. To be fair to Anderson despite the missed opportunities it was good to see him getting into the right positions.
United did though finally make the game safe two minutes into time added on with a splendid third. It was all created and finished by Mallaburn. White's clearing pass from his area saw the substitute forward nip in and win the ball.
With White stranded on the edge of his area Mallaburn looked up and deliciously chipped the ball superbly over the keeper into the wide-open inviting net to seal the deal for United and send them through to the next round.
In fact Mallaburn almost scored again with virtually the last touch of the game deep into injury time. This time it was another substitute Kymani Stewart that supplied the ammunition.
His run down the right got him away from the Prudhoe defence and his accurate cross found Mallaburn darting into the box but he was unlucky to see his precisely placed header flash just wide of the post.
It made no difference as the referee's whistle ended an entertaining contest that United had deservedly taken but that Prudhoe had also had some decent chances to change the outcome.
United though now need to take this level of all-round performance into their league campaign as they search for the wins to take them up the table.
TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Reyhan Grimaud 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harvey Rudd 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Emanuel Igiehon 7. Ben Lawton 8. Harry Laydon 9. Jude Anderson 10. Ryan O'Connor 11. Charlie Loveday
SUBS : 12. Harry Marr (for O'Connor 86 mins) 14. Daniel Walton (for Lawton 90 + 4 mins) 15. Kymani Severin (for Anderson 90 + 4 mins) 16.Ben Glendinning (for Laydon 90 + 4 mins) 17. Michael Mallaburn (for Loveday 82 mins)
SCORERS : O'Connor 26 mins, Igiehon 57 mins, Mallaburn 90 + 2 mins