by Jeff King
Durham FA Trophy - Quarter Final - Saturday 4th December 2021
Chester-le-Street United 6 v 1 Darlington Town
Although this wasn't a Wearside League fixture it was a much anticipated first meeting of the season between the division's current top two sides. Both have forty league points but Darlington have only lost twice in the league and have two games in hand.
For United there were two changes to the line-up that had beaten Windscale 3 - 1 in their last outing in the Alan Hood Charity Cup. Josh Ward was unavailable and Ryan Muldoon was suspended.
Coming into take their places were Taylor Robinson and new French forward Gianny Bacot who was making his Chester debut after receiving international clearance.
Unfortunately there did not seem to be a team sheet available for the visitors as the game kicked off. The first chance falling in the first couple of minutes to United. Elliot Day played a ball over the top of the Town defence.
Bacot was on to it like a flash and showed pace and power to open up a chance but his effort didn't match his run and the Darlington keeper was able to make a comfortable save,
It was though only a temporary reprieve for Darlington as Chester swept into the lead on four minutes. A corner from Cameron Brewis saw Jaden Timmis head goal wards. The header was blocked but only half cleared.
Micky Spellman picked the ball up on the left and drove a low cross to the back post where skipper Josh Crews was unmarked inside the six-yard box and he had the simple task of tapping the ball home to open the scoring.
United looked well up for the challenge and the game and were really on the front foot. However, they were indebted to goalkeeper Arthur Leblond who pulled off a brilliant point blank save from Axel Tucker who had burst clear of the Chester defence.
Despite that chance it always looked like the hungry Chester side were the more likely to register the next goal and so it proved on 24 minutes. Brewis picked the ball up on the right and cut inside onto his left foot.
He then delivered a superb cross to the far post to find Jay Gibson who rose well to meet it and bullet a header past the stranded Town keeper. It was no more than United had deserved and they weren't finished by a long way.
Tucker was sent to the sin bin for ten minutes as Chester continued to dominate. Spellman doing well to create a long-range shooting chance which the keeper got down easily to gather.
Spellman was certainly looking in the mood and a magnificent run from deep saw him weave in and out of the Town defence before advancing into the visitor's box but his final effort did not match the run and he fired well over.
With seven minutes to go to half-time United breached the Town defence for the third time of the afternoon. That man Spellman was involved again. He was second favourite to get to a ball played towards him but turned on after burners to flash past the Town defenders.
Even when they tried to upend him he stayed on his feet before flicking the ball inside to the supporting Bacot. The new striker got his head up and spotted Brewis unmarked. He squared the ball to United's top scorer who calmly slotted the ball home from just inside the box.
The final goal of the first half came in injury time and it was an absolute beauty. Timmis won a defensive header which Brewis flicked beautifully onto Louis Watts. His touch was excellent as he set Spellman away with a first-time cushioned pass.
Spellman was again the provider as he saw Brewis breaking inside and he laid a perfect ball into striker's path. Brewis had no hesitation in accepting the present and smashed the ball high into the roof of the net from the edge of the box.
It completed a wonderful first-half for a United side that had played some delightful free-flowing fast football which had torn Darlington apart. The visitor's looking visibly shocked as the referee called a halt to the proceedings.
Not that, once again, Chester were done with the damage. Within five minutes of the restart they netted their fifth goal and it was another sparkling move and great finish.
Spellman played a superb ball through the inside left channel to Brewis. He took the ball in his stride before delivering a pin-point pass to Gibson at the back post and Gibson side-footed it home with aplomb.
Five goals to the good both sides took the opportunity to make substitutions. Spellman and Bacto were withdrawn and replaced by Alex Nicholson and Jack Mortimer for United. James Bakou also came on for Ebenezer Addo.
It slowed the game down a touch and Town to their credit managed to stem the flow of Chester's attacks and gain a belated foothold into the game. It even led to them gaining a consolation breakaway goal.
It actually came from a Chester corner which was well cleared and caught Chester short-handed at the back. The impressive Tucker who had battled gamely all match got away from half-way and coolly slotted past the advancing Leblond to reduce the deficit.
There was still time for United to restore the five-goal gap and it was right on the ninety minute mark. Lovely footwork and precision passing from Taylor Robinson opened up a chance for Bakou and although his effort was blocked the loose ball fell to Brewis.
He didn't hesitate in the slightest and fired the ball home to complete an excellent hat-trick and a superb afternoon's work for a highly impressive United team performance.
To Darlington's credit they didn't come to shut-up shop but being hit so early had to open the game up and Chester showed just what they are capable of when a side gives them space to play.
So, another semi-final of a cup competition has been reached for a United side that is really on song at the present time. The next game will be on Tuesday night when Chester face another tough test of their ability and character.
Northern League Second Division side Easington Colliery will visit the Ford Hub on Tuesday night in the first round of the Durham Senior Challenge Cup. A chance for United to test themselves against a side that on paper play at a higher level.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Jaden Timmis 3. Elliot Day 4. Louis Watts 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Taylor Robinson 7. Ebenezer Addo 8. Cameron Brewis 9. Jay Gibson 10. Gianny Bacot 11. Michael spellman
SUBS : 12. George Riley (not used) 14. Alex Nicholson for Spellman 15. Jack Mortimer for Bacto 16. Miles Fox (unused) 17. James Bakou for Addo.
SCORERS : Crews, Gibson 2, Brewis 3