by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 26th November 2022
Chester-le-Street United 1 v 4 Horden Colliery Welfare
After three heavy defeats in a row and 16 goals conceded United went into another home league game looking to reverse that trend. Once again, they found themselves relying on the younger element of their squad with no less than 11 players in the match-day 16 under 18 years of age.
It has to be said that it's partly the circumstances of the Club that they follow this pattern. There are one or two who follow United that believe they should go for more experienced players to solidify their Northern League status.
But that's not what Chester-le-Street United were set up for. Yes, they want to progress, but they want to do it on their terms and that means sticking to their principles and philosophies and remaining true to their project.
It may mean a few bumps along the way but for this season at the very least that project goal is ..... Forty Points And Floodlights .....
Unfortunately, this wasn't a day that helped towards the first part of that goal although in all truth the final result wasn't a true reflection of the game and the way United played.
Indeed, at the end of the game one of the Horden Committe Men was full of praise for the way United had played and commented that the final score line flattered the away side. However, it was in the end another disappointing day for Chester.
They started well and Sam Johnson almost scored inside the first two minutes when he cut in from the left and hit a great effort from the edge of the box that flew inches wide.
Horden's first chance came after an uncharacteristic mistake from Taylor Campbell who gave the ball away to Marc Ellison who didn't take advantage shooting tamely at Keiron Hardwood who saved easily.
Campbell was more effective at the other end with a trademark 25-yard free kick that he got up and down well but Craig Foster was well placed in the Horden goal to gather comfortably.
The visitors took the lead on 11 minutes. Ellison playing a neat ball into the box for Josh Home-Jackson who got the wrong side, from Chester's point of view, on Jack ledger and turned well before firing in a low shot from 12-yards that Harwood got a hand too but couldn't keep out.
The goal rocked United and they looked a little rattled. They allowed Lewis Connolly to move from back to front virtually untouched and he unleashed a 30-yard effort that fortunately for United was straight at Harwood who dealt with it easily.
The experienced head of Ollie Hotchkiss was very much in evidence in all that Horden did well and he was at this point controlling the midfield as well as being on every set play his side set-up.
He set Chris Stevens on the right and Stevens checked back before hitting a left foot cross cum shot that evaded everyone and dropped inches over the bar with Harwood beaten.
The combination of Ellison and Home-Jackson was also causing United problems and almost conjured another goal for the away side when Home-Jackson got p well to Ellison's right-wing cross and powered a ten-yard header that was just over the top of the bar. A let-off for Chester.
Slowly but surely though United began to get back in the game. They kept their shape well once they'd recovered and started playing their usual good passing football and were certainly in the game.
Ethan Gray did well on the left to create space and then put Jude Anderson in on goal. Foster did brilliantly to block the effort which rebounded back to Jude Anderson who was denied another effort by a great clearing tackle from Ross Kidson.
A Hotchkiss free-kick almost gave United another chance. Harwood coming to claim well before releasing his clearance quickly. It send Benji Shodeinde away and he made ground to just outside the box before seeing his shot blocked by Joe Osborne.
Hotchkiss replied for Horden with a great ball over the top of the Chester defence that found Home-Jackson once again inside the home box but again he was off target with his hooked half-volley from 14-yards.
On 36 minutes Chester really should have been level. Brilliant play on the right by Shodeinde as he combined with Jude Anderson to set-up Johnson 12-yards out. It was a great chance but Johnson lifted his effort too high and it went over the top.
Jude Anderson then pressing the Horden defence hard robbed Connolly who fouled him as he tried to get away. Campbell took the free-kick from 30-yards but narrowly failed to find a target in the box,
Ledger then played a great ball over the top and Jude Anderson sprinted away beating the offside claims. Foster came off his line to meet him and Anderson spotting him coming tried to lift an effort from long-range over him only to see Foster get a great hand to the effort and turn it aside in fine style.
It had felt like an equaliser was coming and it was no more than United deserved when it arrived on 41 minutes and what a goal it was. Ledger played a brilliant long diagonal ball to Harrison Tully on the left-wing in acres of space.
Tully turned inside past Osborne and drove into the box before giving himself a great shooting angle to rifle the ball across and past Foster into the far corner of the net and level the game up.
Chester continued to push without creating anything further and the sides went in level at half-time in what had been a very entertaining 45 minutes with United more than matching their top-six opposition.
United had a scare on the resumption as Horden's top scorer Liam Wright wriggled free inside the Chester area to open up a shooting gap but Dylan Wilkinson did brilliantly to block the striker's effort.
It spurred Chester forward and they looked, at first, the more likely to take the lead. Dan Robinson bombing down the right produced a superb cross that Jude Anderson only just failed to get on the end of. His namesake John Anderson picking up the loose ball and finding Campbell.
United's skipper produced a lovely chipped ball into the box that Tully almost got on the end of but Foster was off his line quickly to claim the ball just before the left-sided midfielder could get to it.
United then went even close minutes later. Shodeinde picked up a ball on the right, sprinted down the line and then turned inside the box. His pace and power taking him clear but once again the home side were thwarted by the excellent Foster who made a brilliant block to deny Chester's top scorer.
Horden had been finding it difficult to get some momentum going in the second half but eventually did with unsurprisingly Hotchkiss being the man to spark them. He played a great ball up to Home-Jackson who in turn played an even better one inside to John Bowes bursting into the box.
Bowes though lacked composure and squandered the excellent opportunity by snatching at his shot and firing it well wide. It was though a warning for United. A warning they didn't heed as Horden went back in front on 58 minutes after poor defensive play by Chester.
Ledger who had been having a fine game as a makeshift centre back made perhaps his only mistake of the day but it was a costly one. Trying to play out from the back his pass was intercepted by Osborne who delivered a first-time cross into the box. for Stevens to get on the end of it and hit a sweet half-volley in off the post.
A real blow to United who had up until that moment matched Horden. But it was also a reminder that at this level of football one defensive lapse of concentration is almost always punished.
United responded with two changes. Alex Fil coming on for Tully and Brandon Young for John Anderson. Almost before Fil could get charging down the left in his usual ebullient style another change was forced on United.
Wilkinson being forced off after picking up a knock. Charlie Loveday came on which meant Fil switching to centre back rather than the planned position of wide left. Another unfortunate moment for the home side.
United did though keep pressing and Campbell carved out a great chance for Shodeinde who looked a likely scorer but just hesitated a fraction and Kidson managed to get in a brilliant saving tackle.
Another glorious chance then went begging for United. Loveday did brilliantly coming in from the right and playing a superb one-two with Anderson to keep going into the box. But the 16-year-old sub was wayward with his effort that he blazed over from a good, albeit tight angle.
Shodeinde was then replaced by Elliot McClen as United continued to search for an equaliser but they were stunned when a lucky break gave Horden another chance which they took clinically.
This time Harwood's clearance to the half-way cannoned back off a Horden player and fell to Jack Maskell 20+-yards from goal. With Harwood struggling to regain his ground the Horden midfielder took full advantage to smash the ball into the unguarded net.
A real body blow for a United side that had looked compact, tidy and competitive to that point but that third goal killed off any hopes they had of at least a point and then they conceded again with barely two minutes to go to give the score line a flattering look.
Wright appeared to be yards offside as he was played through the middle but with United's defence waiting for a flag that never came he strolled unopposed into the box and finished calmly past the stranded Harwood.
Chester had one final act of defiance and it showed the impact they had hoped Fil to make from the bench. He picked up a ball in his back line and drove powerfully forward through the middle before unleashing a superb effort from 20 yards that just cleared the cross bar. It seemed to sum up United's afternoon.
Speaking after the game First Team Head Coach was philosophical in defeat.
"Despite the score line this was a much better performance from the lads. We got back in the game and had several good chances. Four one-on-ones which we failed to convert."
"Once again though we gave poor goals away with lack of concentration and individual errors which will happen with lads of this age especially in such a tough league. Overall I thought we defended a lot better throughout the game."
"I thought Jude Anderson gave us a better threat up front, showing good awareness at times and was involved in almost all the chances we created."
"I understand that it's hard to be a supporter or part of the Club if you are with us to think we should be winning every week like we did in the past. But the future is bright and this project is fantastic and I urge every one to get behind us and stick with it."
TEAM : 1. Kieron Harwood 2. Dan Robinson 3. Ethan Gray 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Dylan Wilkinson 6. Jack Ledger 7. Benji Shodeinde 8. John Anderson 9. Jude Anderson 10. Sam Johnson 11. Harrison Tully
SUBS : 14. Charlie Loveday (for Wilkinson - 71 mins) 15. Elliot McClen (for Shodeinde - 81 mins) 16. Alex Fil (for Tully - 64 mins) 17. Brandon Young (for John Anderson - 64 mins) 18. Evan Gray (for Robinson - 93 mins)
SCORER : Harrison Tully