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Triple Strike Brings Away Day Delight

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 24th February 2024

Billingham Town 0 v 3 Chester-le-Street United

After Blyth Town stopped United's mini-revival 7 days prior this was a massive win for Chester against a side not that far above them in the League. The sort of display and result that they are capable of and a boost in their battle at the bottom.

The squad is beginning to have a very solid and consistent look about it now and with the recent influx of players added to the quality and ability already available, Chester are now looking a far more formidable opponent right now.

The whole attitude, demeanour, commitment and effort was there for all to see from the first whistle to the last and brought with it richly deserved rewards.

A great run by Ben Lawton down the right got United off to a fine start as it was only halted by Harrison Webster's foul. Ryan O'Connor whipped the free kick to the back post and Dylan Wilkinson headed it back into a dangerous area only to see Jaan Yaqub in the Billingham goal make a fine claim.

United though looked in the mood and struck on the sixth minute. They forced a corner on the Town left and Jack Ledger delivered an in-swinger to the near post that Webster headed clear.

The ball fell to Jude Anderson on the edge of the box and a sublime first touch took him around Alfie Turnbull and then he struck a lovely low left foot drive from the 18-yard line that flew past Yaqub to open the scoring.

Billingham's response saw Jay McLean hit a 22-yard effort that deflected off Wilkinson for a corner. Matthew Bell delivered and James Sayer got up well for a header that he sent over the bar.

Skipper Joseph Bennett then played a great ball inside Harvey Rudd giving Sayer a clean run on goal but James Hughes was off his line quickly to make a brave block and concede a corner that Micky Nelson headed clear but Turnbull picked up.

He jinked inside and tried a shot that deflected up into the air and Lucas pilling got to first but he put his header from the centre of the box just wide. Billingham had made a good response particularly when Turnbull was on the ball.

He picked the ball up on the left and drifted inside the box and then tried to pull the ball back into the middle but Hughes was alive to the danger and grabbed the attempted cross.

Billingham were forcing the pace but lost Webster to injury and he was replaced by Lloyd Evans. As half-time approached O'Connor fouled McLean 25-yards from goal in a central position.

Bell stepped up and curled a lovely effort around the Chester wall but Hughes was well placed behind it and got down to make a decent save albeit one that he would have expected to make.

Another Town attack saw a throw-in on the left hurled deep by pilling. It was flicked on by McLean and Turnbull breaking into the box hit a lovely left foot half-volley from 8 yards out that Hughes dived instinctively to pull off a brilliant reflex save.

Deep into injury time the home side had one further effort that United repelled. This time Bell's corner was met by a spectacular flying header by Evans that beat Hughes but Nelson was in the right place to hook the ball clear off the line.

Half-time and United one-up after a great start to the game and then showing great resolve in defence to keep Billingham out with Hughes and his defenders in fine form.

Billingham started the second half once again on the attack with Wilkinson fouling Sayer to give Bell another free kick opportunity. Once again he beat the Chester wall but saw Hughes thwart him with another fine parried save.

Chester made their first substitution with Charlie Loveday on for Lawton and he was immediately into action winning a throw-in on the left. Ollie Barnett took it and found Ledger.

He moved inside before trying an effort from outside the box that took a wicked deflection that took it past Yaqub but unfortunately for United the ball just went the wrong side of the cross bar.

United's patient possession football and well-organised defensive set-up was now beginning to have an effect on the game as Billingham struggled to make inroads.

Chester made further changes with Michael Mallaburn coming on for Ledger and Jack Wilson for Anderson. This freshening up was to pay almost immediate dividends as United went 2 - 0 up.

Mallaburn found Jacob Mallinson on the left and his twisty tricky run was only stopped by Oliver Cann at the expense of a corner. Mallaburn took the kick and delivered a great in swinging ball that Yaqub only half palmed away.

The ball fell to the unmarked Rudd at the far post. His first effort was blocked by Evans but he lifted his second effort high and it dropped under the cross bar. This time Yaqub under pressure from Wilkinson did not deal with it well.

His half-hearted push away going straight in the direction of Wilson who was able to guide his header into an empty net from about 3-yards out to double United's lead with a quarter of an hour to go.

Chester were now cruising and looking likely to add to their tally. O'Connor showing good midfield play to release Mallinson who's angled drive was well hit and on target but unfortunately straight at Yaqub who saved easily.

United though still needed Hughes to keep their two-goal cushion intact. A Billingham attack taking them into United's box where McLean dispossessed Rudd on the by-line.

He crossed to the back post where Evan McBride met it on the volley only 6-yards out forcing Hughes into another tremendous reflex save. The ball actually looking as though it was going to cross the line before Hughes hauled it back.

Then it was Nelson to the rescue again with another brilliant goal line clearance as Harry Close's chip beat Hughes but Nelson covering behind headed it away from the goal line in fine style.

Loveday had made a difference up front after coming on and nearly made it three on 85 minutes as he was freed by a Chester counterattack and was 1-on-1 with Yaqub. The Town keeper though doing really well to block Loveday's effort.

However, three minutes later and Loved and United did strike again. O'Connor finding Mallaburn on the left. His great cross saw Grimaud arrive late but his close range effort was blocked by Bell.

Grimaud though recycled the rebound and laid it back into the path of Loveday who drove it low and hard into the bottom corner to complete an excellent afternoon's work for United.

At times United rode their luck but defenders and goalkeepers have their jobs to do and are every bit as important as midfielders, attackers and even substitutes. When all combine as well as they did on this day then the results are well deserved.

TEAM : 1 James Hughes 2. Harvey Rudd 3. Ollie Barnett 4. Michael Nelson 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Reyhan Grimaud 7. Ben Lawton 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Jude Aderson 10. Jacob Mallinson 11. Jack Ledger

SUBS : 12. Charlie Loveday (for Lawton 56 mins) 14. Sam Bajrami (for Mallinson 89 mins) 15. Michael Mallaburn (for Ledger 71 mins) 16. Jack Wilson (for Anderson 71 mins)

SCORERS : Anderson 6 mins, Wilson 76 mins, Loveday 88 mins.

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