by Jeff King
Pre-Season Friendly - Saturday 16th July 2022
Chester-le-Street Reserves 2 v 1 Shildon AFC Reserves
Chester's reserves continued their impressive acclimatisation to The Club and retained their 100% record with a hard-fought win against Wearside League Division One opposition.
Shildon's first team play in the North East Premier League and their reserve side is setup to support that from Wearside League Division 1. Last season they finished comfortably in mid-table and will be looking to push on from their, this.
It meant another tough afternoon for Anthony Johnson's youngsters but it was another test they passed with flying colours. The reserves did have two first team squad members in their starting XI in Sam Johnson and Benji Shodeinde whilst Moses Igiehon was on the bench.
The game kicked-off in searing heat and the action on the pitch was just as hot. Neither side was going to give an inch and some highly competitive challenges resulted. The referee having to calm both sides down and going to his yellow card on several occasions.
In reality it just showed that both sides were committed to a high-octane afternoon with both sides making it clear that they wanted to win. Shildon forced the pace from the off and when they got the ball forward looked dangerous.
Ex-Chester striker Jack Mortimer led their line and was a handful for the United defence although they showed they were more than capable of withstanding the threat.
Although both sides were looking for goals and both had some good attacking moments neither side really troubled each other's goal throughout the first 45 minutes apart from when Chester managed to take the lead.
It was about the midway mark of the first half when The Reserves struck. Sam Johnson was instrumental in the goal. Playing in the No. 10 position he picked up the ball 40 yards from goal, spun away from the Shildon defence and slid an inviting pass through a gap.
Noah Ellis was alive to the situation and timed his run perfectly to get to the ball before the Shildon keeper and poke it neatly into the bottom corner. It was a neat goal and one that certainly boosted Chester's confidence.
They managed to hold onto the single goal advantage as the half-time whistle went to give both sets of sweltered players a welcome break, the chance th rehydrate and then go again.
When they did get going again it did look as though Shildon may get the upper hand as they forced the United youngsters back. The spine of United's side was very solid though.
Alex Johnson and Aaron Davison really putting in a shift in the middle of the park and Tom Aldsworth and Jamie Gibson marshalling the defence to restrict Shildon at every turn. Indeed it was United that almost snatched a second in spectacular style.
Moving the ball forward a ball into the visitors' box was only half cleared and Davison came onto the loose ball with some purpose crashing a 30-yard thunderbolt off the bar with the keeper well beaten.
The rebound though actually fell perfectly for Shildon and saw Mortimer played through 1-on-1 with Nathan Rey. The United keeper was rounded by Mortimer who's initial touch took him wide put he recovered to place his shot into the open net to equalise against his old Club.
Anthony Johnson aware of the heat and some tiring bodies did change things around using his substitutes to give everyone some game time. Shildon had the next opportunity with a 20-yard-free kick that Mortimer wasted by firing well over.
United were playing pretty much on the break but the pace of Shodeinde and guile of Sam Johnson was causing Shildon problems and should have led to a second goal. Davison's astute pass put Shodeinde away at pace and in space.
Sam Johnson pulled off the defence's shoulders and was acres in space. But Shodeinde either didn't see him or felt he could take it on himself. Unfortunately a late heavy touch just caused the ball to run away from him and a glorious opportunity went begging.
The winner when it came was unfortunate and unlucky for Shildon. Gideon Kanyondo who had come on to great effect in the previous game had done so again in this game. It was he who created the goal.
Twisting and turning in the left hand side of the 18-yard-box he sent a dangerous cross in towards the far post where Sam Johnson was lurking. Luca Pilling the Shildon left back was aware of the danger and tried to cut the cross out.
Unfortunately for him and his teammates he could only meet the ball firmly on the half volley facing his own goal and he sent it screaming into the top corner past his own keeper.
The question now was could the Reserves hold what they had? The answer was yes! Shildon did push ever harder and the tiring United side did concede a number of free kicks but they held firm dealt with anything coming their way and completed another fine win.
It's still pre season and there's still work to be done for Anthony Johnson, his coaches and his players but all the signs so far are promising and they will be encouraged by what they've seen and the desire and heart of their young side.
TEAM : 1. Nathan Rey 2. Josh Scurfield 3. Alfie Jordan 4. Alex Johnson 5. Tom Aldsworth 6. Jamie Gibson 7. Benji Shodeinde 8. Aaron Davision 9. Noah Ellis 10. Sam Johnson 11. Jay Giles
SUBSTITUTES : 12. Luke Curry 14. Tse Moholo 16. Gideon Kanyondo 18. Moses Igiehon
SCORERS : Noah Ellis, Pilling (O.G.)