by Jeff King
Durham County FA Challenge Cup - Tuesday 11th October 2022 Chester-le-Street United 2 v 1 Billingham Synthonia
Onto the third round of the 'Frank Pattinson' trophy go a Chester side that seems to get younger by the week although the experience these lads are getting is giving them maturity beyond their years.
United took the field shorn of eight or nine players that might well be first-choice if all are/were fit and available. From Saturday's 1 - 1 draw in The League v Newcastle University Taylor Campbell joined Keallan Huddleston on the sidelines through injury.
The late withdrawal of Josh Crews before the game was another setback for United who called up Park View Academy First Year Students Emanuel Igiehon for a full debut and he was joined by fellow 16-year-old full back Daniel Robinson.
Both were making their full senior debuts and in the case of Robinson it was his first ever involvement with the first team. Dylan Wilkinson was made Captain on the night, and he was joined at centre back by Thomas Cole returning from suspension.
There was also a full start for John Anderson in the centre of midfield alongside Jack Oliver and Matt O'Brien who was making only his second start for The Club. United had lost at Synners back in September 3 - 2 after leading 2 - 0 at the half. Revenge was the mission in mind.
But it was Synners who struck first in only the 3rd minute. They forced an early corner and when it was delivered Harvey Rudd rose highest to plant his header past a helpless Mauro Asikaogu in the Chester goal.
In truth Synners held their lead comfortable after that. A couple of half chances for the visitors to increase their lead came to nothing with Asikaogu rarely troubled whilst his opposite number Stephen Hubery held an Oliver header comfortably.
At the half Billingham led by that early Rudd header in a game where there was plenty of endeavour from both sides between the two boxes with both sides probing for an opening.
Chester perhaps had the best spells of possession in the opening 45 minutes but Billingham were able to keep them at arm's length quite comfortably to take that one-goal lead into the changing rooms at half-time.
On 52 minutes United had two quick corners. The first saw Wilkinson's goal-bound header deflected wide and then the United's skippers second header was held well by the well-placed Hubery.
Asikaogu who'd had an excellent game on his return to the side at the weekend was called upon shortly afterwards. He did brilliantly to prevent Synners with a superb block after a Billingham forward had seemingly been clear of the chasing pack.
On 63 minutes United made the change that swung the game in their favour. as Elliot McClen was replaced by Ethan Gray. The substitution working within three minutes as he drew United level.
Aball was played out to him on the left-hand side of the box, and he looked up before lifting a great left foot shot over the outstretched hands of Hubery and into the far corner of the net.
Now it was game on as both sides pushed for another goal to avoid a penalty shoot-out. Robinson venturing forward on the right for United before firing in a ,ow cross that crashed into the side netting.
With three minutes to go it was United that snatched a dramatic winner and what a goal it was. United were pushing forward at every opportunity and The Synners defence was under pressure.
It was from a far from convincing Billingham clearance that United struck. The ball falling to Anderson just outside the box and he smashed a brilliant left-foot effort into the roof of the net giving Hubery no chance.
On the balance of play and in particular their second half showing it was a deserved result for what by the end of the 90 minutes was the youngest side Chester had put out in their short existence so far.
Up against it through multiple injuries and a bit of player unrest it was a superb result for the United youngsters as they made it four wins out of a five-match unbeaten run and take their place in the third round of the competition.
TEAM : 1. Mauro Asikaogu 2. Daniel Robinson 3. Emanuel Igiehon 4. John Anderson 5. Thomas Cole 6. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 7. Sam Johnson 8. Jack Oliver 9. Benji Shodeinde 10. Matt O'Brien 11. Elliot McClen
SUBS : 12. Ethan Gray (for McClen 63 minutes) 13. Evan Gray (for Oliver 80 mins) 14. Brandon Young (for O'Brien 57 mins) 16. Jack Ledger (unused)
SCORERS : Ethan Gray, Anderson