by Jeff King
Preseason Friendly - Friday 22nd July
Darlington Railway Athletic 1 v 1 Chester-le-Street United Reserves
Chester’s reserves were going for a third successive win against Wearside League Division One opposition in their latest pre-season friendly. A tough test was expected with Darlington RA having had a positive preseason so far.
They had run EBAC NL Division Two Chester-le-Street Town close earlier in the week and also having only gone down to Northern Premier East League side Shildon AFC 3-0. A good match-up for Manager Anthony Johnson and his coaches to evaluate their own squad.
Chester got off to a great start as the home side struggled to get any kind of foot in the game. They were turning good possession into scoring opportunities and could easily have been two or three goals ahead inside the first 25 mins.
Gideon Kanyondo down the left flank was causing problems and could have had more to show for his tireless work that earned him two shooting chances that were saved well by the RA keeper.
On the other flank the Trialist who had a real spring in his step was causing problems for the Darlington back four with his ability to go wide with pace as well as coming inside and finding easy passes to feet.
It was somewhat of a surprise then when RA totally against the run of play took the lead. A loose back pass to keeper Taylor Bell was jumped upon by Darlington’s right winger who squared it across the 6-yard box for an easy tap in for the unmarked striker.
Chester retaliated and Benji Jackson went close from 6 yards after great build up play around the edge of the box from the impressive pairing of Gibson and Davison. Triallist could then have got himself on the scoresheet after a back post header which just ended up the wrong side of the post.
Defensively United were looking comfortable and were rarely troubled with the back four of Scurfield, Arnott, Aldsworth and Jordan dealing comfortably and well with the majority of the long hopeful balls that came their way.
United were disappointed to end the first half trailing by a single goal. The game could have been over by the half if they’d their shooting boots on as five or six good chances went a-begging.
The second half started with a couple of changes for United as 16-year-old debutant Callum McGilvray came on in centre midfield for his first taste of senior competitive football and confidently grew into the game having a very positive impact.
Tsebang Moholo came on wide left and also offered lots going forward often cutting inside and creating chances for others. Darlington thought buoyed by their lead did come into the game a bit more as the second half went on.
They had some decent passages of possession building from the back and playing thorough midfield however most of their attacks came from Chester breakdowns in the final third where they picked up on loose passes and counter attacked with pace and numbers.
On a couple of occasions, the RA front 3 had Chester’s defensive unit scrambling but realistically rarely posed a real threat on goal as the defenders stood firm and controlled.
Although Tom Wallace almost gifted the home side a goal with what turned out in the end to be a great defensive headed clearance that flew over the back of his own goal after a good, squared cross from the from the RA winger.
On 65 minutes Chester grabbed the equaliser they richly deserved. Great work by Man of the Match Benji Jackson in the 18-yard box forced a fine save from the RA keeper but the advancing Sam Johnson was alert to the rebound and tucked the ball over the line from 6 yards.
Chester’s keeper Bell was called into action from a set piece on 69 mins and made a great save diving to his left to keep out a ball that had looked destined to nestle in the top corner of the United net.
RA’s back line got pushed deeper and deeper as the Chester youngsters piled on the pressure in the dying minutes. Noah Ellis almost put United ahead as he raced through one-on-one with but agonisingly saw his shot not just go over the Keeper but clear the crossbar by inches as well.
The last chance of the game for Chester was created by impressive youngster McGilvray. He cleverly drew three defenders into him just inside the 18-yard box before slipping Johnson in with a delicate pass.
Once again though a never say die last ditch resolute defensive effort saw the Darlington right back threw himself at the ball blocking it to earn his team a hard-fought draw at the final whistle.
After the game Anthony Johnson had this to say.
“This was probably our best performance overall in the three preseason games so far with the work rate and intensity levels being very high whilst also showing great patience on the ball from back to front.”
“It was a great effort from the young lads who dominated possession for extended periods of the game. I have to be pleased with that being three games against Wearside League Division One opposition and remaining unbeaten.”
He also had a special word for Benji Jackson whom he gave his Man of the Match award too.
“Benji pretty much dominated the central area in midfield with outstanding ball retention and strength throughout the game often occupying two even three opposing players at a time nibbling at his feet before bringing into play his teammates around him.”
TEAM : 1. Taylor Bell 2. Josh Scurfield 3. Alfie Jordan 4. Scott Arnott 5. Tom Aldsworth 6. Aaron Davison 7. Trialist 8. Jamie Gibson 9. Sam Johnson 10. Benji Jackson 11. Gideon Kanyondo
SUBSTITUTES : 12. Noah Ellis for Trialist 14. Tsebang Moholo for Jordan 15. Luke Curry for Gibson 16. Callum McGilvray for Scurfield 17. Thomas Wallace for Kanyondo
SCORER : Johnson
Upcoming fixtures : v Spennymoor U-18’s, Thursday 28th July 18:30 @ Bowburn, DH6 5BH
V Gateshead Redheugh, Saturday 30th July 13:30 @ Bolam Street, Eslington Park, Gateshead, NE8 2TQ