by Jeff King
After two defeats on the road at Silksworth and Windscale, United were looking to get back to winning ways on Saturday at The Riverside against FC Hartlepool. They knew it wouldn't be easy as the visitors came into the game on a 3-match winning run.
For United once again there were changes a-plenty. Elliott Day and George Reilly were both out and with Josh Ward just coming back from injury acting First Team Head Coach switched James Bakou into the back three.
Keeper Arthur Leblond who'd had a splendid game at Windscale was also missing after picking up a groin injury so Aymeric Vidot came in for his first-team debut along with Ryan Muldoon. Muldoon is a combative defensive midfielder who has impressed in training and deserved his first call-up.
It was almost a disastrous start for Vidot as his poor clearance was gathered up by Craig Linsell who looked as if he may have a chance but United skipper Josh Crews was across smartly to clear the danger.
Then in a great start for the visitors McLellan Lines made a great driving run from midfield but could only stab his effort wide of the target as he entered the home box.
Chester's first response was when Ricardo Pereira was found on the left by Jak McKinley and the speedy wide man got into the box before firing a left wing cross just over the bar.
Chester had a great chance to go in front on 8 minutes showing their pace on the break as it came from a FC Hartlepool corner well cleared by Crews. McKinley picked up the loose ball and sent Pereira away down the left.
His ball in-field found Micky Spellman who slid Ebenezer Adoo in on goal but the wide man's effort was struck wide. United were beginning to get into their stride and great play in the midfield by Muldoon breaking forward set up the next chance.
He found Spellman who in turn gave Brewis an opportunity to create a shooting opportunity but Hartlepool centre-half Dean Cope did well to block Brewis and then clear his lines.
Hartlepool had to reorganise as Lines who'd made a good start to the game picked up a knock and was replaced by Robert Hammond. The reorganisation almost gave United a chance to capitalise.
Adoo switched the ball into the box from the right finding Spellman who did well to control and then fire in a lovely strike that Adam Lewis in the visitors goal dived low to keep out in fine style.
On the 20 minute mark Pereira conceded a free kick just outside his own box. Sam Cook floated the ball in and Luke Naylor got a flicked header on to it but it drifted harmlessly wide.
The visitors though were looking the greater threat now particular on the right hand side with linkup play from full back Patrick Mulvey and wide man Lewis Porritt.
They were denied the lead on 26 minutes when James Bakou gave the ball away to Mulvey who was up with the attack and he found Kalon Lloyd in a good position. Lloyd struck his 10-yard cross shot well but Vidot made an excellent save to turn the ball away for a corner.
It was a temporary reprieve for the home side as Lloyd floated the corner to the back post where Naylor headed the ball towards goal. The effort was blocked but the ball fell back into his path and with no-one guarding the Chester post he was able to steer the ball into the empty net.
Chester though almost equalised straight from the kick-off. Once again McKinley linked up with Pereira. Pereira found Brewis inside the area but he was well closed down by the Hartlepool defence.
The ball broke loose though and a scramble ensued inside the visitors area with Spellman having a goal bound shot before Hartlepool once again cleared their lines.
With ten minutes to go to half time a sweeping Chester move brought them a free kick inside the Visitor's D. Spellman to Pereira and then on to Robinson who was tripped as he looked to pull the trigger.
Right in front of goal and 20 yards out McKinley stepped up but his effort was not a good one and the ball cannoned off the wall and away to safety. As the game approached half-time Hartlepool were good value for their lead.
They were getting men behind the ball and closing down space well but still finding time to break forward and with five minutes to the end of the half should have doubled their lead.
An excellent break down the right saw Porritt find the supporting Mulvey up with the attack and inside the box. The full back would have been disappointed with his finish as he dragged the ball wide from about 8-yards out.
It was the last chance of a frantic first half that saw Hartlepool slightly more composed and organised and taking their single-goal advantage into the dressing room.
Chester had the first effort on the resumption of play. Bakou found Adoo in space on the right and he did well to go past Hartlepool skipper Lewis Cowan before cutting inside to create shooting space. Unfortunately his finish was not as good as his approach play and he blazed well over the top.
Once again though Hartlepool rallied and Chester were indebted to Vidot in their goal for keeping them in the game with a brilliant stop. A Cook free-kick into the United box was only half cleared and Porritt fired in a half volley that Vidot did brilliantly to block with his legs.
Had that great chance gone in the game could well have had a different outcome. Acting First Team Head Coach John Gamble had made a significant change at the half moving Spellman out to the left flank and switching Pereira inside.
This began to stretch the Hartlepool defence a little more and on 55 minutes United drew level. A throw-in from the right by Adoo was cleared to the edge of the box and was picked up by McKinley. He took a couple of touches before unleashing a left foot rocket from 22 yards that flew past Lewis into the top corner of the net.
The goal seemed to give Chester that surge of confidence they needed as they took full advantage of those missed Hartlepool chances to turn the game around. The second goal came within three minutes of the first.
Adoo had a half chance that was well saved by Lewis but United were quickly back to attack Lewis's goal. Pereira this time fired in a low shot that Lewis parried and Brewis looked to pounce on the rebound.
Lewis though flung himself in front of Brewis to block the close range effort. The ball though spun into the air and Robinson got in front of the defenders to neatly nod the ball into the net from close range.
The visitors' raids were becoming less frequent but Linsell did see a well struck 25-yard effort turned aside by the flying Vidot before Chester increased their lead on 64 minutes.
It was McKinley that doubled his tally with another superb finish. He latched onto a through ball and burst into the box before curling a beautiful effort with his right foot this time which flew past Lewis's despairing dive and nestled in the far corner.
The wind had been taken out of Hartlepool's sails now and Chester seemed to move up another gear. The visitors reacted by bringing on a plethora of substitutes but it was to no avail.
The switch of Spellman and Pereira had certainly worked and these two linked up well to give the latter another opening but this time Lewis got done well to hold on to the effort.
It was Pereira's last involvement of the afternoon as he was replaced by Abdullah Alawahdi and the substitute was not slow on getting into the game and put Chester out of sight four minutes after replacing Pereira in the 72nd minute.
It was a beautifully crafted goal. Crews brought the ball out well from the back creating space in the midfield that allowed Robinson to move forward. Crews found the advancing midfielder who laid a perfect ball into the path of Alawahdi who didn't have to break stride as he produced a slide rule finish to make it 4 - 1.
Gamble took this opportunity to bring his other outfield substitutes on. Jay Gibson replacing the hard working Muldoon who had done well on his debut. Alex Nicholson came on for goal scorer Robinson and Josh Ward replaced Brewis.
It meant a slight reshuffling of the pack as Bakou moved into midfield to allow Ward to drop into the back three. It was Bakou who rounded off the scoring from that position after another lovely Chester move two minutes from time.
Chester played some excellent possession football with Alawahdi then releasing Spellman on the left and he made room to fire a low ball across the six-yard box and Bakou came in late and unmarked to side-foot home.
It was the final nail in the Hartlepool coffin and completed a remarkable transformation in the second 45 minutes. FC Hartlepool had down well to go 1 - 0 up in the opening half and had two great chances to double that lead.
They took neither and lived to regret it as once Chester got level it was all one-way traffic after that and the home side left the field in good heart and perhaps a little relieved to get back to winning ways.
Up next for Chester is the midweek visit of West Auckland Tunns to the Ford Hub complex for another Wearside League game on Tuesday 21st September, Kick-off 7:30pm.