by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 3rd December 2022
Redcar Town 1 v 2 Chester-le-Street United
United went into this match needing to turn their fortunes around after a run of heavy defeats. Some of those results didn't tell the whole story as Chester continue to play good football but lacked that cutting edge.
At the other end inexperience and individual errors always seem to get punished at this level. The consequence being United on the wrong end of score lines that they didn't deserve although perhaps they still didn't deserve to get anything from the games either.
Another tough encounter looked on the cards with Redcar Town in the top ten but United rose superbly to the challenge. On the back of a first half performance where they could have had the game sown up by the half and a dogged defensive effort in the second they went back up the A19 with three valuable league points.
United forced the pace from the off winning an early corner on their right. Skipper Taylor Campbell swung it to the back post towards Dylan Wilkinson making a great late run. But Wilkinson was denied a goal scoring chance by Town's Joe Dixon who scrambled the ball clear for a corner on the other side.
Campbell again the taker and it lead to United taking the lead inside the first five minutes. His kick was right under the cross bar but looked a comfortable take for Town keeper Mike Algie.
Algie though made a complete hash of his catch and dropped the ball virtually on the goal line where Jude Anderson was on hand to tap it home for the simplest of openers.
United were off and running and swept forward. Brandon Young playing a lovely pass to the right for the overlapping James Bakou to deliver a low cross in towards the waiting Anderson but Joe Bennett just got to the ball first to clear the danger.
Little had been seen of Redcar in attack at this stage but Keiron Harwood in the Chester goal had to be alert and did well when he came out bravely to block Clark Reader as the home no. 9 almost got through.
United should have doubled their lead on 16 minutes. Wilkinson doing well to snuff out a Redcar attack with a good tackle and then excellent pass to Benji Shodeinde on the left.
Shodeinde showed a clean pair of heels to Bennett and sped away leaving the defender in his wake. He crossed low to find Anderson 8-yards out. Anderson hit his effort well but Algie atoned for his earlier error with an excellent blocking save.
The ball though fell to Young just inside the box and with Algie on the ground he could only drive the follow-up high and wide of the far upright, Redcar replied when Bennett found Dixon on the edge of the United box.
Dixon turned well and hit a good effort but it was always fizzing wide of Harwood's far post as he allowed it to pass by untroubled. United though were quickly back on the attack.
Harwood's long clearance up the middle found Anderson who showed great centre forward hold-up play to release Elliott McClen who's first time cross was inches too high for the unmarked Shodeinde inside the box.
The next United chance once again saw Algie excel himself. Wilkinson again being the instigator with a fine tackle at the back and neat ball up to Sam Johnson in midfield. Johnson played a superb first-time through ball and Anderson was away.
He bore down on goal and from just inside the box unleashed a left-foot drive that Algie did superbly to parry. The rebound fell to the supporting Young who drove it towards the opposite corner but Algie recovered magnificently to once again turn the ball away.
It seemed as if it was United v Algie as the game progressed and the Town keeper was once again the only reason United didn't go further in front. Harwood produced another accurate long clearance that was picked up by Johnson.
Johnson slid the ball across the box where Anderson let it run for the oncoming Shodeinde to smash first time only to see the ball deflect off the body of Algie and go over for a corner.
Campbell delivered and Algie under pressure from Anderson punched the ball back out to the United skipper who from the angle of the box hit a lovely half-volley which was just inches over the top.
United finally got the second goal their play had deserved on 32 minutes. It came with determined play by a combination of McClen and Young winning a midfield tussle and the latter finding Johnson.
Johnson found Shodeinde on the left who controlled the ball well before advancing into the box teasing Sam Wheatley as he feinted to go inside but went outside instead.
Wheatley was unable to go with United's top scorer who from an angle inside the six-yard box clipped his effort with the outside of his right boot past Algie into the far corner to register his ninth league goal of the season.
The last chance of a half completely controlled by United saw a Campbell free-kick into the Redcar box cause confusion with the ball falling to Anderson. The centre forward hit a good snapshot but Bennett did well to block.
United trooped off at the half two goals to the good and in control but perhaps they should have been at least a goal or two further ahead given the chances they had created.
The question on most people's lips was would the second half be more of the same? Certainly it looked like Town had been given a roasting by their Management as they came out more positively to open the second half.
Josh Elcoate won a corner off Bakou which he took and Alex Fil headed out to the edge of the box. Foster Garton controlled it well and opened up a good shooting chance for Nico Weatherald but he couldn't keep his shot down and it flew over.
Back came United and Young found McClen on the right. He did well to create space and then cross towards the predatory Anderson. Once again though Algie came to his side's rescue diving in front of Anderson to claim.
Anderson then pressuring the Redcar defence forced a mistake and once again found McClen who returned the ball to Anderson. Matty Crust sliding in to divert the ball away but only to Shodeinde who's instant effort clipped the top of the bar.
United were under pressure from Redcar who were seeing plenty of the ball and pushing Chester back without really creating much. They were though only the two goals behind and probing hard.
Chester though with Anderson an excellent outlet were still looking dangerous on the break. A ball up to Anderson by Fil was once again well controlled as he found Johnson who switched the ball wide to McClen.
McClen's cross to the back post was aimed for Anderson who had carried on his run into the box but Weatherald did well to get up and glance his header away for a corner. Campbell delivered and Crust made a powerful clearing header.
It was still constant Redcar pressure with shots being blocked and clearances scrambled away with Wilkinson in particular leading the defence in fine style until they were finally breached on 75 minutes.
Garton won a corner on the United right. Elcoate swung it into the six-yard box where a massive scramble ensued. Chester unable to clear, Redcar unable to get a decisive touch until it fell to Bennett who smashed it home from three yards.
It was game on now and United were hanging on as the goal gave Town extra impetus. Crust advanced from defence with the ball and with no-one closing him down unleashed a rocket from 30-yards that Harwood did well to turn aside in fine style.
The game was congested on the edge of the Chester box but they held on and in the final few seconds substitute Jack Chapman and Garton combined to send another sub, Sam Webster into the box.
Wilkinson again though was alert to the danger and covered across brilliantly to slide the ball away from the Redcar player before he could pull the trigger. The whistle went for no-side seconds later and Chester were back to winning ways.
This was the proverbial game of two halves. All Chester in the first when they should have been out of sight. Then Redcar turned the game around in the second and almost snatched a point.
If they had, it would have been harsh on the young United side after their tremendous first-half showing but in the Northern League it's not always about being the better side, it's often about who takes their chances.
Thankfully for United it was those two they took in the first half that gave them a very welcome three points.
TEAM : 1. Keiron Harwood 2. James Bakou 3. Jack Ledger 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Alex Fil 6. Dylan Wilkinson 7. Elliot McClen 8. Brandon Young 9. Jude Anderson 10. Sam Johnson 11. Benji Shodeinde
SUBS : 12. John Anderson (for Young - 67 mins) 14. Charlie Loveday (for Bakou - 72 mins) 15. Ryan O'Connor (for McClen - 80 mins) 16. Evan Gray - DNP
SCORERS : Jude Anderson, Shodeinde