by Jeff King
Shotton Colliery F.C. 3 v 1 Chester-Le-Street
After two successive home wins United travelled to Shotton in good heart and full of confidence. Their wins had enabled them to go 3rd in the Wearside League but they knew they were in for a tough afternoon as newly promoted Colliery had already shown they can live with anyone in this division.
United brought in Jack Mortimer for a full debut up front in place of Abdullah Alawadhi and with Ebenezer Adoo out with injury there’s was a return to the back three for Josh Ward. George Riley also returned from injury to take a place on the bench.
The game opened in cagey fashion until 5 minutes in when Shotton took a lead with the first shot of the game. There seemed little danger when Jamie Bennett cut in from the left and hit his shot goalward.
But Arthur Leblond in the Chester goal got it all wrong diving too early and the ball bounced over his outstretched arms and nestled in the bottom corner and the home side had a gift to hold on too.
Chester looked rattled and couldn’t seem to find a pass or get anything going but Jaden Timmis did flash a 25-yard rocket just wide of the target on 8 minutes. This seemed to wake them up a little and Cameron Brewis created a chance for Mortimer.
A nice pass through the Colliery defence saw the centre forward race in on goal but Mason Becket was off his line smartly to block the effort. The home side responded with lovely play on the left by Nathan Grainger. He found Liam Appleby inside the are but Chester skipper Josh Crews got across to make a good block.
On 17 minutes United were forced into a change when James Bakou limped off to be replaced by Riley. The substitute dropped into the back three with Ward pushing wide on the right.
Leblond did much better when called into action again. Jack Hart came through from midfield and but goal scorer Bennett was denied by the keeper spreading himself well to block.
Chester came back with a sweeping move from left to right to find Ward who’s low cross was well cut out by Beckett in front of Mortimer. On 25 minutes Shotton should probably have gone two in front and it was that man Bennett again.
He was put through rounded Leblond and looked a certain scorer but the Chester defence crowded him out before he could put the ball in the net. When he turned back to try and create space he presented the ball straight into the grateful arms of the grounded Leblond.
Craig Foster moments later hit a dipping half-volley from 30 yards that flew over the stricken Leblond’s head but unfortunately for the hosts just dropped a foot or so wide of the post. If Chester were going to get back into the game it was likely to come from the lively Brewis.
He picked up a ball in the middle of the pitch turned neatly away from the Colliery defence but he could only steer his 20-yard grass cutter wide of the goal. On 34 minutes it was another calamitous moment in the Chester defence that allowed Shotton to double their lead.
Crews sliced his attempted left foot clearance back towards his own box. Leblond called for the ball but then hesitated and Timmis found himself stranded as Foster stabbed the ball into the open box.
Riley in his eagerness to cover got there just after Bennett and bundled the striker over with the referee immediately pointing to the spot.
The kick was entrusted to Michael Robson who stepped up and powered it home sending Leblond the wrong way to make it 2 – 0 for a determined and deserved Shotton side.
The last chance of the half fell to United. Timmis’ long-ball saw Mortimer battle well to create a shooting chance that cannoned off Beckett’s body wide to Jak McKinley. He crossed low and Taylor Robinson arriving late could only steer the effort off target.
The side’s left the field with Shotton deserving their lead thanks to their well organised committed display and it left the visitor’s searching for an answer as for the third game in a row they trailed at the break.
Chester almost got back into it within two minutes of the restart and once again it was Brewis who was involved, The ball was played up to him on the edge of his box and he jinked inside before unleashing a left foot shot that Beckett got across to and make a great save palming the ball away to safety.
Whatever John Gamble had said to his side at half-time seemed to be paying off as United but the home side under real pressure. Great work by McKinley who found Brewis saw Beckett once again make a great block to deny the striker.
The ball fell to Lewis Lembikisa but he hit his effort tamely and Beckett recovered his position to hold on easily to the effort.
Another Leblond hesitation almost cost United. Calling again for a ball that he wasn’t near caused confusion and Timmis headed the ball past him but Riley got back well to deny Bennett an open goal.
Leblond did well though moments later when his quick throw out to Lembikisa on the left saw the speedy wide man sprint down the wing beating Jake Slater and crossing well on the run. Brewis nodded it down into the path of Robinson but he blazed over when well-placed 14 yards out.
Ryan Muldoon set the next Chester chance up finding Brewis well who controlled beautifully before releasing Mortimer in on goal but the ever-alert Beckett was off his line quickly to gather well.
Chester made changes to try fresh legs and shake things up with Alawadhi coming on for Mortimer and Jay Gibson for Muldoon. But once again it was Brewis that looked Chester’s best chance of opening up a resolute and well-drilled Shotton defence.
This time his left-foot slide rule pass found Ward coming in from the right but instead of putting his laces through the ball and going for goal he tried to square it for Alawadhi and Beckett did well to dive and cut out the cross.
For the home side Grainger was having a fine game and was at the heart of everything they did. The engine room of Hart and Robson were industrious and skipper Connor Walker was a vocal and polished performer at the back.
As the game went into the last ten minutes Chester tried to stretch Shotton again but couldn’t find a way through. When Brewis did he found Beckett at his best in the Colliery goal as he saved another close-range effort from the United striker.
Shotton although under pressure did almost create another chance when Robson got Appleby away to the by-line and his dangerous pull back was scrambled away by Crews. The Chester skipper’s last defensive effort as he moved up front for one last push for the away side.
It almost paid off. Brewis released substitute Alex Nicholson on for Ward his right-wing ball into the box was met first time by Crews but Beckett did well to turn it on to the post. The keeper did even better deep into injury time to preserve his and his side’s clean sheet and win.
Once again it was Brewis he denied with a brilliant diving save after good holdup play by Crews had given the lively forward one last chance. It brought the game to an end with Shotton doing well to deny Chester in a second half where the visitors did well.
But on the balance of play the first half efforts and getting that two-goal lead to hold onto were what in the end gave Shotton a deserved three points from a fine win. For United there was plenty of endeavour and commitment but no real end product as they lost for the third time in a row on the road.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Josh Ward 3. Jaden Timmis 4. Ryan Muldoon 5. Josh Crews © 6. Jak McKinley 7. James Bakou 8. Taylor Robinson 9.Jack Mortimer 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Lewis Lembikisa
SUBS : 12. Alex Nicholson for Ward 13. Aymeric Vidot 14. Jay Gibson for Muldoon 15. George Riley for Bakou 16. Abdullah Alawadhi for Mortimer.