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United Draw An End To Home Losing Streak

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Wednesday 17th April 2024 Chester-le-Street United 1 v 1 Newcastle University

Another day and another game. Although in the case of seven of United's match day squad, two games in one day including Jack Ledger and Charlie Loveday starting after playing 90 minutes for the Park View Academy side in the afternoon.

Park View had played a National Semi-Final at home on the 3G pitch against AFC Sudbury academy in the English Schools Competition. A game they unfortunatley lost 4 - 2 which meant they failed to reach the National Final for the first time in 3 seasons.

But there was no time to rest and reflect for the Magnificent Seven as with games to play in a short space of time and only 48 hours since United had lost the Derby game at home to Town it was game on again in the tough Northern League.

United's starting XI showed five changes from Monday's defeat. Youngsters Riley Everett, Dylan Robson and Jack Wilson coming in from the Chester-le-Street United PV side that plays in the Wearside League.

Liam Paul also returned from injury to replace the missing Harvey Rudd and Ollie Barnett alongside Dylan Wilkinson in the centre of the defence and Loveday replaced the injured Reyhan Grimaud.

Ashton Houlahan, Jude Anderson, Michael Mallaburn all regular Fort-Team squad members who had played against Sudbury were on the bench alongside Nathan Conroy and Keane Mitchell who had also played against Sudbury and are part of the PV Wearside League team.

The game opened with with Everett quickly into his stride showing his defensive abilities as he got across to make a great block as James Matthews bore down on goal after being freed by a good ball into the United box by Matthew Foster.

Chester's attacking response was a ball from Ryan O'Connor that put Loveday away on the right. He stepped by Adam Redford and put a brilliant ball into the University six-yard box where Stephen Pennington did superbly to intercept and clear the danger with Kobe Bewicke waiting to pounce.

Some good build-up play by Newcastle saw Joel Burgess presented a shooting chance on the edge of the box that he curled inches wide of James Hughes' left-hand post.

A lively opening continued and on 11 minutes United went into the lead. Jack Wilson looked as if he had a clear shooting chance just outside the box but was upended by Matt Foster who conceded a free kick and somehow escaped a caution.

Max Richardson lined up his wall but Bewicke did superbly to find a way past it and clipped his right-foot free kick into the net off the inside of the right-hand post. An excellent precise effort that gave United a great boost.

The University response was very good and they started pushing United back immediately setting up some good chances as Chester battled to keep them at bay.

Captain Ben Miller cutting in from the left leaving two Chester defenders in his wake as he struck a low drive towards goal that Hughes did really well to get down to in the corner and push aside. Hughes then came out well to punch the resultant corner from Miller to safety.

Matthew Foster then played a great 1 - 2 with Matthews that saw him through the United rear-guard but Hughes came off his line quickly and bravely blocked the effort in fine style.

A rare foray forward saw Loveday once again deliver a good ball from the right that Wilson controlled well but could only shoot well wide from just inside the University box.

Burgess then pushing forward well from midfield found Matthew Foster inside the area but although his shot was well hit it was straight at Hughes who held it comfortably.

United were now under the cosh but defending solidly and when they were breached Hughes was in fabulous form to help them out.

Once again it was Burgess setting striker Foster up. This time his effort caused Hughes more concern but the young keeper was up to it and parried the ball well. The ball rebounding back to Foster whose second effort was again kept pout well by Hughes.

Then Freddie Topel wriggled free just outside the United box and aimed a crisp 22-yarder towards the bottom corner but Hughes dived across and once again made a superb tip away with a strong left-hand.

Miller delivered the corner deep to the back post but despite Matthews getting away from his marker the angle was against him and with Hughes covering the near post he could only put his header into the side netting.

United were struggling to get out of their half. When they did it was Everett advancing down the right before slinging a cross to the back post. It reached Jacob Mallinson but his spectacular attempted volley went wrong and the chance was lost.

The last action of the half saw Jack McKee play a ball over the top that caught the Chester defence out. Matthews raced clear and was 1-on-1 with Hughes. The United keeper once again standing tall and making a brilliant blocking save.

The ball broke free to striker Foster but he got his follow-up horribly wrong and with the goal at his mercy could only slice his right-foot effort well wide of the far post to end the first 45 minutes.

The University must have gone into the dressing rooms wondering how they were behind but with Hughes in inspired form and Bewicke's deadly accuracy from the free kick they were.

Chester did start the second half well and produced perhaps the best move of the game thus far. An O'Connor cross from inside right saw Wilson do well to get up and nod the ball skilfully down into Mallinson's path.

Unfortunately for United, the attacking midfielder did not get a good connection on the good chance and Lawrence much to the annoyance of the 'Chester Ultras' in the Gary Brown Stand got down to save comfortably.

Newcastle's equaliser came on 51 minutes and Hughes was perhaps a little unfortunate to concede. The goal came from a Miller corner that caused a real scramble in the United box. Through a crowded melee a shot was struck at goal.

Hughes initially made the save but the ball came briefly free before he managed to recover and looked as if he had collected it only for it to be knocked from his control back to Matthew Foster who despatched with glee from close range.

United and Hughes protested vociferously but the Match Officials ignored their appeals and the goal was awarded much to Chester's anguish and disappointment.

The University were now looking for a winner and missed a glorious chance to go in front when from a right wing cross from goal scorer Foster, Pennington was free at the back post about 8-yards out but put his header wide.

A long diagonal ball by Ledger gave Mallinson an opportunity by Redford did well to clear for a corner. O'Connor delivered and Wilkinson got a good header in but Richardson grasped the ball under his own bar.

United were now making changes to try and get fresh legs and impetus into their line-up and play. Those that had played at lunchtime asked to give the first team a boost as they looked to match Newcastle.

It nearly worked when Houlahan combined well with Bewicke and Mallinson to have half an opening that he struck first time from 16-yards but Pennington blocked his effort to save Richardson from being brought into action.

Just after being booked for a dangerously raise foot into the side of substitute Mallaburn's head, McKee somehow escaped a sending-off when the two clashed again and the University centre back kicked out at the United substitute.

The referee allowed play to go on and then when there was a stoppage decided to speak to both players and took no further action. Similarly when Bewicke was hit hard from behind by Pennington and had to be lead from the field holding his head no action was taken by a rather lenient man in the middle.

The subs though had energised United who were suddenly looking the most likely to bag a winner. A ball sliced wide right was well retrieved by Anderson who played it back to Houlahan.

He delivered a great right-wing cross that saw Mallinson steal in late get in front of the visitor's defence but unfortunately he put his header just wide. Nathan Conroy was the next to try his luck and found it just lacking.

An O'Connor corner saw The University concede possession to Conroy who was about 12-yards out with his back to goa. But he showed great control and sharpness to spin quickly and hit a left-foot shot that just scraped the outside of the post with Richardson well beaten.

Then as time ran down United had one final chance. Mallaburn's long throw seeing the industrious Robson get in a looping header that again beat Richardson but dropped just over the bar onto the top of the net and not under it.

A draw looked a fair result but The University squandered one final chance deep in injury time to change that. Redford's left wing cross finding substitute Sam Carr coming onto it with purpose but he directed his free 8-yard over the bar.

The final whistle signalled an end to a four-match losing home run for United who battled hard all night to gain a deserved point in the end. They were indebted to a fine display from Hughes particularly in the first half.

But in the second half they actually looked the side more likely to get a winner as the game progressed but all seemed to agree that on the balance of play a point a-piece was the right outcome.

United now face their third game in 5 days at The Ford Quarry Football Hub against Washington on Friday night who although in the bottom three for the second season in a row are a side United are yet to beat in The Northern League.

TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Riley Everett 3. Jack Ledger 4. Dylan Robson 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Liam Paul 7. Charlie Loveday 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Kobe Bewicke 10. Jack Wilson 11. Jacob Mallinson

SUBS : 12. Michael Mallaburn (for Mallinson 80 mins) 14. Jude Anderson (for Wilson 71 mins) 15. Nathan Conroy (for Bewicke 78 mins) 16. Keane Mitchell (for Ledger 64 mins) 17. Ashton Houlahan (for Loveday 66 mins)

SCORER : Bewicke 11 mins.

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