by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 2nd September 2023
Chester-le-Street United 5 v 0 Sunderland West End
United finally got their first league win of the season at the ninth attempt. In doing so they also took their unbeaten run in the league to three games and climbed up another place in the table although they are still in the bottom three.
At Esh Winning the previous Tuesday United had come away with a 2 - 2 draw and Manager John Gamble had talked about turning decent performances and draws into wins. He certainly got his wishes answered on Saturday.
Of course there are mitigating factors in the game and the two red cards received for Sunderland West End went a long way to creating the dominance of a score line that equalled Chester's best win in the Northern League thus far.
That said United were already one-up before the first sending-off and in control of the game. The second dismissal right on half-time meant it was going to be a long second half for West End and so, in the end, it proved.
Once again prior to the game and when naming their line-up United had to re-shuffle the pack. Missing through injury were goal keeper James Hughes, utility defender/midfielder Reyhan Grimaud and central midfielder Ryan O'Connor.
Charlie Loveday who had come on from the bench against Esh was also out through injury and with Dan Robinson also unavailable and Chester-le-Street United PV in Wearside League action there were only four substitutes named.
Coming into the starting XI were First Team Head Coach Micky Nelson, Dan Walton, Brandon Young with Kieran Harwood replacing Hughes in goal. The visitor's had Park View Academy player Ben Lawton in their starting XI as well as McKenzie Stores on the bench.
In glorious sunshine and with the playing surface looking a picture the game kicked off and in truth was a cagey, cautious affair with little goalmouth activity in the early going.
West End pushing forward but other than a couple of crosses from the left one by Jack Devlin and the other from Glen Lane both of which were easily claimed by Harwood there was nothing much to report about.
That all changed on 12 minutes when United took the lead with a lovely goal from their first shot at goal. The ball was played up from the back to Walton who did really well to flick his header into the West End box.
Young anticipating the flick superbly got in behind the visiting defence chested the ball down and then hit a sweet half volley from about 12-yards past the helpless James Winter in the West End goal.
The goal buoyed United and they almost and perhaps should have doubled their lead within two minutes. Ethan Gray doing well to create space and find Jude Anderson in the box.
The striker showed good control to open up the chance but from 10 yards put his left foot shot just wide of the target and the opportunity was gone. despite the chance going begging United were now playing some good passing football.
West End were a little more direct in their approach and Nelson alongside skipper Dylan Wilkinson and Emanuel Igiehon had to be alert and strong in their defending as the ball came at them.
Indeed Sunderland almost drew level on 26 minutes with the first corner of the game. Lane took it on the Chester left and swung a dangerous ball right into the heart of the Chester six-yard box that Young touched behind for another corner.
Lane jogged across to take the kick from the opposite flank and this time with his right foot again swinging it into the danger area. This time a West End head, Niall Kemp, got on the end of it but from 10-yards out his free header went well wide.
On 31 minutes the first red card of the game was shown to West End's Devlin. The striker going over the top of the ball and studs first into Wilkinson's leg with a very dangerous tackle.
The referee who was well placed had no hesitation at all in brandishing a straight red card and in truth there was little protest from any of the West End players including Devlin himself although he did get into a little altercation with Nelson.
As sometimes happens the ten men rallied initially and actually got the ball down and played some nice football without really troubling the United rear guard too much.
What did become apparent was United now with the man advantage could play out from the back easier and start to create some opportunities. Lovely football involving Wilkinson who played a nice ball up to Walton who laid it off well to Anderson.
The striker going for the curler from the edge of the box which Winter got across to quickly and held comfortably. Winter was called into action almost immediately again when Chester won a loose ball in midfield and Walton had a chance.
The young striker got his 14-yard shot on target but went for precision over power and Winter got down to his right to smother the low drive at his left-hand post. Winter was certainly earning his corn and kept his side in the game moments later.
From a West End free-kick that was inadvertently headed out of the Chester box by Luke McCabe United showed their pace on the counter attack. Gray picked up the loose ball and sent Anderson away on goal in a one-on-one situation but Anderson was thwarted by a brilliant block by Winter at his near post.
The final action of the first half was an explosive incident that probably sealed the fate of the game even with 45 minutes to go. Walton and McCabe chased a loose ball into the corner. With McCabe trying to see the ball out Walton clearly fouled him.
McCabe perhaps unaware that the Assistant had flagged for the foul took exception to Walton's tackle and pushed him hard in the chest with both hands. As Walton steadied himself McCabe aimed both a punch and a head-butt in a moment of madness at Walton.
Fortunately neither connected but the intent was clear for all to see and once again the referee had no hesitation in producing another straight red card for the visitor's central defender.
Walton was booked for his part in the incident which closed the first half in dramatic fashion with United well worthy of their one-goal lead. At half-time the talk was all about how West End could recover from going down to nine men and could United take full advantage.
It was clear from the off that West End were going to try and get as many men as possible behind the ball and try to frustrate United at every opportunity hoping for a counter attack of their own.
Mallaburn on the right was looking lively and he showed good awareness and ability to set-up Anderson on the edge of the box. The striker's effort was well-struck but not wide enough of Winter who got down to hold the effort easily.
Nelson then taking advantage of the space in front of him made good ground before putting in a good pass out to the left to Jack Ledger. His left footed cross was superbly delivered and saw David Gordon make a great clearance about six-yards out as Anderson looked to pounce.
United, understandably now, were well on top. Young darting into the West End box before laying off to Walton who side-stepped his marker and from only 8-yards out hit a fierce drive that Winter did brilliantly to turn aside.
Despite their committed rear guard action a second Chester goal looked inevitable and duly arrived on 55 minutes. It came from a short corner routine that for once worked well.
Harry Laydon taking it and playing a neat one-two with Young before sliding a great ball into the path of Gray who took it well in his stride moving just inside the box and then driving a low left foot shot into the bottom corner past the diving Winter's left hand.
The goal sparked a quadruple substitution from the visitor's as they looked to go into damage limitation which for a while they did although they were under severe pressure as United didn't slacken off.
From a half cleared corner Anderson retrieved the ball sending in a right wing cross that Igiehon who had stayed forward got on the end of but he could only direct his header over the bar.
Then a lightning counter attack down the left from Chester almost brought them a third goal. Laydon sent Gray away who sped towards goal played a 1-2 with Walton as he entered the box and then fired low and on target.
Winter got hands to the effort which just slowed it down sufficiently to enable Lewis Lynn get back and clear the ball off the line. United did finally get a third goal on 74 minutes and it came from a West End corner!
Young fouled Stores wide on the left. Lane swung the free-kick into the box and Kemp got a downward header on target that Harwood had to go down too and scramble around the post. Lane put the kick into the area and Nelson headed clear.
The ball fell to Anderson who turned and sped away from the back tracking West End defenders. Anderson picked out Mallaburn speeding down the left. Mallaburn showed good composure to steady himself and then return the ball back infield to Anderson.
The United striker was onside, away and only had Winter to beat. The keeper advanced to narrow the angle but couldn't close Anderson down enough as Anderson slid the ball past him and into the far corner.
If there had been any doubts at all they were now removed as United also made their first substitution of the game with Joe Sykes coming on for Mallaburn. It was all United now with Gray in sparkling form well supported alongside him by Young and Laydon.
From another break in the inside left channel Gray fizzed another dangerous ball across the face of the goal that just evaded both Anderson who couldn't get a decisive touch and the far post as it flashed wide.
Sykes was immediately in on the action as well bombing on down the right interchanging with the clever Young and then sending in a great cross that Walton got his head onto but steered it just wide of the post from 8-yards.
Young and Laydon who had both been excellent made way for Ben Glendinning and Harry Marr on 79 minutes and they'd hardly had time to make an impact when their side went 4 - 0 up on 82 minutes.
This time it was Igiehon carrying the ball from the back before dinking a delightful ball over the top of the beleaguered West End defence to find Walton free 10-yards from goal and the 16-year-old showed great composure sliding the ball past a helpless Winter.
Anderson was then withdrawn and Joe Walls came on and almost made it five from his first involvement. A free-kick midway inside the West End half from a Matthew Chapman foul on Walton saw Glendinning take.
He floated a superb ball into the box finding Walls who got in front of his marker to head an effort really well at goal. The ball beat Winter's sprawling dive but also beat the far post as it slid wide.
As the time ticked down United just went to sleep a little and almost allowed West End a consolation. They allowed Lawton to run free down the left and he put a good ball into substitute Bailey Rhodes who controlled well but then fired just wide when well placed.
However, United did manage a fifth goal in i jury time to equal their best ever Northern League win and it was a lovely goal as well. Nice set-up play from Nelson and Ledger gave Gray space on the left.
His pinpoint cross into the six-yard box saw Walton meet the ball with a fine firm diving header to steer it past Winter and record his personal second of the afternoon.
There was still time for United to almost record their biggest ever win but Ledger when clear on the left-hand side of the box chose to shoot rather than square the ball to waiting teammates. His effort was well struck but went wide of the target.
The referee's final whistle brought a highly successful afternoon for United to a close and ended West End's second half agony. The nine men of West End battled gamely in the second period but in the end were overwhelmed.
What should be said though in United's credit was they produced a very measured mature composed performance in the second 45 minutes. It would have been easy to launch gung-ho attacks and be over eager to use their numerical advantage.
Instead United switched play from side to side and played great possession football that gradually gave them the opportunities they were looking for and which they took with great assurance.
TEAM : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Micky Nelson 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harry Laydon 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Emanuel Igiehon 7. Michael Mallaburn 8. Brandon Young 9. Dan Walton 10. Jude Anderson 11. Ethan Gray.
SUBS : 12. Joe Sykes (for Mallaburn 75 mins) 14. Joe Walls (for Anderson 83 mins) 15. Ben Glendinning (for Young 79 mins) 16. Harry Marr (for Laydon 79 mins)
SCORERS : Young 12 mins, Gray 55 mins, Anderson 74 mins, Walton 82 & 90 + 2 mins.