by Jeff King
Wearside League - Saturday 26th March 2022
Washington United 0 v 5 Chester-le-Street United
Whilst the final score may have been a little bit harsh on a Washington side that certainly gave their all there was no doubting Chester were the superior side on the day and deserved their win.
With full debutant Ethan Gray breaking an ankle in the previous week's win at Farringdon, Josh Ward going down with an injury in midweek and Jaden Timmis, George Riley, Abdullah Alawahdi and Louis Watts not fit enough to return, Chester had to re-shuffle the pack again.
Jack Mortimer did return to the bench against his old team following his suspension and there was the welcome sight of top scorer Cameron Brewis returning to the starting XI after injury.
It all meant that 16-year-old Dan Lanning up front and 17-year-old defender Dylan Wilkinson retained their places in the starting XI and were joined by another 16-year-old in Evan Gray who played wide on the right.
United were on the attack from the off and opened very brightly pushing the home side back at every opportunity. Gray in particular looking very lively on the right and the midfield axis of Brewis, Taylor Robinson and Ryan Muldoon looking very much in the mood.
It only took 6 minutes for the league leaders to strike an advantage. Gray played a good ball down the right side of the Washington defence that Jay Gibson moving well picked up. He found Lanning inside and the youngster's excellent first touch took him past his defencer giving him a shooting chance.
Lanning took the opportunity superbly by striking a low shot from about 10 yards out past the diving Craig Foster which went in off the post to put United one-up. An excellently created and finished goal.
A minute later it was almost two. A ball into the box caused problems and Brewis found Gibson who lifted his shot over the advancing Foster only to see Washington skipper Matty Thornton clear off the line.
Little had been seen of Washington but Liam Bain did get away on the left and made room for a cross that found the unmarked James Chapman in the box but he got under the free header and couldn't trouble Arthur Leblond in the Chester goal.
Brewis was very active for United and showing great awareness he picked out Lanning just inside the area. Once again the striker hit the target but saw Foster turn his effort over the top in fine style.
Washington were trying to hit Chester on the break and looked as if they might have got George Pinder in on goal but Muldoon was alert to the danger and got back superbly to snuff out the danger and clear.
An unusual set-up almost provided Chester with an opening. Elliott Day's fine defensive header down the line was headed on down the left side by James Bakou who realised there was no-one covering. He set off to gather in his own header.
Steadying himself he crossed right-footed towards the back post where Gibson was ghosting in. If the ball had reached Gibson it may have been a second United goal but once again Thornton was on hand for the home side to head away from danger.
Gibson though was not to be denied and on 24 minutes doubled Chester's lead. Lanning trying to wriggle free of his marker was fouled about 25 yards from goal by Mateu Konstantinou.
Brewis lined up the free-kick and fired it in low to the front post where Gibson timed his run perfectly to neatly finish from close range. Brewis then tried his luck from yet another free-kick from distance but his effort was deflected wide.
The resultant corner was partially cleared with Robinson picking the ball up and playing a superb through ball for Gibson to run onto. Foster was off his line quickly and took the ball cleanly as Gibson tried to round him.
A momentary lapse in concentration by the Chester defence almost let their opposition in. Bain taking advantage to play a dangerous ball into the box to Pinder but Day recovered the situation for his side by intercepting well.
The final action of a half largely dominated by Chester actually fell the way of Washington when Mark Parvin tried a drive from long distance but Leblond got down well to his right to make a comfortable save.
The half ending with United two goals to the good and posing a lot of questions for Washington to answer.
Chester had the first chance of the second half when Lanning moving across the 18-yard-line found Brewis but unusually for Chester's top marksman he did not strike his effort cleanly and Foster saved easily.
Washington however did respond well and pushed Chester back. A ball into the box was spectacularly volleyed away by Josh Crews at the expense of a corner which Chester cleared.
Then in a breakaway Pinder almost put Bain in on goal with Robinson showing fine defensive midfield cover coming across to cover and deny a scoring opening. It was a good period for the home side but the defensive work of Chester's midfield was also impressive.
Substitute Corey Haslam being denied another opening when Bakou got back to cover well at the expense of a corner. Haslam took it and found Bain unmarked but the midfielder's firm header flew well wide.
Gray then did well on the right twisting and turning Alex Gudgeon who conceded a corner. Brewis' inswinger to the back post was met firmly by Day who powered his header goal wards but Foster was well placed to make a clean catch.
Lanning then created his own shooting chance when found by Muldoon but blasted well over the top from 20-yards out. Chapman had switched to the back for Washington put made a good overlapping run and was found by Haslam.
His good cross flashed across the Chester box where Robinson headed it clear only to Bain who's fierce volley went well wide. Muldoon then surged forward from midfield and found Lanning inside the box who turned the ball into Gibson's path.
The Washington defence though crowded Gibson out and prevented him from getting a strike on goal. Another fine Chester attack saw the ball swept wide to Bakou who's pinpoint cross was met superbly by Gibson.
His header was tipped onto the underside of the bar and dropped down with Matty Rowan doing so well to clear the ball away just as it looked as if it was going to cross the goal-line.
Gibson was not to be denied though and fine play on the edge of the box saw him find Day making a great run forward. Day did brilliantly to breach the Washington defence and pull the ball back to Gibson who's on-target effort took a deflection to wrong-foot Foster and make it 3 - 0 after 72 minutes.
Chester then made substitutions with Mortimer coming on for Lanning, Alex Nicholson for Brewis and Lewis Lembikisa for Gray. It did not alter the Chester momentum though as they struck again on 77 minutes.
Great pressing from Chester saw them win possession from a Washington restart. Muldoon playing a great ball into Mortimer who volleyed viciously home from 12 yards giving his former teammate Foster no chance.
The Washington legs had clearly gone and Chester poured forward. Bakou cut in well from the left and tried a curler from just outside the box which Foster got across well to get down to and save.
Bakou then turned provider for Robinson finding the breaking midfielder in the box and his well-struck effort saw a great block put in by Gudgeon. Chester though were not letting up and went nap with five minutes to play.
What a superb goal it was as well. Some slick passing saw Robinson take the ball in his stride and create space in the box. He looked a certain scorer but as he rounded Foster the keeper did well to force him wide.
Robinson kept his composure really well and showed real quality to pick out Gibson at the far post and the striker had the simple task of completing a fine move by tapping home from close range.
It was an excellent way for Chester to finish the afternoon at the beautifully situated Nissan Sports Ground where the league leaders football matched the sparkling warm sunshine of a lovely away day.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3. Elliott Day 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. Evan Gray 8. Cameron Brewis 9. Jay Gibson 10. Dan Lanning 11. James Bakou
SUBS : 12 Alex Nicholson for Brewis 13. Mauro Asikoagu (unused) 14. Lewis Lembikisa for Gray 15. Jack Mortimer for Lanning
SCORERS : Dan Lanning, Jay Gibson 3, Jack Mortimer