by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division Two - Saturday 20th August 2022
Chester-le-Street United 1 v 1 Easington Colliery
There is a saying in football that goes along the lines of, 'if you don't take your chances, you won't win matches.' This was certainly true of Saturday's game at The Riverside that United dominated but came up against a very well organised defence and a goalkeeper in inspired form.
United only made one change from their winning performance in midweek over Jarrow. Mauro Asikaogu being unavailable meant Matty Pattison returned between the sticks. Dylan Wilkinson and Ryan O'Connor were fit enough though to return to the bench.
Easington had beaten Jarrow in their previous game 2 - 0 and hadn't had a midweek game. They were though without the services of top scorer Nathan O'Neill who had netted five in their opening five games.
One of the things that has concerned the United coaching staff has been their slow starts to games. On this occasion and playing on their newly re-laid home pitch for only the second time they were quickly into their stride.
Alex Fil almost created the first chance of the game. Taking a pass from Taylor Campbell well on the right wing before playing an intelligent ball into the box for Benji Shodeinde to run onto. Brad Forster for the visitor's doing well to get their first and clear.
A storming run from midfield from Ryan Muldoon down the left hand side almost saw him put Dan Lanning in on goal but again the Easington defence stood firm with Captain Adam McGuinness clearing the danger.
Easington's first venture forward came from a powerful run from the right-back position from Ryan Barrow. He played a good ball to Kyle Middleton on the right who made room for the cross but could only float it into the side netting of a watchful Pattison's goal.
Fil was certainly causing problems to the left-hand side of the Easington defence and another good run saw him find Campbell just outside the box. The ball through from Campbell was again in the direction of Shodeinde but again McGuinness got their first to clear.
Thomas Cole using the space afforded to him by Easington's concerns over Fil on the right advanced well from the box and played a neat ball into the box for Jay Gibson.
Gibson on the turn managed to get a shot away but it was only half-hit and Andrew Hunter in the Easington goal was able to get down and smartly palm the ball away from goal.
Chester were playing some lovely passing, flowing football and trying to open up a resolute Easington defence. One great move saw United move the ball across from right to left and back again before Lanning tried to find Shodeinde but that man McGuiness was there to cut out the danger once again.
The one avenue that Easington were finding a bit of joy from was the surging runs of Barrow from right back. Another of these saw him fly past James Morley with real purpose before finding Jonathan Pearson who fired tamely wide from just inside the box.
Muldoon and Campbell were combining really well for United during the half and the latter did well to find the former in space just inside the box but Muldoon snatched at the chance and blazed it well over.
Easington then had a half chance created by Ryan Norton who found Middleton in the box but his effort was well blocked by Cole and bounced to safety. Then it was Muldoon and Campbell again combining.
This time Muldoon was the provider creating space after a good run down the left before finding his centre midfield partner who took a touch on the edge of the box before hitting a shot that deflected off Middleton for a corner.
Campbell played the kick deep to the far post. United's captain Josh Crews got up above his opposite number and opponent but his downward header was blocked by McGuinness and when the rebound fell back to Crews he hit it powerfully but well over the top.
Ben Henderson collected a long ball from Forster on the left wing, controlling it well before crossing into the United box where Pattison came and made a good claim above Norton.
This gave Easington a bit of confidence to come forward. Henderson turned Cole well and had an opening but Keallan Huddleston was across to block at the expense of a corner. Norton took it and Forster got in a header that Pattison saved easily.
A sweeping move from United then almost brought them a reward. Great work on the left hand side saw Huddleston find Morley who advanced before sliding the ball inside to Lanning.
From fully 25-yards and cutting across, Lanning unleashed a superb effort that flew past Hunter but came crashing back into play off the cross-bar. Chester were now looking likely to break through.
Another superb run from Fil saw him leave Dane Eltringham in his wake. he cut into the box before hitting a good left foot shot that Middleton did well to block and concede a corner.
Campbell's delivery was superb flashing dangerously across the Easington six-yard box where Huddleston missed out on a decisive touch by inches. Henderson meanwhile was doing well against Cole and was proving a good out ball for the visitors.
Eltringham's long ball down the left saw Henderson judge the flight perfectly to get in behind Cole before turning inside and opening up a shooting chance that never troubled Pattison who collected comfortably.
Fil was the outlet ball that seemed to be working for United. Fed again by Muldoon he skipped past Eltringham once again with ease getting to the by-line before pulling the ball back dangerously towards his forwards. McGuinness conceding another corner though with a timely interception.
This time Campbell's delivery was cleared but came back out to the same player. He curled a superb cross to the back post to find Crews who had stayed forward. His 8-yard header was firm and true but Hunter produced an outstanding one-handed save to tip the ball just over the bar.
This time Campbell's kick saw a scramble with Shodeinde and Huddleston involved before the ball rolled free to Cole who smashed it wide from about 8-yards out when he perhaps should have hit the target.
The next chance fell to Lanning from distance again and this time possibly from further out than his last long-range effort he kept it down and struck it true only to see Hunter at full-stretch turn it around the post for yet another corner.
That resultant corner came to nothing but United were back at it again sweeping the ball from the right through Fil to Muldoon to Campbell into the box for Shodeinde but again McGuinness did well to clear for another corner.
This time Campbell delivered low to the front post where Shodeinde collected well and controlled it but as he turned inside the six-yard box he just ran out of room and the ball spilled wide.
Easington had been under siege but gained a moment's respite from another thrilling run by Barrow that showed positive intent and took him past Morley and Huddleston before he found Norton who's shot was blocked by Cole and spun safely into Pattison's arms.
United's possession had been dominant but they had nothing to show for it and they were stunned right on half-time when the visitors took the lead. It came from a free-kick on the left.
Jake Fowler stood over the ball wide about 25-yards plus from goal. He looked up and spotted Pattison moving towards his back post. Seeing the gap he went for goal and although Pattison got across to the ball he could only parry the effort.
The ball fell perfectly for Norton who was able to guide it home from very close range to give Easington a lead that they probably wouldn't have expected to take in to the changing rooms at half-time.
Their defending had been excellent and they'd kept going and their smash and grab on the half-time whistle certainly gave them something to hold onto for the second 45 minutes.
The second half opened with both sides making substitutions. O'Connor came on for Chester for the unwell Gibson and Jack Leonard coming on for the injured Middleton.
Chester almost levelled from their first meaningful attack of the second half. Muldoon did well on the left to open up the play before playing the ball inside to O'Connor.
His first time pass into Shodeinde saw United's top scorer turn his marker superbly before hit a 12-yard shot towards the bottom corner. Once again though Hunter was equal to the effort diving to his right to brilliantly turn away the effort.
More pressure again from United with a crisp passing move earned them another corner. Lanning was involved from midfield playing it to Morley who in turn found Muldoon. He crossed dangerously into the box where McGuinness did well to turn it away.
Campbell's kick into a dangerous area saw Hunter take really well right in front of Crews and Huddleston to once again thwart United's efforts. Two more substitutions with Wilkinson coming on for Cole and Eltringham being replaced by Reece Thompson.
The pattern of play though remained unchanged with United having the bulk of possession without being able to break down a well-organised visiting defence and Easington trying to play on the counter without great effect.
More substitutions slightly disrupted the flow of the game. John Anderson coming on for Shodeinde and Liam Adamson for goal scorer Norton.
Against the run of play Easington perhaps should have made the game safe with Adamson making an instant impact. He did really well to get away into space on the left towards the by-line.
He pulled the ball back into the path of fellow sub, Leonard but from about 14 yards out he blazed well over and wide from a position where he should have done better.
Muldoon was driving United hard from midfield and produced another brilliant run through the Easington box to the by-line before pulling the ball back to Lanning. His first-time effort being blocked by a combination of Thompson and keeper Hunter.
Muldoon's next excursion on the left saw him fouled by Pearson. Campbell swung the kick in and inexplicably the visitor's defence allowed the ball to travel to Huddleston who came in around the box but his poked effort on the stretch was met by the imposing figure of Hunter who saved well once again.
United made their final substitution with Morley coming off to be replaced by Evan Gray whose first contribution was to do well to win a corner off Barrow. United's set-piece taker Campbell this time saw his corner land dangerously and in a scramble Forster conceded another corner.
This time Huddleston won the ball flicking it inside the six-yard box to O'Connor who from point-blank range was denied by Hunter who spread himself quickly to block and the ball was cleared.
United finally got the goal and equaliser that was the least they deserved. This time Campbell chipped a nice pass over the top of the defence towards Lanning but Forster stepped across to cover only to clearly handle the ball. The referee having no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Lanning stepped up and drove the ball high into the top left hand corner of Hunter's goal with the keeper choosing to go in the opposite direction. United leve with five minutes to go and now searching for a winner.
It didn't come. They continued to go forward at every opportunity but in truth the Easington defence repelled all raids and held out until the referee's whistle went for no-side and both teams had to content themselves with a point and a goal apiece.
After the game Head Coach John Gamble felt it had been his side's best performance of the season especially in the first half. He commented on the fact that Easington had made it difficult for his side and were very solid and showed a lot of experience.
Certainly despite not taking all three points it was further vindication of the way Chester go about their business looking to progress players in a style that could well suit them individually if they were to move to a higher level.
Easington will be one of those sides in and around the top echelons of the Ebac Northern League Division 2 and on this evidence United if they find a better cutting edge should also be up in the top half of the league.
TEAM : 1. Matty Pattison 2. Thomas Cole 3. Keallan Huddleston 4. Taylor Campbell 5.Josh Crews (c) 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. Alex Fil 8. Dan Lanning 9. Jay Gibson 10. Benji Shodeinde 11. James Morley
SUBS : 12. Ryan O'Connor (for Gibson, 45 Mins) 14. Dylan Wilkinson (for Cole, 57 Mins) 15. John Anderson (for Shodeinde, 69 Mins) 16. Evan Gray (for Morley 75 Mins)
GOAL SCORER : Lanning (pen) 85 Mins
Next Up : Newcastle University - Saturday 27th August @ Home - Kick-Off 15:00pm - The Isuzu FA Challenge Vase 1st Qualifying Round.