by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division Two - Wednesday 3rd August 2022
Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 0 v 0 Chester-le-Street United
If Saturday's stroll on The Moor had not been the high intensity tough game United thought it was going to be in the Ebac Northern League 2 the visit to Ryton certainly was.
It had all the tough physical elements that shows what a strong and competitive league United are now playing in after their promotion to a higher level. Ryton gave not an inch to their young opponents and might even at the end of the game wondered how they hadn't taken all three points.
That they didn't was down to profligate finishing, great defending by captain for the night Dylan Wilkinson and his troops and an excellent performance from goalkeeper Matty Pattison.
It was definitely United that were the happier side at the final whistle. But in many respects the way they stood up to be counted, their battling and commitment and their sheer will not to lose perhaps deserved a point.
What they showed in this 90 minutes was that they can do the ugly things when needed after showing their flair side in the previous game. Head Coach Kris Thackray commented after the game that it was a massive learning curve for the players and a night that the coaching staff and players learned a lot more than they had on Saturday.
After fielding what was probably the youngest ever side in Northern League history against Chester-le-Street Town, United went even younger with their starting XI.
Captain Taylor Campbell was unavailable and 17-year-old Sam Johnson stepped up from the bench in the only change to the XI that had won so convincingly at Town on Saturday. Harrison Tully and Dan Lanning two further 17-year-olds were on the bench for the first time this season.
Chester had the first attack of the game with Ryan Muldoon's nice pass out left to Ethan Gray. The left-sided midfielder fired in a cross but it was too close to Ryton keeper Sam Harrison who collected it easily.
From there Ryton got on top in terms of possession and chances and forced United back. A first of a few long balls in behind United's defence saw Trae Rowlandson speeding through but Pattison was quickest to it and gathered well.
Pattison though almost cost his side a goal in the early running. Ryan O'Connor's poor back pass saw him hesitate and he could only play the ball of Ryton's centre forward Damien Stevens but fortunately for Pattison and United the ball cannoned over the bar.
Ryton captain Graham Williams then thumped a long diagonal ball forward that saw Rhys McLeod get away from the United defence but his first time volley flew wide and the chance was wasted.
Park View Academy player Tom McIntyre then showed his ability in a Ryton shirt with a neat pass to send Robbie Williamson away but Keallan Huddleston got across to cover and concede a corner.
McLeod swung it over and Stephen Ardley up from the back got a good header on to the ball but could only direct it wide. McLeod himself tried his luck moments later but again the Ryton effort was off target and didn't trouble Pattison.
The game was bitty and scrappy. It suited Ryton's more physical style and Chester on a tight bumpy pitch couldn't get their passing game going. However, United did produce a moment of quality with Alex Fil.
There seemed little on when the right wingback picked up the ball on halfway. However his powerful pacy run took him past a couple of defenders into the home box. A shot looked on but Fil opted for a cross to the back post where no Chester player could connect.
O'Connor then played the right sort of pass to Johnson who slid a nice ball inside the Ryton defence but it was fractionally too long for Fil to get on the end of. Rowlandson was showing some pace on the right for Ryton and nearly got some reward after chasing down another long diagonal.
His cut back struck Huddleston on the arm but with Ryton appealing referee Tyler Dutton waved the claims away and Wilkinson cleared his lines. Ryton were getting joy out wide on both flanks and they looked dangerous from these positions.
They perhaps should have taken the lead from one of these positions. McLeod the provider and Williamson the recipient to get in a towering header that crashed back off the inside of the post straight into Pattison's arms.
Stevens then almost got through but a combination of Huddleston's timely interception and then Pattison was fouled as Stevens tried to reclaim the ball and once again danger was averted for United.
Little had been seen of United in attack although with the defence playing well and some combative and committed midfield play they were holding firm. Benji Shodeinde was trying to ruffle the home defence and in a rare foray forward earned a free-kick only 20 yards from goal.
With no Campbell in the line-up the responsibility for the kick fell to Gray. He stepped up and struck the ball well. It took a wicked deflection and looked headed for the far corner of the net.
Harrison though did really well to readjust his feet and dive full-length to turn the ball away from goal. The two Ryton wide men almost combined for a dangerous chance. This time Rowlandson' cross to the back post just evaded McLeod who was well placed had it reached him.
As the half drew to a close there was nearly a chance for United and an excellent one for Ryton. First up Fil showed his power and pace to once again drive down the right and into the box before he was well blocked by Joe Thompson before he could pull the trigger.
That United went into half-time level at 0 - 0 was down to Pattison who produced an excellent bit of goalkeeping to deny Ryton the lead. Williams dispossessed Gray before sending Stevens clear on goal.
Once again though Steven failed to deliver as Pattison got down in superb style to turn the strikers' goal bound away with a good diving left-hand stop. It was the final act of a game that had lacked a bit of quality but nothing in effort and commitment from both sides.
Stevens continued where he had left off in the first 45 minutes as the second got underway. A loose ball fell to him on the edge of the box and he swivelled well before striking his effort well but too high.
United were struggling to find any rhythm to their play but kept trying to get into the game. But the Ryton style was stifling them and they continued to concede ground although not goals.
Once again it was Stevens causing danger but his shot this time was blocked by the well placed Wilkinson. United then made their first change of the night with Shodeinde coming off to be replaced by Lanning.
The substitute nearly made the difference after collecting the ball off a partial clearance from the home side. He laid it off well to Jay Gibson but the striker couldn't hit the target as he fired wide.
United's second substitution was the withdrawal of Gray for Tully.
Stevens once again almost broke through. This time he got on to Craig Hennis' pass. It looked really dangerous but his first touch took him wide. He did though strike his shot well and it took a wicked deflection off Wilkinson.
The ball looked as if it might sneak in at the near post but Pattison adjusted his feet really well and quickly and turned the ball away smartly for a corner. if the save that gave Ryton the corner was good it was nothing to what came next.
McLeod swung the kick in and Hennis met it with a close-range bullet header that somehow Pattison clawed away magnificently showing amazing reflexes. United were certainly indebted to their keeper in that moment.
United did break out and a combination of Muldoon and O'Connor gave Gibson a long-range opening but although his shot was on target it was an easy save for Harrison.
On 78 minutes the incident that the game may well be remembered for exploded into a fracas. Johnson chasing back brought down Williamson with a bad tackle. It looked like a yellow but Williamson instigated a melee.
Stevens grabbed Johnson by the neck and the youngster raised his hands to push Stevens way. Williamson continued to be involved and there was a real coming together of several players.
Ryton's captain Williams pulled one off his own players away and in doing so found himself fighting with his colleague. Tempers were frayed and spilling over and it the referee just about calmed things down.
He decided that Johnson and Williamson had to be shown red cards making it ten-a-side but took no further action as the game got underway again.
On resumption, the slightly fortunate Stevens had another powerfully struck effort at goal. He had his shooting boots on but perhaps not on the right feet as again it flew wide of it's target.
United's final change of the night came with five minutes to go when Elliott McClen came on for Gibson as United tried to hang on and in fact suddenly seemed the more likely.
A monster long-throw from Thomas Cole was flicked on by Fil and Lanning nipped in but his header went over the top. Then Muldoon clearing his lines sped away from the trailing Ryton rear guard.
He went past two defenders before sliding a ball to Lanning on the left. The striker controlled it well and spotted Fil coming in from the right. He attempted to cross low towards the onrushing Chester midfielder but Williams got in brilliantly to turn the ball away from danger.
Other than a Muldoon caution deep, deep into stoppage time there were no further chances or incidents and both sides shook hands on a point a-piece at the end of a thunderously engaging contest.
So, four points from six for United from two away games and two clean sheets. They showed a different side to their game and that they would stand toe to toe against tough opposition.
Ryton may have felt aggrieved after having the bulk of the chances but the resolute United defence did well excellently led by Wilkinson and when they were breached Pattison showed that he was up to the task and kept the sheet clean.
TEAM : 1. Matty Pattison 2. Thomas Cole 3. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 4. Sam Johnson 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. Alex Fil 8. Ryan O'Connor 9.Jay Gibson 10. Benji Shodeinde 11. Ethan Gray
SUBSTITUTES : 12. Liam Colledge (unused) 14. Jacob Fremantle (unused) 15. Elliott McClen for Gibson 16. Harrison Tully for Gray 17. Dan Lanning for Shodeinde
SENT OFF : Sam Johnson
NEXT UP : Ebac Northern League Division Two v Washington AFC (Home) Sat 06/08/22 @ 15:00pm