by Jeff King
Wearside League - Saturday 2nd April 2022
Norton & Stockton Ancients Youth 1 v 8 Chester-le-Street United
United went into this game against a side battling against relegation but a side that needed respect. Especially after their midweek 1 - 1 draw against Gateshead Leam Rangers has shown they would be fighting all the way to make it tough for the league leaders.
Chester were boosted by the return from injury to the starting XI of defender George Reilly and influential midfielder Louis Watts. This meant an unusual starting position for Elliott Day wide on the left-hand side of the Chester engine room.
Any doubts that United had going into the match were quickly dispelled as they dominated from the off and forced the home team onto the back foot. Young Dan Lanning had the first strike on goal flashing a 25-yard effort over the top.
It took Chester a mere 5 minutes to take the lead and settle the nerves. Watts' through ball almost put Lanning in on goal but Matty Crossen got across to clear the danger at the expense of a corner.
From the left-hand side Taylor Robinson swung the ball into the near post and skipper Josh Crews timed his run perfectly to meet the ball inside the six-yard box and bullet a header past Jacob Krowle in the Norton goal.
A great start for the visitors who were immediately looking for more. It almost came when great pressing from Lanning on Krowle saw the keeper crash his clearance into the Chester striker with the ball rebound past him only to roll inches wide.
The pressure on the ball was key to the way Chester were going about their business. Defend from the front is often an expression used and the efforts of Jay Gibson and Lanning up top were certainly causing Norton problems.
It enabled Robinson and Watts to dictate play in the middle and with Cameron Brewis just off the front two, the league leaders were in total control and dominating the game.
The next opportunity came when Lanning from wide played an inside ball to Brewis who was fouled just outside the box. He got up to take the free-kick and although his effort beat the defensive wall Krowle was able to gather it in easily.
On 18 minutes, Day made a good break down the left and his cross was deflected away for a corner by Josh Stiff. Once again Robinson's delivery from the left was perfect. This time curled more towards the back post and it was Day that got free to head home and make it 2 - 0.
Chester were looking in the mood and were hunting the ball down at every opportunity. Gibson created space and dinked a nice ball into the box which almost found Lanning but Krowle was alert and came and claimed well.
Another lovely run by Day saw him win another corner off Stiff but this time the home defence managed to clear. More pressure saw consecutive corners won again and Riley came close to making it three but was just over with his effort.
The third goal that was threatening came on 34 minutes and what a beauty it was. Great ball movement and passing in midfield saw Watts striding forward playing a 1-2 on the edge of the box before finishing coolly with his left-foot from inside the area.
Nothing had been seen of Norton in the first 45 minutes but as the game drifted into injury time they finally got a chance to test the Chester defence. It came when a deep free-kick from Josh Chambers was headed away for a corner by Crews.
Joe Taylor took the kick and swung it into the six-yard box where Mauro Asikaogu came but failed to collect. The ball fell kindly for the United keeper though to Day who headed away the danger to close an emphatic first half for Chester.
The second half opened with Chester once again on the attack. Gibson was the first to try his luck and although Krowle failed to gather the striker's long range effort he was quick enough to recover and grab the ball before Lanning closed in.
A rare foray forward from Norton brought them their first meaningful effort on goal. James Webb played Noah Cameron in on the left and he managed to get inside before hitting an on target cross shot that Asikaogu saved comfortably.
A beautiful Brewis-Riley-Day combination once again earned United a corner off the under pressure Stiff. Robinson again took the kick and whipped a wicked ball in and under the Norton crossbar which Krowle did really well to punch clear.
The following corner on 53 minutes led to Chester's next goal. Brewis swung this one in from the right and Day got his head to it only to see the ball cleared off the line.
Robinson recycled and crossed to the far post where Gibson's point-blank header was brilliantly pushed onto the post by the diving Krowle. Unfortunately for him and the home side the ricochet fell kindly to Reilly who poked it home from close range.
This sparked three substitutions for the home side but it was to no avail as within three minutes of their fourth, United got a fifth. Brewis was tripped right on the edge of the box in a central postion.
It looked like he was going to take the kick but he dummied his run and Robinson stepped up and drove his shot past the wall into the right corner of the net. Krowle perhaps should have done better as he got hands to the effort but couldn't keep it out.
A rampant United were now in full-on go mode and on 58 minutes made it 6 - 0. The excellent Day who was tormenting Stiff down the left was the provider. Day got free of his marker once again and whipped a low cross into the middle.
Whether Brewis dummied it or just missed it, it made no difference as Gibson was on hand at the far post to tap home his ninth goal in seven games to further emphasise his side's dominance.
That was the cue for Chester Head Coach John Gamble to make changes with Jack Mortimer coming on for the goal scorer Gibson and Alex Nicholson replacing Lanning. It did not slow United down.
Barely five minutes after coming on, Mortimer was in on the act. Robinson's beautiful cross-field ball to Day saw the wide man producing a brilliantly accurate left-wing cross picking out Mortimer at the back post. The striker met it with a full-blooded diving header that nestled neatly into the Norton net.
Seven-up and fizzing on Brewis almost made it eight minutes later. He got free in the box to fire in a great effort but Krowle's equally good tip-over the bar denied Chester's top scorer a place on the score sheet.
Riley then did well to find Nicholson free on the left. He advanced into the box and pulled the ball back towards Mortimer. Brewis though took the ball off his teammates feet and saw his rushed effort cleared by Stiff.
Completely out of the blue and with ten minutes left to play Norton showed great spirit and commitment to pull a goal back as two of their substitutes combined. There was a hesitation and loss of concentration in the Chester defence that led to the consolation reply.
Rory Sawyer's ball forward was not cleared Chester and via a couple of deflections the ball fell to Ben Priestley who found Ryan Hebb inside the box. As Asikaogu came off his line Hebb remained composed to push the ball past the keeper and make it 7 - 1.
The goal was perhaps against the run of play but it did show that concentration from United youngster's needs to be locked in for the full 90 minutes. They even allowed another Norton sub, Liam Blyth, a chance. He rounded Reilly neatly in the box but then could only find the side-netting with his right-foot effort.
Chester though were not finished and with two minutes left on the clock notched their eighth of a high productive afternoon. Crews brought the ball strongly out of defence finding Day on the left. His first-time slide rule pass found Mortimer in stride.
The striker showed great awareness and finishing prowess sweeping his left-foot effort past the beleaguered and battered Krowle to complete the proceedings entertainment for the day and keeping Chester in pole position in the table.
TEAM : 1. Mauro Asikaogu 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3. George Reilly 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Louis Watts 7. James Bakou 8. Cameron Brewis 9. Jay Gibson 10. Dan Lanning 11. Eliott Day
SUBS : 12. Eva Gray for Watts 13. Arthur Leblond (unused) 14. Jack Mortimer for Gibson 15. Lewis Lembikisa (unused) 17. Alex Nicholson for Lanning
GOAL SCORERS : Crews, Day, Watts, Robinson, Reilly, Gibson, Mortimer 2