by Jeff King
Monkwearmouth Charity Cup Semi Final - Saturday 22nd January 2022
Chester-le-Street United 7 v 2 Gateshead Leam Rangers
Sometimes being addicted can be good for you. Especially when the drug fed is quality football that gives you a high, filling you with ecstasy and euphoria. That was certainly the case on Saturday for all connected with Chester-le-Street United.
Their performance on Saturday simply blew away a Gateshead side that were strong, physical and committed but ultimately didn't have the quality to stay with United's youngsters.
This was a huge game for both sides who will no doubt meet again as the season wears on. Both have shown real intent and commitment to bringing success to their Clubs and are having fine seasons. This was a chance for either to put down a marker.
It was also a chance to advance to a Cup Final. Something that every player and Club aspires to reach whatever the level and whatever the occasion. This time it was a buzzing United side that took the honours and the rewards.
Coming into the game Leam Rangers had only conceded sixteen goals in the league all season and were one of the few sides that have managed to stop the United juggernaut from scoring.
Back in August last year they came to The Riverside and took a one-nil win that marked them out as one to watch this season. They've continued that with excellent form and results.
They sit third in the Wearside League but with three games in hand on Chester and only six points behind. This game was also one of three Cup semi-finals that they've reached. So no-one was in any doubt that this was a tough task for United.
The first chance of the game fell to United. Jay Gibson won the ball back inside the Leam Rangers half after a poor touch and fed wide right to Ryan Muldoon. Muldoon's little ball inside found Cameron Brewis in space.
Brewis played a delightful diagonal ball to Ebenezer Addo on the left. The tricky winger cut inside and floated a dangerous cross to the back post where Gibson got up and headed goal wards but the effort lacked power and Jordan Bolton in the Leam goal saved comfortably.
Louis Watts then did brilliantly to win a ball inside his own half and set Gibson away on the right. Gibson drove forward and then laid the ball back to the supporting Watts who hit a good shot on target but straight at Bolton who held it easily.
Chester were sniffing out a goal and it duly came after only eight minutes. Jaden Timmis and Mick Spellman exchanged passes before Spellman played it wide right to Josh Ward. His little ball inside was allowed to run by Brewis to Spellman.
Spellman cut in from the right and unleashed a lovely left-foot daisy cutter of a shot that went right into the bottom corner past Bolton's despairing right-hand. Chester on top and in front but not for long.
Within two minutes Gateshead were level. Alan Thompson's ball inside was controlled well by Aiden Rutledge who was fouled by a clumsy challenge from Timmis 25-yards out.
The prolific striker picked himself up and curled a superb free-kick past the side of the Chester wall which Arthur Leblond could not get across too and the ball nestled in the far corner of the net for a spectacular equaliser.
Gateshead were now well into the game and Adam Byron on the right sent in a dangerous cross which Leblond did well to come and claim in front of Kane Reed. It sparked a good spell of United possession.
An Elliott Day throw-in on the left and found the advancing Watts inside the box. s. The midfielder swivelled and got in a left foot shot that was deflected for a corner off Joe Inness. Brewis' flag-kick to the back post saw Josh Crews unable to get on the end.
Leam Rangers were pressing well and very much in the game and it got better for visitors as they went into a 2 - 1 lead on twenty-four minutes. Bolton's long clearance was misread by Day who could only divert the ball into Byron's path.
The wide man played it into Inness whos's first time lay-off found Kain Reed inside the box. He mishit his shot from a tight angle but the Chester defence were slow to react as the ball flashed across to Rutledge who finished well to give put his side in front.
Chester despite the visitor's lead didn't look ruffled and continued to play their football and deservedly drew level on the half-hour mark. Good work on the left from Spellman and Brewis found Addo. His dinked ball into the box was cleared.
But only to Spellman who whipped in a magnificent cross that was met first-time with a spectacular left-foot volley from Gibson, 8 yards out, that flew past the helpless Bolton to level things up.
United had the bit between their teeth now and went looking for more. Brewis' superb ball Watts in space but his effort was not struck hard enoughand produced an easy save for Bolton.
Then an excellent long ball from Timmis from defence found Brewis in space. He switched it inside to Watts who rolled an inviting ball into the path of Josh Ward. He advanced and pulled the ball back to Gibson who should have hit it first-time.
The forward's hesitation allowed Rangers to scramble the ball clear from danger. But Chester were not to be denied. Crews' ball out of defence was picked up by Muldoon and he found Brewis who laid it off first time to Gibson.
Gibson turned inside and was about to pull the trigger only to be stopped by a timely interception from Ewan Vasey who conceded a corner. Brewis swung the kick in and Day almost got on the end of it. The ball bouncing off Rutledge for another corner.
From the opposite win Watts' kick caused confusion as it dropped in the six-yard box. A wild swing at the clearance from the Leam defender missed and Day was on hand to tap the ball home from very close range to restore the Chester lead.
With just under five minutes to go in half Chester grabbed a fourth. Ward who had switched wings pressured Thompson into conceding a throw-in which was quickly taken by Spellman who found Gibson in the box.
Gibson held the ball up well and laid it back to Spellman who had followed his throw. He steadied himself well and from 10-yards out clipped a beautiful left-foot shot past Bolton's left-hand to double the Chester lead.
It was almost five before the half expired. Timmis found Muldoon from defence. The midfielder drove forward and almost played Spellman in on goal. There was a scramble on the edge of the box and the ball fell to Brewis who was so unlucky to see his spectacular left-foot effort crash back into play of the corner of post and bar.
Then Day found Addo on the right who jinked past Vasey before firing low into the box. Bolton at full stretch turned the ball away and Gibson was just unable to control the ball which would have given him a clear sight of goal.
The referee's whistle went shortly afterwards bringing a breathless first-half to a satisfactory conclusion for a rampant United who had turned the game around after Rangers threatened to dominate.
United were straight at it after the break. Leam won an early free-kick that Vasey hit deep into the Chester box. Leblond came, claimed and then showed quick thinking to roll the ball into Addo's.
Addo showed superb pace to race away from the defence and turn defence to attack in an instant sliding the ball into Spellman inside the box. Spellman turned to create an opening but then fired well over from a good position.
The commitment and work rate of Chester was shown in their fifth goal which came shortly afterwards and inevitably the 'SpellBrewed' combination was in evidence. Spellman chased back on defence and won a good tackle on the halfway line.
He passed back to Crews and then made himself available for the return spinning away he played an excellent one-two with Brewis and was about to let fly from 22 yards before being upended.
Brewis stepped up for the free-kick and superbly curled the ball over the wall into the bottom right-hand corner of the net with Bolton helpless to keep it out. Almost immediately afterwards United struck again with a quality move.
This time from the back Crews found Addo who showed his electric pace once again to get away on the right. His cross was only cleared to the edge of the box where Watts picked it up and showing great composure and footwork laid it off for Brewis.
He slid it first time to Muldoon who swept it wide to Ward. The cross wasn't the best but the Leam defence failed to clear and as the ball fell free Brewis showed an excellent poacher's instinct to smash it home from six yards out.
Despite looking a well beaten side Rangers did try to respond. Nice play on the right by Byron saw him cross to the middle where Reed got his head to the cross but the ball hit Day and was cleared.
Vasey picked it up and from fully 30-yards hit a powerful left-foot effort that went well. But it was Chester once again that pushed forward not looking to settle for what they had even after multiple substitutions.
Earning a corner Brewis played a short ball to Watts who's brilliant chip to the far post saw Day steal in with a close-range volley that Bolton did brilliantly to parry onto the bar.
Day picked the loose ball up and played it out of the box to Muldoon who chipped it into the box picking out Gibson put his acrobatic overhead effort cleared the Rangers bar.
A rare Leam Rangers raid almost brought them back into the game. Rutledge was fouled wide left by Addo. Vasey pumped the ball to the back post where Reed got free but he couldn't control his finish and the chance went begging.
Watts then created the next opening finding Brewis in centre midfield and opening up the defence but Chester's top scorer's effort was straight at Bolton. Even Chester's subs were now warming to the task and carved out another chance.
Taylor Robinson won the ball in middle of the park with a determined challenge before finding Lewis Lembikisa. The ball then went flashing through the feet of Gianny Bacto and Robinson and back to Lembikisa.
He who moved it on first touch to Alex Nicholson who from inside the area laid it back to Bacto but his 14-yard effort failed to trouble Bolton who saved easily.
Chester though were not to be denied and fittingly their last goal came from Watts who had been outstanding throughout and it also came from another free-flowing passing move.
Lembikisa found Bacto who flicked it into the path of Robinson. The midfielder opened up the Leam defence playing a great ball through to Lembikisa. He turned it inside to Nicholson who slid Watts through on goal.
Watts looked a certain scorer as he went around Bolton only for the keeper to stick out a leg and upend Watts to concede a penalty. Watts got up to take the kick himself and calmly sent Bolton the wrong way to make it a magnificent seven for Chester.
When the final whistle blew it probably came as a relief to the Leam Rangers players several of whom could be seen with hands on knees. They could have no complaints on the day as they had been given a lesson in clinical finishing and ball retention from a United side that were exactly that!
Chester's work rate, calm passing football, superb pressing when they didn't have possession, mature attitude, all-round togetherness and great finishing gave them a well-deserved passage in to the final.
In that final they will take on FC Hartlepool at a venue and a date to be decided in the near future.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Jaden Timmis 3. Elliott Day 4. Louis Watts 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. Josh Ward 8. Cameron Brewis 9.Jay Gibson 10. Michael Spellman 11. Ebenezer Addo.
SUBS : 12. Taylor Robinson for Spellman 14. Gianny Bacto for Gibson 15. Alex Nicholson for Brewis 16. Lewis Lembikisa for Addo 17. Abdullah Alawahdi for Ward
SCORERS : Spellman 2, Day, Gibson. Brewis 2, Watts (pen)