Chester-Le-Street United 3 v 1 West Auckland Tunns
by Jeff King
They say lightning doesn't strike twice in the same place? Probably true and perhaps deja-vu may be a better statement. The fact is that once again United were 1 - 0 down at the break and once again Jak McKinley came up with a 55th minute equaliser, exactly as he did on Saturday against FC Hartlepool, to pave the way for a second half comeback and another vital win.
As always seems to be the case, Chester made changes from Saturday's win for this clash against Tunns at The Ford Hub. Aymeric Vidot and Ricardo Pereira were unwell and Micky Spellman was out with an ankle injury.
It meant Lewis Lembikisa, Abdullah Alawahdi and the returning Arthur Leblond were all back in the starting XI with new signing Jack Mortimer who has arrived from Washington United on the bench.
A lovely bright Autumnal scene greeted the two sides as they got the action underway with both teams taking time to settle as the game went through the early phases.
It was Tunns that had the first effort on goal on 5 minutes but Jamie Whitworth's well struck effort lacked direction and flew well wide. It took Chester a full 9 minutes to show their attacking intent.
Ryan Muldoon found Taylor Robinson after determined midfield ball-winning and Robinson's neat pass gave Alawahdi a shooting chance but his left foot shot aiming for the near post was just wide as it crashed into the side netting.
Cameron Brewis was the next to show for the home side as he picked the ball up fully 40 yards from goal and spotting Tunns keeper Jake Burns well off his line he tried to chip his effort which went over Burns' head but drifted wide.
Some nice play by James Bakou playing wide on the right saw him find Brewis with a good cross from that area but the striker could only curl his effort straight at Burns.
West Auckland were giving as good as they got and with centre forward Peter Brown showing excellent holdup play and then playing the ball off always had a useful outlet and they grabbed the lead on 25 minutes.
United skipper Josh Crews trying to bring the ball out of defence lost his footing slightly and Miles Swift was in quickly to dispossess him. He looked up and slid a great ball through the Chester defence for Liam Blighe to chase.
Leblond came off his line quickly being alert to the danger but was just a tad too late and Blighe got there first to slide the ball past him and into an empty net. As usual a goal brings confidence and Wests certainly looked to restrict Chester's efforts to get back on terms.
On the half-hour McKinley did well to break down the left and find Lembikisa who cut in past two defenders before drilling a ball goal wards that Burns did well to get down too and gather.
There was periods of play where the focus switched from end to end. A good example of this was when Alawahdi found Bakou on the right and his cross was deflected for a corner by Jamie Lamb. Chester's set piece was well cleared by the Tunns defence and suddenly they were on the attack.
Brown once again showed excellent holdup play before releasing Blighe on to goal but this time the goal scorer's effort flew into the side netting with Leblond having it covered all the way.
The home side almost drew level on 37 minutes. Crews' excellent ball found Bakou sprinting into the Wests box. He pulled the pass back into the path of McKinley whose first time effort was cleared off the line by Thomas Iley.
Lembikisa was first to the loose ball and fired it goal wards but he was denied the equaliser by a smart save from Burns.
Wests defence and combative midfield play was clearly unsettling the Chester search for parody as time and time again they forced the home side into errors. United in trying to break Tunns down played careless balls at times and conceding possession too frequently.
This determination coupled with some sensible approach play almost garnered the visitors a second goal five minutes before the interval. Swift played a lovely ball to the back post where Gareth McMahon headed into a dangerous area.
Blighe looked the favourite to get to the ball and double his and his side's tally but a last gasp interception by Jaden Timmis cleared the ball to safety. The half ended shortly after a Brewis free-kick on the right fizzed across the Tunns box with no-one there to provide a finishing touch.
As in the previous game Chester came out in the second half in determined fashion searching for the goal to bring them level. Timmis produced a lovely run that took him into the visitors box and he intelligently pulled the ball back to Brewis who saw his effort blocked by a well marshalled Tunns defence.
Muldoon showed great ability to come forward from midfield to find Bakou on the right who rounded Towson Ballan before finding Robinson whose first time flicked effort curled wide of the target.
But, it was a momentary respite for the visitors who were now under strong pressure and being forced back which allowed Chester to draw level on 55 minutes. Muldoon was the architect pushing forward and finding McKinley on the edge of the box.
The midfielder took a good touch and then finished sweetly drilling his low right foot shot past Burns' dive into the bottom right hand corner of the net. United's persistence and forward pressing had finally cracked the tough Wests defence.
The visitors were being pushed deeper and deeper and were fortunate to see Ebenezer Adoo fire over the top from an unmarked position 20-yards out as he moved forward from defence.
McKinley looked in the mood and he created a good chance for himself when he took Lembikisa's throw-in in his stride twisted into the box but he could only fire his effort straight at Burns who held it comfortably.
With 20 minutes to go Wests did have another chance as Iley's long free-kick into the heart of the Chester defence flicked off Timmis into Cobi Jones' path he turned inside neatly but his shot was always rising and cleared Leblond's cross-bar comfortably.
On 72 minutes Chester replaced Alawahdi giving Mortimer his first taste of first-team action following his move from Washington United. Mortimer was quickly involved as Chester threw everything at Wests who stood tall and defended gallantly.
It felt like a goal was coming for the home side and so it proved as they broke Tunns brave resistance on 77 minutes.. Lembikisa was the creator with a brilliant run down the left. He cut into the box and found the onrushing Robinson who flicked it first time into the net with the outside of his right foot from six-yards out.
Following the goal Chester made three substitutions with Adoo, Lembikisa and Robinson making way for Josh Ward, Jay Gibson and Alex Nicholson.
Muldoon was having a big game in the centre of midfield and set-up the next chance with a driving run and pass to Mortimer who was denied by Burns who came off his line to smother smartly.
Substitute Nicholson then did well on the left and fizzed a cross low towards the back post where Bakou arrived late and just failed to get a decisive touch. Mortimer then created a shooting chance on the edge of the box but his well-struck effort was brilliantly turned over the top by Burns.
From the resulting corner the ball fell again to Mortimer but this time he was denied by a great, brave block by Wests substitute Craig Hammatt. The visitors held on and only a goal down gave Chester a few nervy moments as the time ticked down.
Another well-hit long free-kick by Iley deep into the United box saw Leblond do well to claim the ball cleanly under severe pressure to keep the lead intact. Then as the game entered injury time the home side made sure of the points with a third goal.
Brewis engineered a short corner routine with McKinley and then found Nicholson free inside the Tunns box and the substitute made no mistake with a neat finish into the bottom right hand corner.
There was only time for West Auckland to kick-off before the referee ended the game giving United a second successive home win inside four days lifting them into the top three of the League.
Next up for Chester is a tough trip to Shotton Colliery F.C. on Saturday 25th September with a 2:30pm kick-off.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Ebenezer Adoo 3. Jaden Timmis 4. Ryan Muldoon 5.Josh Crews (c) 6. Taylor Robinson 7. James Bakou 8. Jak McKinley 9. Abdullah Alawahdi 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Lewis Lembikisa
SUBS : 12. Jay Gibson for Robinson 14. Alex Nicholson for Lembikisa 15. Josh Ward for Adoo 16. Jack Mortimer for Alawahdi
GOALS : McKinley, Robinson, Nicholson