by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 6th August 2022
Chester-le-Street United 0 v 2 Washington AFC
One of the biggest moments in the life of Chester-le-Street United was spoiled on the pitch by an efficient, well organised and solid Washington side. The away side came with the intention of spoiling the party and did exactly that on the day.
They came, saw and conquered and deserved to take all three points in a game where United never ever got going at any stage. All of which was a disappointment for a Club that made great impressions of the field and had their highest ever gate for a home league game.
It was also the highest gate of the afternoon in the division. That though was perhaps the height of their positivity although it was nice after the game for The Club to get some very encouraging and support comments from Washington.
However, no matter the positives off the pitch it's the product that you put on the pitch that ultimately defines your Club. After a promising start away from home in their opening two fixtures this was a game where United wanted to lay down a marker on their new home pitch.
That it didn't happen was a combination of two factors. United didn't seem up for the game and didn't take their chances whilst Washington were and took enough of there's to register and excellent away win.
United were forced for the third game in a row to change their starting line-up as they look to overcome injuries and find a settled side and rhythm. The starting XI showed two changes from the previous encounter with Ryton.
Skipper Taylor Campbell was available again and came in for the injured Sam Johnson and young striker Dan Lanning came in for Jay Gibson who had started the previous two games but picked up a strain against Ryton.
From the off and taking advantage of a strong wind behind them Washington pushed Chester back. The excellent long kicking of the visitor's goalkeeper Alex Lawrence in particular caused problems for the United defence.
It created the first opening of the game inside two minutes when Keallan Huddleston's mistake gifted Alex Dobinson a great shooting opportunity at the edge of the box but his drive was always rising as it went over the bar.
Washington captain Ben Gibbon helped create the next chance with a nice throw-in to the box to find Josh Teixeira. The centre forward turned past Dylan Wilkinson in fine style before firing in a low shot which Matty Pattison did well to turn away with his feet.
The opening from Washington was rewarded with barely 8 minutes on the clock and ironically came from United's first foray forward which saw Lanning caught offside. Lawrence was quick to the ball and sent the free-kick long and over the Chester defence.
Teixeria reacted to the ball much quicker advancing into the Chester box before slotting the ball neatly past the advancing Pattison from about 12-yards. It was no more than either side deserved following the respective ways they'd started the game.
Benji Shodeinde looked a good outlet ball for Chester as they tried to string some passes together to respond. Picking one ball up on the left he was foulled by Gibbon as he attempted to go down the line.
Campbell whipped in the resulting free-kick but Lawrence was able to come and claim it comfortably under no real pressure. It was a rare moment of possession for United in the opposition half and Washington were soon back on the attack.
Sam Lilley got free inside the United box and a dangerous position was stopped by a well timed Thomas Cole challenge at the expense of a corner. George Rounsfell's outswinger found Lucas Gamblin at the back post.
The midfielders powerful set-up header into the six-yard box flew towards the opposite post but thankfully for United Ryan Muldoon was on hand to clear the danger from in front of his goal-line.
At this stage Washington were pinning United back at will playing the ball wide and bringing their breaking midfielders into the game. United were struggling to clear their lines and giving the ball away needlessly at time causing more pressure.
The next chance the away side squandered came from Jordan Smith who burst past the Chester defence before squaring the ball to Jak Hanson who drove his effort wide from a good position.
United were dealt a further blow when Ethan Gray who had declared himself fit before kick-off actually had to limp off after only 20 minutes to be replaced by Evan Gray.
It was, at times, last ditch defending from United to stem the Washington flow. Cole conceded another corner with a good interception to stop Hanson's progress. Rounsfell this time swung a dangerous ball into the six-yard box.
Pattison under pressure couldn't claim and a real scramble ensued with the ball falling to Teixeira who blazed it over the top from close range. It was Teixeira that had the next effort on goal after finding himself in space some 25-yards out.
He tried to curl his effort into the top corner but it drifted not over Pattison but the cross-bar as well. Teixeira was causing Chester's defence a lot of issues and should have doubled his own and his side's tally on 27 minutes.
He pulled away from his markers at the back post and got on the end of Isam Mohamed's left-wing cross only to put his header wide from a great position. United finally got their first shot on goal just after the half-hour mark.
Cole played a good long ball up to Lanning on the edge of the box who controlled it well before rolling it back to Ryan O'Connor. The midfielder's shot though was deflected and had the pace taken off it enabling Lawrence to get down easily to save.
Wilkinson then put his side under pressure giving the ball away to Hanson who's first-time shot was deflected for a corner. Rounsfell took it and it caused confusion in the United box and they scrambled it clear for another corner which again landed dangerously with Huddleston this time clearing United's lines.
Muldoon then picked up his second yellow card for a late tackle on Smith who was unable to carry on and he was helped from the pitch to be replaced by Thomas Brugge.
United then had a promising attack with Huddleston sending the lively Shodeinde away on the right. The speedy striker did well to find space and fired a cross towards the middle only to see Lawrence come and collect well.
Shodeinde looked United's best option and when Rounsfell's back pass fell short, United No. 10 outmuscled Joe Blackbourne and looked as if he was in on goal only for the referee to pull the play back surprisingly and award a free-kick to Washington.
The half ended with United attacking down the right again through Shodeinde but this time his right-wing cross was hit too long and couldn't find a Gold shirt in space.
As the side's went off at half-time there was no doubting that Washington's start and general play had earned them the right to lead and they deservedly went into the changing rooms a goal to the good although Chester had looked more lively as the half came to a close.
The opening phases of the second half saw a United trying to assert some pressure on the visitor's and get a foothold on the game. They certainly started the brighter and looked a different team and were given a great chance to level the game on 52 minutes.
Evan Gray found space on the left and played a great through ball for Shodeinde to run onto. He's pace took him past Blackbourne who in his haste to try and recover bundled United's striker over. The referee had no hesitation in pointing to the spot.
Up stepped Lanning and he drove his right-footed kick powerfully to Lawrence's left only to see the ball strike the inside of the post and bounce to safety for Washington. It had been a glorious opportunity squandered for United to get back into the game.
Despite the miss, United still kept their spirits up and had another half-chance when Muldoon was fouled on the left. Campbell swung the free-kick into the box and Huddleston flicked it but Lawrence was alert to the danger and claimed well.
The Tiexeira/Hanson combination that had worked well for Washington all game giving Hanson a great opening but he hesitated and then shot well over after switching the ball from left to right foot.
Gamblin then looked as if he'd played Rounsfell through with a great long ball but just as the wide man was about to pull the trigger Cole got across to make a superb covering tackle.
Washington had recovered from the penalty incident and once again started to dictate play. Gibbon picked a ball up on halfway and drove brilliantly to the edge of the box. His shot though didn't match his run and Pattison got down to save.easily.
Dobinson then showed good skill on the edge of the box and almost got through until Cole tripped him giving the visitor's a free-kick in a dangerous position. Dobinson took the kick himself and curled a good effort around the wall that went narrowly wide.
Alex Fil had replaced Morley for Chester and his powerful running on the right did give United some hope as well as adding aerial power to the attack. That was shown when he flicked on a long throw from Cole to find Shodeinde in the six-yard box.
Shodeinde did well under pressure to flick his effort goal wards but once again Lawrence was well placed to save easily at his near post. Washinton replaced goal scorer Tiexeria with Peter De Frias Pinheiro.
It was the substitute that gave Washington the chance to make the game safe on 77 minutes. He skipped away down the right and was upended near the byline just outside the box. Rounsell took full advantage from the free-kick.
Spotting Pattison slightly off his line looking for a cross he instead drove the ball at a tight angle towards the top corner. Pattison was taken by surprise and although he seemed to get both hands to the ball it burst through his grasp and smashed high into the net.
If United had been struggling to come back from a goal down there was no way they were going to pull two back in the last ten or so minutes and so it proved. Washington did sit back and allow United to come on to them but it was to no avail.
United despite late pressure and a few efforts to get the ball towards Lanning and Shodeinde couldn't break down the Washington defence who held firm and guided their side to a superb away day victory.
At the end of the game there was a huge sense of disappointment for United and a perhaps even a touch of surprise in the performance and lack of desire. Coach Kris Thackray felt his side had been flat throughout.
That had surprised him as he saw his charges stand up really well against Ryton in midweek to earn a great point. He then felt the training after that had showed a high degree of application and confidence that unfortunately had no translated on to game day. United will though re-assess, re-charge and look to bounce straight back.
TEAM : 1. Matty Pattison 2. Thomas Cole 3. Dylan Wilkinson 4. Taylor Campbell (C) 5. Keallan Huddleston 6. Ryan Muldoon 7. James Morley 8. Ryan O'Connor 9. Dan Lanning 10. Benji Shodeinde 11. Ethan Gray
SUBSTITUTES : 12. John Anderson (unused) 14. Liam Colledge (unused) 15. Elliott McClen (unused). 16. Alex Fil (for Morley 17. Evan Gray (for Gray)
NEXT UP : Birtley Town (away) Tuesday 9th August 2022 @ 7:30pm