by Jeff King
Wearside League Division One - Saturday 16th October 2021
Coxhoe Athletic 0 v 4 Chester-le-Street United
After successive Saturday's taking care of Cup business United were back in league action with a visit to bottom of the table Coxhoe Athletic's tidy Beechfield Park. Athletic went into the game having only two draws from their 13 league games.
Chester though have already dropped 14 points this season and needed to reassert their league credentials and take all three points to resume their Championship challenge.
The United coaching team made two changes from last week's 4 - 2 Alan Hood Charity Cup win over Annfield Plain. Jay Gibson came into play up front alongside top scorer Cameron Brewis in place of Alex Nicholson who dropped to the bench.
A move that allowed United to move Micky Spellman wide on the left and fit-again Elliott Day came in for Josh Ward to play in the back three with George Riley and skipper Josh Crews.
It was a game that on paper should have been one of Chester's easier fixtures but although they dominated from the off they were finding it difficult to create against a resolute Athletic defence.
It was the home side that actually created the first chance. Taylor Vout's long cross field ball from the right found Ryan Johnson in space but he couldn't keep the effort down and it curled just over the bar.
Then a long Luke McCabe free kick into the heart of the Chester defence was head well clear by Crews as Coxhoe pressed again. United though began to bring the ball down and maintain good possession as they got into their game.
On 12 minutes Ebenezer Addo was fouled by Morgan Stewart 20 yards from goal to give United a dangerous freekick which Brewis curled inches over the bar. Chester were now in the groove with Addo and Spellman starting to cause problems out wide.
The opening goal of the game came on 15 minutes with United getting on top after Athletic's solid start. Nice interchange play between Brewis and Jak McKinley opened up the home defence and Jay Gibson took full advantage with a crisp low right-foot finish from the edge of the box.
It galvanised United who now really took the game to the division's bottom side. Spellman produced a dazzling run down the left before cutting inside and centring low.
The ball took a wicked deflection and looked destined for an own goal but Chris Spence did really well toclear the ball off the line. Spellman then created a decent shooting opportunity for himself but his 20-yard left foot effort was turned aside well by the diving Dan Scott.
Coxhoe's reply came from McCabe who came out of defence to send a long range effort wide of the Chester goal before United struck again on 27 minutes. It came from the penalty spot after Addo and Stewart clashed again inside the box.
It was a tussle for the ball that saw Addo going sprawling at speed and the referee immediately pointed to the spot. It seemed a little harsh but there was no doubt that Addo had gone down genuinely under pressure.
Brewis stepped up and fired the kick to Scott's left. The keeper got both hands to the effort but couldn't prevent it going past him and into the net for the striker's 9th league goal of the season and 11th overall.
United were really in the mood now and some lovely football almost brought them a third on 34 minutes. Great interchange play between Day, Spellman and McKinley saw the latter cross low to the back post where the ball just evaded the unmarked Gibson's lunge.
Coxhoe won a corner on the right after skipper Kieran Battie's strong run was checked by Ryan Muldoon. Joe Power took the kick that Arthur Leblond in the United goal did well to punch away under pressure.
The ball fell to Joe Young but his shot was easily held by Leblond who recovered his position well and quickly. United finished the half strongly and Athletic were finding it difficult to contain them.
Day came forward with purpose from the back and was tripped by Battie who was booked. McKinley took the resultant freekick and tried his luck from distance but couldn't get enough dip on the effort to trouble Scott.
Battie was then perhaps fortunate not to see a second yellow when he stopped Spellman in his tracks just outside the box on the left. Brewis curled the freekick into a dangerous area. Gibson got his head on the ball about 8 yards out but directed the effort just wide of the right-hand post.
The last action of the half saw another neat move from Chester giving McKinley the opportunity to slip Gibson in on goal but Scott did well to come off his line to smother the ball before the striker got to it.
Just before half time Riley limped off to be replaced by Louis Watts who took up a central midfield role with Jaden Timmis dropping into the back three.
At half time it seemed a long way back for Coxhoe and in truth the most likely outcome was United adding to their tally in the second 45 minutes.
That said it was Coxhoe who almost had a chance to get back into the game with the first attack of the second half. A ball into the box evaded Crews and Charlie Upperton looked poised to take advantage.
But the covering Day came across splendidly covering across the back to whisk the ball away to safety before Chester resumed their dominance of the play and possession resulting in a third goal on 52 minutes.
Again it came from the penalty spot and this time there was no doubt about the award. Day won the ball at the back and found Watts in space. The midfielder spun away from his marker and played a great 1-2 with Brewis lifting the return pass over the Coxhoe defence.
It found Muldoon in acres of space and he got to the ball first nudging it past keeper Scott who clattered into the Chester player. The ball broke free and Spellman tried to finish but the referee's whistle had already gone for the foul.
A long chat ensued between official and keeper but the penalty award was deemed sufficent punishment. Muldoon stepped up for the spot-kick and with a 'Jorginho' run-up fooled Scott who stood rooted to the spot as Muldoon stroked the kick home.
Chester were now pouring forward from everywhere and the beleaguered home defence was creaking at the seams. It was no surprise that on the hour mark Chester made it four-nil with Brewis again on the mark.
Brewis played the ball to Gibson inside the box and although he couldn't get a shot away he created enough space for Brewis to run onto the loose ball and smash a left-foot rocket into the top of the next from about 16 yards out.
It was no more than United deserved as they had been so much in command since the first goal had gone in and had done a very solid and professional job to go four goals in front.
So much so that the coaching staff after the fourth goal made all five remaining changes available to them with Lewis Lembikisa coming on for Addo, Jack Mortimer for Gibson, Nicholson for Day and Abdullah Alawhadi for McKinley.
There was even a change of goalkeeper with Aymeric Vidot coming on for Leblond. The changes meant a real reshuffle in the Chester ranks and it took them awhile to get their rhythm back.
When they did they were frustrated a couple of times by the assistant's flag as they seemed almost over eager to get through and go nap. The best two chances of the final period of the play both went begging.
Great work in midfield by Spellman and Watts gave Nicholson a chance to cross towards Alawahdi who would have had a tap-in but for a great intervention by McCabe.
Brewis then worked himself a chance to claim his hat-trick but his left-foot effort from 14 yards was deflected narrowly for a corner that Coxhoe cleared easily. From there United seemed content to play the ball around and keep possession as they strolled to what in the end was a comfortable win.
There's no doubt that this was a game that United were expected to win and win well and to come away with a 4 - 0 away win is indeed a great return. Perhaps though they could have been more ruthless especially late on but it was still a very satisfying three points.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. George Riley 3. Elliott Day 4. Jaden Timmis 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Jak McKinley 7. Ebenezer Addo 8. Ryan Muldoon 9. Jay Gibson 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Michael Spellman
SUBS : 12. Lewis Lembikisa for Addo 13. Aymeric Vidot for Leblond 14. Louis Watts for Riley 15. Alex Nicholson for Day 16. Abdullah Alawahdi for McKinley 17. Jack Mortimer for Gibson
SCORERS : Gibson, Brewis 2 (1 pen), Muldoon (pen)