by Jeff King
The former Newcastle Eagles Basketball Head Coach Fabulous Flournoy once told me that no matter how much you're better than the side you're playing if you have to play them several times in a short space of time it's difficult to keep beating them.
Prophetic words indeed and ones that could definitely be applied to Saturday's Wearside League clash at Silksworth Welfare Park. The home side made it third time lucky against an understrength Chester side. United had defeated CW in both league and Monkwearmouth Cup clashes since the opening of the season but Saturday found that run ended in disappointing style.
The disappointment came more from the result than the performance as for long periods the youngsters controlled and indeed dominated the game. But the Silksworth defence held firm and when it was breached goalkeeper Jak Wright was always in the right place to keep his side in the game.
Silksworth clearly had learned from the previous two games and decided they could not beat their visitors by going toe to toe and allowing Chester to play their free flowing football. They clearly were going to use spoiling tactics which on the day played to their advantage.
On a long sloping pitch it took United seven minutes to fashion their first chance. Alex Fil on competitive debut did well on the left and picked out Taylor Robinson with a good ball inside. Robinson took it well but struck it just wide from the edge of the box.
Silksworth response was a good ball in by Chris Stevens towards burly centre forward Lee Mulvain but Arthur Leblond in the Chester goal was alert and came off his line to gather well.
Chester won a corner on the right and Ricardo Pereira's delivery found Josh Crews getting on the end of it but despite a good connection the ball was too close to Wright who took it comfortably.
Pereira was looking the most likely outlet for United to create problems for the home defence. On the 20 minute mark he made a brilliant break down the right and crossed for Alex Nicholson who's first time shot was well blocked by the Silksworth defence.
Pereira then did well to get on the end of a deep Elliott Day free-kick but could only direct his header over the top. On the half hour mark Silksworth almost exploited a weakness in the Chester defence.
From a right wing corner taken by Josh Winthrop centre half Dan Thompson rose unchallenged in the box but could only direct his powerful header just over the top when he perhaps should have done better.
A lovely move by the visitors almost got them a reward. Crews long switch ball to the left gave Fil a crossing opportunity and he found Abdullah Alawahdi but the forward's effort was once again well blocked by the Silksworth defence.
The lively Pereira then had United's final opportunity when he cut in really well from the right but his 20 year effort was always rising as it cleared the home crossbar.
It was the last meaningful action of a first half where Chester had been well on top but just lacked the right ball in the final third. They also had been unable to get close enough to goal thanks to a well-marshalled home defence which was frustrating them.
The second half picked up exactly where the first had ended. Chester probing but unable to find the killer instinct needed to get in front. A perfect example of this came with the first opportunity of the second period.
Alawahdi did well to lay the ball into the path of Robinson who's curling effort towards the top corner was nicely held by Wright moving smartly to his left. On 48 minutes Silksworth had their first shot on target.
Joe Jones bustled through the central midfield to create the opportunity for a strike but his low effort was well held by the diving Leblond at his left-hand post.
The 56th minute saw Chester's best chance to almost take the lead. Another superb break down the right from Pereira saw him find Alawahdi inside the box. His chipped effort looked as if it was going to drift into the far corner.
But Wright denied United once again getting up well to turn the effort away one-handed. The ball fell loose to Nicholson at the back post but he was unable to control the ball well enough and the chance was gone.
United made a couple of changes on the hour mark. James Bakou coming on for Nicholson and Ebenezer Addo for the disappointing Lewis Lembisika. Addo certainly made a difference with his pace and direct running.
The next chance though fell to the home side who were beginning to grow in confidence as Mulvain flicked a back header just wide from Jordan Dagg's deep cross.
But Chester were soon back on the attack and another low right foot effort from Alawahdi from the edge of the box was well held by Wright. Addo was then fouled on the left and Day's dangerous free kick drifted away at the far post with no-one in place to take advantage.
Addo then almost burst through the middle but was forced wide. He kept composed though to turn the ball back into Alawahdi's path who in turn found Pereira. The wide man's effort was well struck but despite stinging Wright's palms the keeper was able to recover the parried effort quickly.
A lovely short corner move from the visitors almost caught Silksworth out. It was set-up by Robinson and Pereira who curled in a great cross that was met by Day at the far post. The defender's header was goal bound but the dependable Wright got across to save well.
Just when it looked like a goal wasn't coming the home side took the lead on 80 minutes against the run of play. Jones was the man to get his side in front as he won a corner on the right.
Stevens' delivery was excellent and Jones stormed in to send a bullet header flashing past the helpless Leblond to the delight of the home contingent who celebrated the effort wildly.
United had ten minutes to find an equaliser but to be fair the home side held on comfortably and continued to frustrate their younger opponents who simply ran out of ideas as time ticked down.
Director of Sport and First-Team Coach John Gamble summed up the game well at the end pointing to the performance being good but that his side had lacked the killer instinct in the final thread and were outdone by a set-piece once again.
Perhaps this was one of those games where experience, nous and physicality just edged the 90 minutes against a footballing side that for all their technical ability and skill just could not find a way through against a tough opponent on the day.
Next up for Chester is the long trip to Windscale in Egremont in midweek. It is an opportunity to get their title challenge back on track but once again it will be a tough encounter.
Their hosts are on a four-match winning run that has seen them score seventeen goals in those four games to take them into the top half of the league. United will certainly be hoping and looking to get some of the players back who missed Saturday's game to face another difficult game.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. George Riley 3. Elliott Day 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Jaden Timmis 7. Ricardo Pereira 8. Alex Nicholson 9. Abdullah Alawahdi 10. Alex Fil 11. Lewis Lembikiska
SUBS : 12. Florian Thomas (not used) 13. Aymeric Vidot (not used) 14. Ebenezer Addo for Lembisika 15. James Bakou for Alex Nicholson