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United Stunned By Washy In Vital Basement Battle

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Wednesday 6th March 2024

Chester-le-Street United 1 v 2 Washington

After two superb away victories in a row an in-form and confident United side returned to The Riverside for another vital battle at the wrong end of the table. Their opponents being Washington a side one place but several points worse off than Chester.

By the end of the 90 minutes though Washington were three points closer although still below United after they grabbed an unlikely win to give them a glimmer of hope at the bottom.

It's debatable to say whether Washington deserved their victory as United squandered several good chances to put the game away. But Washington showed great resilience and commitment and when they had chances they took them.

It was certainly a triumphant return to The Riverside for former United First Team Coach Kris Thackray now a member of the Washington coaching staff.

United once again only made one change from their previous game with Harvey Rudd dropping down to the bench and being replaced by Ashton Houlahan. The versatile Reyhan Grimaud dropping across to the right-hand side.

Chester started the game like a team in form and had Washington on the back foot from the off with their defence stretched as they tried to hold out. Two early corners with Houlahan and Charlie Loveday involved both coming to nothing.

Then Jacob Mallinson put Jude Anderson through on goal but he delayed his shot just a touch too long and found himself crowded out by a scrambling Washington defence.

Washington's first real foray forward saw Tim Barney feed Nathan Kidd but his shot was deflected wide by Ollie Barnett defending well for United. Barney taking the kick and finding Bailey Rhodes at the back post but he couldn't climb high enough to direct his header at goal.

Then a Chester attack resulted in Brad Beresford fouling Loveday. Ryan O'Connor's ball into Anderson saw a corner conceded by Sam Irwin. Houlahan took it and the ball was cleared only as far as Loveday who nodded it back into the box.

Micky Nelson getting to the ball first but he headed narrowly over the Washington bar from about 10-yards out. United though did not have to wait long to take the lead as a goal came on 20 minutes.

O'Connor making a great challenge to win the ball 30-yards from goal and finding Loveday. The attacking midfielder played a delightful ball through the Washington defence giving Anderson a 1-on-1 opportunity against Jack Halton.

The keeper did well to block Anderson's initial effort but could do nothing to stop the follow-up which fell back to Anderson who guided it home from an agle with his left foot inside the six-yard box.

United went searching for a second and saw Loveday break forward and then from 20-yards hit a good effort that was on target but straight at Halton who saved easily.

Washington did respond when Danny O'Reilly set Nathan Kidd up with a good chance just inside the United box but he failed to test James Hughes in the Chester goal as he fired over the bar.

Hughes was tested moments later when Lewis Johnson tried his luck from fully 35 yards but Hughes got down well to make a comfortable expected save. BAck came United who almost doubled their lead.

It came from a Houlahan free kick that was floated beautifully over the top of the Washington defence but Barnett just couldn't get a decisive touch with only Halton to beat.

Then United really should have gone two-up as half-time approached. Anderson held the ball up well and then laid it off to Loveday who returned it superbly to send the United scorer in with only Halton to beat.

But Anderson showed a lack of composure and blazed the ball well over the top from inside the box spurning a great opportunity to double his own and his side's tally and perhaps to put the game out of Washington's reach.

It nearly proved costly as Rhodes joined Anderson in missing a golden opportunity. This time Barnett's error gave Rhodes and Washington the chance to draw level but the finish was poor as the forward dragged his effort well wide.

Loveday had showed up well in attack for United and almost created a great chance for his side. Darting away on the right he delivered a great cross towards the unmarked Jacob Mallinson at the back post. Halton though came off his line to claim the ball in front of the United player in great style.

On 62 minutes United were rocked by a Washington equaliser which they'll look at and think they should have cleared. A corner by Ben Gibbon was only partially palmed away by Hughes in the United goal.

The ball falling to Barney who's effort was blocked but fell to the unmarked Kidd who smashed it low with his right-foot from 10-yards to level proceedings on the night. But United responded immediately almost re-taking the lead.

Loveday found Dylan Wilkinson on the right and he picked out Mallinson at the far post with the United midfielder' effort coming unluckily back into play with Halton beaten. Then once again Anderson missed a crucial chance.

This time O'Connor put him once again through 1-on-1 on goal against Halton and again the finish lacked composure as he blazed it over the top from 16 yards out with only Halton to beat.

The misses were compounded on 76 minutes when a good spell of pressure from Washington saw them take the lead. They'd gone close a couple of times with a Ethan Oswald serving effort well saved by Hughes at full stretch and then Kidd firing just over from 25-yards before the breakthrough came.

It was another Washington corner from Gibbon that created the opening. This time United in the form of Houlahan on the line did clear the initial ball that was swung in. Beresford though retrieved the clearance well and passed to Oswald.

His floated ball into the area saw Barnett allow Rhodes to get the wrong side of him and behind the helpless Nelson. The striker using the space to side-foot a sliding half-volley home first time from six yards.

United now needed an equaliser but in the last 15 minutes of the game couldn't find one as they wasted more good chances. Loveday putting substitute Kobe Bewicke in on goal but he was denied by a last-ditch tackle by Beresford.

Then, unfortunately, it was Anderson the culprit again. Barnett's long clearance going over the Washington defence and giving Anderson another clear run on goal. This time the striker's touch let him down as it took him away from goal.

He recovered but had forced himself too wide and the angle was now against him as he hit his shot into the side netting. Loveday then put Bewicke in on goal again. This time the effort was on target but Halton made a brilliant brave block.

United threw everything forward as the game crept into injury with the Washington defence hanging on. Nelson went up front as an auxiliary forward and almost got rewarded for his thinking and purpose.

Substitute Liam Paul heading strongly into the box where Nelson stretching got on the end of the ball but could only fire his free space volley over the top to bring an end to United's chances.

When the whistle went it was a very disappointed Chester side that trooped off the field having once again fallen at home and failing to build on their fine away performances.

It leaves them still well clear of Washington in reality but they are still looking over their shoulders instead of increasing their breathing space between the two sides.

TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Reyhan Grimaud 3. Ollie Barnett 4. Ryan O'Connor 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Michael Nelson 7. Charlie Loveday 8. Ashton Houlahan 9. Jude Anderson 10. Jacob Mallinson 11. Jack Ledger

SUBS : 12. Harvey Rudd - DNP 14. Liam Paul (for Ledger 55 mins) 15. Kobe Bewicke (for Houlahan 65 mins) 16. Michael Mallaburn - DNP 17. Jack Wilson - DNP

SCORER : Anderson 20 mins.

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