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United Win Again Away On Familiar Territory

by Jeff King

Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Saturday 10th February 2024

Sunderland West End 1 v 2 Chester-le-Street United

After the previous week's long-awaited victory and goals, United went in search of more in a real basement battle against Sunderland West End. The venue the Ford Hub Quarry, home of West End being very familiar to Chester having housed the majority of the home games in their inaugural NL season.

There was no doubting that the surface suited a United side that were looking to make it back-to-back wins for the first time this season and build on the excellent 2 - 1 home win over Bedlington Terriers.

There were also new faces in the United line-up for the game. Ollie Burnett a left-footed defender and former West End player coming in from Gateshead Rutherford for his debut and Jacob Mallinson via Esh Winning and Spennymoor Under-18s being on the bench.

United and Ryan O'Connor started in really positive fashion. On 4 minutes Micky Nelson delivered a measured diagonal ball from the back finding Jack Ledger on the left-side.

Ledger moved the ball on to Charlie Loveday who slipped it neatly into O'Connor on the edge of the box. The midfielder being really unlucky to see his superb effort come crashing off the far post.

But O'Connor was not to be denied and if his first effort had been well struck his second one a mere minute later was even better. Another attack down the left saw O'Connor pick the ball up move inside and from fully 25-yards smash a fabulous shot right into the 'postage stamp' to put United 1 - 0 up.

It was a brilliant strike and one that Ben Charlton could do nothing about. However, Charlton did keep his side in the game on 18 minutes with a great save from Dan Robinson's crisp 22-yard effort after Robinson was set-up by the dancing feet of Loveday.

A minute later though Ben Charlton was beaten again as United continued their fine opening to the game. The goal came from a free kick awarded when O'Connor was tripped just outside of the box in a central position.

Nelson stepped up after O'Connor dummied a shot and his goal bound and on target effort did take a deflection before wrong footing Ben Charlton to double Chester's lead.

United now well on top saw another Robinson effort from just outside the box fly over the top before West End retaliated with their first effort on goal. Bailey Judson allowed to run unchallenged before shooting wide with his left foot from 22-yards.

Bailey Judson looked like West End's best chance of getting back into the game showing up well. His creative play opening a chance for Lewis Charlton who from the edge of the box lifted his shot well over the bar.

Nelson almost doubled his tally and Chester's lead with another free kick on 38 minutes. This time Loveday was fouled about 25-yards out centrally. Nelson's shot was beautifully struck and needed a great diving tip-over the top from Ben Charlton to keep it out.

Ben Charlton was certainly being called upon to show his ability and denied Chester once again minutes later. This time Loveday wriggled free on the byline and pulled a great ball back into the centre finding O'Connor.

He looked a certain scorer with a clear site of goal from about 12 yards but Ben Charlton made a brilliant reflex block with his feet to keep O'Connor's goal bound effort out.

Right on the stroke of half-time the under siege West End almost grabbed a lifeline and once again Judson was at the heart of the matter. He was fouled by Ledger level with the penalty area and got up to take the free kick.

He floated a really dangerous in towards the United goal line but Dylan Wilkinson was there to brilliantly head the ball away under pressure from virtually under his own bar. It was a great clearing header and preserved United's lead at the half.

After a pretty dominant first 45 minutes United looked in control but Sunderland to their credit came out in a totally different frame of mind in the second half and attacked from the off looking a totally different team.

They forced an early corner which United only half cleared and when the ball was played back in West End skipper Adam McGuiness flicked a header on target to force James Hughes into his first save of the game which he made comfortably.

A minute later though Hughes had to make a much more difficult save parrying brilliantly when DYlan Archer's square ball found almost inevitably Bailey Judson inside the United box and his snapshot look destined for the corner.

Then a left wing cross from Luke McCabe was flicked narrowly wide by Bailey Rhodes from about 10-yards out with Hughes watching the ball all the way. It was almost a complete reversal of the first half and West End did pull one back.

It came on 68 minutes and it was no surprise when it was Bailey Judson who was the man to fire home from inside the United area after a ball played inside caused confusion and fell to him to finish it neatly.

Now it was all West End and Chester were having to dig deep. Some resolute and great defending stemming Sunderland's forward possession and when the defenders were beaten there was always Hughes to beat as well.

The United keeper making another brilliant diving parry to keep out substitute Liam Logan's fiercely struck right foot effort from the edge of the 18-yard box. Then a ball to the back post looked destined for the unmarked Lewis Charlton but he failed to connect with the goal gaping.

Chances coming and chances not taken the United confidence began to return as time ticked down and they actually created the best two chances of the remaining minutes.

A brilliant spinning turn and run by Robinson got him clear on the left with a crossing opportunity and his ball in was only inches away to being turned home by a stretching Kobe Bewicke.

Then it was Ben Lawton on as substitute for Harvey Rudd cutting in from the left to do well to find Robinson. He held the ball up well as Ledger overlapped into a shooting position. Robinson releasing the ball perfectly into his path.

Ledger hit a fine angled drive at goal but saw Ben Charlton get down really well to turn it away for a corner which was taken by Michael Mallaburn and delivered well into the middle but West End managed to clear their lines.

It was the last real action of the game and the referee's final whistle brought relief to Chester as they recorded a tremendously important win and three more welcome points in the battle to claw themselves up the table.

They had dominated the first half but had to withstand a ferocious attempted comeback from West End in the second before finally seeing the game out to record their first back-to-back league wins of the season.

TEAM : 1. James Hughes 2. Harvey Rudd 3. Jack Ledger 4. Ollie Barnett 5. Dylan Wilkinson (c) 6. Michael Nelson 7. Dan Robinson 8. Reyhan Grimaud 9. Kobe Bewicke 10. Ryan O'Connor 11. Charlie Loveday

SUBS : 12. Liam Paul - DNP 14. Michael Mallaburn (for Loveday 75 mins) 15. Ben Lawton (for Rudd 62 mins) 16. Jude Anderson (for Bewicke 88 mins) 17. Jacob Mallinson (for O'Connor 68 mins)

SCORERS : O'Connor 5 mins, Nelson 19 mins.

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