by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division 2 - Wednesday 9th August 2023
Ryton & Crawcrook Albion 1 v 0 Chester-le-Street United
There are a lot of clichés in football. Most of them are true although some are often overused. One that isn't is that goals win matches! Especially, obvious statement coming up, if you score more than your opposition.
Never was that truer in United's latest defeat when they lost their third consecutive NL 2 game at Ryton on Wednesday night. A defeat that sees them still pointless this campaign and rooted, even in these early days, to the bottom of the league table.
Still too early to panic but the longer the run does go on the harder it is to reverse it with confidence gradually being eroded. With Horden CW next up at The Riverside on Saturday it doesn't get any easier for United's youngsters.
In truth though and even the opposition agreed this was a game that United deserved a draw from at the very least. The dominated possession throughout the 90 minutes and created numerous chances which they just did not take.
Ryton were tough opponents for Chester and it was a highly competitive 90 minutes but no-one could have complained if United had gone away with all three points. It was though not meant to be and United must re-group and re-assess for Saturday's home game.
Chester were forced into two changes from the previous game with both Ryan O'Connor and Jude Anderson deemed unfit to play any part. Dan Robinson was available and he came into the starting XI along with Michael Mallaburn (pictured).
United actually carved out their first opportunity within the first minute. Nathan Conroy who had been pushed up front centrally turning well inside the box but just delaying slightly allowing Stephen Ardley to block his effort.
Sloppy play by United actually created Ryton's first effort on goal. Harry Laydon gave the ball away in a dangerous position but Micky Nelson recovered the situation before giving the ball straight to Richard Hoggins 25-yards out.
Hoggins spotted Keiran Harwood off his line and from distance tried floated the ball over the Chester keeper's head but it drifted well wide of the target.
Then from a long Harwood clearance Jack Ledger in a well advanced position broke into the home box only to be denied a clear look at goal by a good covering tackle by Glenn Caygill.
A superb long diagonal ball from Nelson then found Ethan Gray in space on the left. He did well to get the ball into the box where Conroy challenged for it. The ball was bouncing around and fell to Mallaburn but once again the Chester effort was blocked.
United's next attack came from the opposite flank with Robinson crossing from the right to find Ledger at the back post. He headed the ball back into the danger area but Adam Mooney in the RACA goal came out well to claim in front of Conroy.
Brandon Young then won a ball in midfield and picked out Ledger with a cross. The wingback doing well to get to the ball but could only loop his headed effort over the top of the cross bar.
United went really close to opening the scoring on 20 minutes. A lovely ball from Laydon up to Conroy saw the striker lay it off superbly for Young to come onto and crash a 20-yard effort fractionally over the bar with Mooney beaten.
Ryton eventually got into the game and created a chance for Hoggins inside the united area. His fierce snapshot though was well parried by Harwood and skipper Dylan Wilkinson was quickest to the loose ball to clear any further danger.
From the resultant throw-in Callum Senior found Lee Waugh in the box and he turned neatly before firing in a low effort to Harwood's near post but the keeper was well positioned to save easily.
Gray and Ledger were combining well down United's left flank and causing Ryton problems. Once such combination saw Ledger find space to fire in a cross that actually drifted over Mooney but bounced off the top of the cross bar and over.
A lovely United move was started by good enterprising play from Reyhan Grimaud who came out of defence with purpose to win a ball and then sent it wide to Robinson on the right. His measured cross found Mallaburn who stretched to make contact with his head but without sufficient power to trouble Mooney.
The half ended with Ryton pushing forward and from an excellent Senior left-wing cross Aaron Costello flicked an 8-yard header goal wards that produced a brilliant reflex save from Harwood who tipped it over the bar.
Josh Skivington took the corner and found Caygill driving in at the back post to get his head to the ball but he couldn't keep the effort down and the teams left the pitch shortly afterwards level and goal less at the half time whistle.
On the resumption Ryton perhaps had their best period of the game and certainly came out on the front foot driving United back. Costello doing really well to turn inside the Chester box before fizzing an effort across the face of goal and wide of the far post.
Dylan Lawson then made ground into the United box was denied a cross by a good tracking back challenge from Young. Skivington took the resultant corner and Waugh was in for a header but under pressure could only head well over the bar.
But United then had a passage of play where they created four excellent opportunities none of which they took and all of which came back to haunt them. First it was Ledger's left-wing cross that found it's way to Mallaburn in the box.
The United forward took it down well and set it up for a volley from 12 yards but although his effort was on target and Mooney had to dive to hold the shot it lacked the venom necessary to puncture the Ryton net.
Gray then won a ball in midfield well before turning it towards Mallaburn who did well to flick it into the path of Robinson cutting in from the right. With only Mooney to beat the youngster seemed to lack a bit of conviction and from an excellent position pulled his shot wide of the far post.
Then it was Gray again dispossessing a hesitant Caygill to give him a run at the Ryton goal and a one-on-one situation with Mooney. Unfortunately for United Mooney was the victor as although Gray's shot was well-hit it didn't have enough direction to take it wide of the RACA keeper who saved well at close quarters.
If that had been a great chance, Robinson's next one was even better and he really should have opened the scoring for United. Great play by Laydon saw him once again involve Gray in the play with a ball out to the left.
Gray produced a superb cross to the back post and Robinson came in to meet it unmarked and well inside the six-yard area but he could only half-volley it over the top from point blank range.
There's no doubting that United should have taken at least one of those chances and it would have changed the complexation of the game totally. But they didn't and almost immediately after Robinson's miss, the home side took the lead.
How often a side well on top and not taking their chances then concedes a goal out of nothing probably sums up what football is all about and when on 57 minutes the Ryton goal came it was a shock to everyone in the ground.
The ball falling in space in midfield to Costello some 25-yards out from goal. He tried a speculative shot that despite the distance found it's way into the net past a clearly bemused Harwood who didn't react to the effort at all.
A cruel blow to a United side that had been well on top and looking the more likely only to be setback and suddenly looking for an equaliser. They did respond when Mallaburn was fouled by Caygill 22-yards out.
Gray took the free-kick and got it over the wall and on target but once again not far enough out of Mooney's reach who gathered it comfortably.
Harwood then had another scary moment in the United goal as Senior smashed a shot in to his near post that the keeper reacted late too but managed to turn away from goal.
Gray and Mallaburn then combined well to send Gray running at speed into the box. Laquan Esdaille the Ryton skipper got across well to block Gray with the ball running free to Mallaburn who pulled his shot well wide from a good position.
Young then showed his skills and passing ability to good effect when he released Ledger on the left with an excellent slide-rule pass. Ledger did well to get to the by-line and pull the ball back to Conroy.
As Conroy tried to get his shot away Caygill blocked him. The ball spinning to Mallaburn on the edge of the box and his vicious first-time volley took a deflection off Waugh and went just over the bar.
From the corner Gray landed a dangerous ball into the middle that Grimaud got a downward header on but again it deflected off a defender and spun to safety. It had been a good response from United but they couldn't turn it in to an equaliser.
Ryton did get the ball forward on a couple of occasions to ease the pressure and even won a corner on one of those occasions but Skivington's whipped in delivery was well claimed by Harwood.
Gray then made another burst through the left channel and looked as if he was going to create another United opening but as he drove forward he was upended just outside the box for a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Mallaburn claimed responsibility but his effort always looked too high once it cleared the wall and so it proved as it went well over the top of the cross bar.
Grimaud then won a throw-in deep in Ryton territory taking it quickly to try and find Robinson who was bursting into the box. Ardley though coming across to concede a corner.
Gray swung the ball ball in and it was half cleared. Young did really well battling to get to the ball first the setting up Laydon on the edge of the box but his midfield partner snatched at his shot and fired well over.
Substitute Joe Walls who had come on late for Mallaburn almost snatched an equaliser deep into stoppage time. His 25-yard effort deflecting of Ryton substitute Harvey Russell and clipping the bar on the way over.
Laydon's deep delivery from the corner saw Wilkinson come in at the far post but his header back across the goal evaded everyone including the opposite post. There was no time for the goal kick to be taken as the referee blew the final whistle.
So to to the goal scorer's the points and the win. There's no doubt at all this was United's best performance of the short league season so far and they more than deserved at least a share of the spoils for their efforts.
But facts are facts and if you don't take the chances afforded to you football has a cruel way of making you pay and so it proved. Costello's speculative effort which Harwood should have done better with being the difference on the night.
Horden CW up next for United on Saturday 12th August with the much-anticipated return to The Riverside of last season's Chester skipper and Player's Player as well as Manager's Player of the Year, Taylor Campbell.
TEAM : 1. Keiran Harwood 2. Reyhan Grimaud 3. Jack Ledger 4. Harry Laydon 5. Dylan Wilkinson (C ) 6. Micky Nelson 7. Dan Robinson 8. Brandon Young 9. Nathan Conroy 10. Michael Mallaburn 11. Ethan Gray
SUBS : 12 Joe Sykes - DNP 13. James Hughes (GK) - DNP 14. Joe Walls (for Mallaburn 84 mins) 15. Ben Glendinning - DNP 16. Dan Walton (for Conroy 68 mins)