by Jeff King
Monkwearmouth Charity Cup - 2nd Round
Chester-le-Street United 3 v 1 Windscale
It was Cup day on The Riverside as United met Windscale in the Monkwearmouth Charity Cup with a place in the semi-finals at stake. There was also a series to settle as both teams had won their respective home league games against each other.
United revenging a 3 - 2 loss in Cumbria from September with a stunning 8 - 1 victory in the return fixture last month and with the run they've been on went into the game as clear favourites.
Team news centred around the goalkeeping position with Aymeric Vidot getting an opportunity to start the game with Arthur Leblond rested. Josh Ward continued in central midfield as United were once again without the injured Jak McKinley.
From the start it was obvious that Windscale were set-up not to allow United run riot through their defence as had happened in the league game. They had all XI back behind the ball from the first whistle in what was a clear game plan.
It allowed United to get on the front-foot from the start with even central defenders Elliott Day, Skipper Josh Crews and Jaden Timmis pushing well forward in support of their teammates.
Evidence of this was Day setting up Spellman early on for a left-wing cross that was cleared at the expense of a corner by the Windscale defence. Cameron Brewis took the kick and Crews got up well to direct a header goal wards only to see Windscale keeper Ian Studholme hold well under his crossbar.
Ebenezer Addo was next to try his luck showing great footwork to wriggle free but his shot was blocked by the packed away defence. The ball fell to Brewis who flashed a shot at goal which deflected wide off Lewis White.
It had been all Chester in the early going but Windscale shocked United in the 14th minute taking the lead on their first foray forward. Matt Metcalf's long clearance from the back fell to Sam Thompson in space on the right.
His first-time shot come cross flashed across the Chester six-yard area and Leo Brennan steamed in at the far post to finish from close range with Vidot having no chance to save.
Despite the shock of the goal United continued to pour forward although now that Windscale had something to hold on to their defending seemed even more determined and resolute.
Good hold-up play by Jay Gibson gave Michael Spellman a shooting chance but his effort was well over the top. United were then awarded a free-kick in a dangerous position.
Spellman stepped up and drove the ball past the wall where Studholme dived to save but couldn't hold on. He recovered very quickly though to get up to get to the ball just in front of Day.
The Windscale did even better a couple of minutes later. Day put Brewis in on the left side of the area and the striker's fierce shot was turned away one-hand in brilliant style by Studholme.
Chester were finding it tough to create clear-cut opportunities due to the organisation of the away defence with Daniel Morgan and Byran Todd well to the fore.
Crews picked a loose ball up on halfway and drove forward into space before hitting a low drive from fully thirty yards out that Studholme got down to and scrambled away.
Ryan Muldoon then did well to set-up Gibson inside the crowded are but as the centre forward swivelled and shot he found his own player, Spellman, in the line of fire and the ball deflected wide.
Jaden Timmis was the next one to come forward from the back and he drifted a ball towards goal which looked as if it might sneak into the net but Studholme back-peddling did well to get a hand to it and turn it on to the crossbar.
United were camped inside the Windscale half and at times every player bar Chester keeper Vidot was within forty yards of goal. It meant space was at a premium and openings tough to find.
Timmis set the next one up playing a great 1-2 with Addo before finding Muldoon inside the box but the combative midfielder's effort was easily held by Studholme. Chester's last attack of the first half was another long-range effort from a centre back this time Day firing over the top.
At half-time one team was certainly on top possession wise but the other was one goal to the good and implementing a tough tackling, disciplined rear guard game plan that saw them only forty-five minutes from a surprise result.
It nearly got better for the away side as the second half opened. Todd's long ball from defence caught United square and Brennan raced after the ball. But Vidot in the United goal was alert to the danger and got to it first to clear a dangerous situation.
The game though quickly resumed the status of the first half with United pressing and Windscale defending. One wondered if Davy Crockett had been under as much pressure at The Alamo.
Chester had a corner on the left and Louis Watts took it playing it short to Brewis who homed in on goal only to see see Todd get in yet another block and deflect the effort wide. Windscale comfortably clearing the resulting corner.
Chester then produced one of their best moves of the match when Brewis and Spellman combined to put Day away on the left. His measured cross was flicked towards goal by Brewis' deft header but again Studholme was in the right place to collect comfortably.
Just after the hour mark Chester made their first substitutions with Alex Nicholson and Keaton Senagoga coming on for Watts and Gibson. Blocks and deflections seemed though to be the order of the day for the dogged Windscale defence.
Brewis set up the advancing Day once again and when Studholme blocked the effort it fell to Spellman who was denied once again this time by a Metcalf block. Brewis then took a corner on the left. Crews nodded it down and Muldoon on the half-turn fired just over.
Nicholson and Day then worked a slight opening but once again Todd got across to block the shot at the expense of another corner. This time Brewis' kick found Crews eight yards from goal but he could only direct his firm header narrowly wide.
As the game was about to enter it's final ten minutes it looked like only a Windscale lack of concentration, or error or a piece of magic from United was going to get the game level. It finally came from the persistent Spellman.
Picking a ball up on the left wing he cut inside to the centre of the field before turning back and clipping a low left shot from 20 yards which Studholme got a hand too but couldn't keep out. It was a great effort from Spellman and no more than Chester deserved.
The question now was could Windscale hold on to take the game into a penalty shoot-out? With seven minutes to go that question was answered. Brewis was inside the box and turned quickly to try and get away from Todd.
The Windscale defender was marginally late and could only trip Brewis with the referee immediately pointing to the spot. The level of protest coming from the away side was more of disappointment than disagreement.
Brewis stepped up and drove the spot-kick to Studholme's left. Once again the keeper got a hand to the ball but couldn't prevent it putting Chester in front and finally breaking the spirit of the Windscale rear guard.
Now with no other choice Windscale had to engage their Sat Nav to try and find a way into the Chester half and the game finally opened up. There was no danger of United closing up shop as their opponents had done and they made the game safe in injury time.
Once again it was the dynamic SpellBrew combination that created and finished the tough away side off. Brewis's clipped ball over a finally open Windscale defence saw Spellman in the clear and he finished into the bottom corner with a neat half-volley.
There was hardly time for a restart and as Windscale's players slumped to the ground, United's vociferous home support celebrated a win that had been hard earned in tough circumstances.
Windscale had so nearly executed the perfect game plan but United's never-say-die attitude and commitment to their footballing principles in the end got them the result their efforts deserved.
They will now face Gateshead Leam Rangers in the semi-final at home with a date to be arranged. Leam Rangers beating Shildon Reserves 4 - 0 on the day.
The winners of that semi-final will advance to take on FC Hartlepool in the final who knocked out Wolviston on penalties after the team's finished 1 - 1 on ninety minutes.
TEAM : 1. Aymeric Vidot 2. Jaden Timmis 3. Elliott Day 4. Louis Watts 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Josh Ward 7. Ebenezer Addo 8. Ryan Muldoon 9. Jay Gibson 10. Cameron Brewis 11. Michael Spellman
SUBS : 12. Alex Nicholson for Watts 14. James Bakou (unused) 15. Taylor Robinson for Muldoon 16. Miles Fox (unused) 17. Keaton Senagoga for Gibson
SCORERS : Spellman 2, Brewis (Pen.)