by Jeff King
Ebac Northern League Division Two - Saturday 1st October 2022 Blyth Town 1 v 2 Chester-le-Street United
Once again United were forced into changes from the team that had earned an excellent win against Sunderland West End on Tuesday night. There was a full starting debut for Reserves skipper Aaron Davidson and a recall to the starting XI for Benji Shodeinde.
Blyth Town had been on a terrific run prior to their 4 – 0 home loss against Redcar in midweek. A result that had meant them dropping from first place in the division although they could have gone back to the top with a win.
United knew they were in for a tough game and the monsoon conditions that greeted the teams prior to kick-off wasn’t going to make it any easier making the pitch slippy and difficult to pass on.
However, United were quickly into their stride as both sides went close inside the first sixty seconds with Town in particular missing a great chance to take an early lead. First it was United with Jack Oliver sending Alex Fil flying down the left wing.
His low cross was awkward for Town keeper Callum Corkhill who fumbled the ball but was relieved to see it spin away for a corner. Taylor Campbell delivered, and Corkhill did well to punch clear under pressure.
The ball was cleared up field and fell kindly for Blyth to Josh Willis he played a neat inside pass to Rhys McLeod who put Brandon Slater clean through on goal one-on-one with Kieran Harwood.
Slater went for the chip over the advancing Harwood and saw the ball bounce wide of the mark with the goal gaping. It was a bad miss for the home side.
United went up the other end and won a throw-in which Thomas Cole hurled long into the box finding Shodeinde. The striker turned his man well but before he could strike at goal the whistle went for a handball.
Town produced a nice flowing move through midfield that release an overlapping George Hamon on the right. His cross looked dangerous as it flew into the middle, but Harwood came to claim well.
McLeod then got away on the left and produced a long cross towards Slater breaking free inside the box but th delivery was just too high and drifted over the striker’s head and away for a goal kick.
United then had a good spell of possession allowing Oliver to play a great ball inside the box to Shodeinde. He turned the ball inside which caused a real scramble in the danger are with the ball falling to Davidson who struck it really cleanly at goal only to see it bounce to safety off a Blyth block.
The opening goal for Chester came on 25 minutes and almost inevitably Campbell and Keallan Huddleston were involved. It was Sam Johnson that was fouled out wide on the right.
Campbell whipped in a superb free-kick to the six-yard box ans September’s Player of the Month, Huddleston, rose highest to flick the ball home with Corkhill stranded.
Blyth were denied a great chance for an equaliser when Huddleston fouled Slater just inside the United half, the referee should have played the advantage as Willis was tearing away at goal. But the official blew up instead cautioning Huddleston.
Just after this McLeod went down under a strong but fair challenge from Josh Crews in the box falling awkwardly. It was to be his last action of the game as he was stretchered off to be replaced by Dean Walker.
United took full advantage of the home team reshuffle to forge further ahead on 36 minutes. Fil played the ball forward and Alex Marriott got into a tangle trying to play the ball back to Corkhill who in turn didn’t collect the ball cleanly.
It spun away from his grasp and Shodeinde was alert to the opportunity collecting the loose ball, rounding the keeper and tapping it into an empty net. An awful moment for Blyth but a fortuitous one for an alert Shodeinde.
Town battled back gamely and actually came up with a goal to get them back in the game on 42 minutes and what a beauty it was. A long ball forward from the back was headed neatly by Walker into the path of Kevin Westphal.
He hit a superb half-volley from 25 yards out that flew over the stricken Harwood into the top left corner of the net.
United were straight back at ti from the re-start with Oliver again freeing Fil on the left. His powerful surging run took him clear of the defence to the by-line where he cut the ball back to Shodeinde who could only poke it wide from inside the six-yard box.
Blyth almost found an equaliser as time ran out in a highly entertaining first half. Charlie Walker picked out a great pass to send Slater in on goal but as he steadied himself to shoot, Oliver slid in and made a superb block allowing United to retain their lead at the break.
After the break the rain that had relented briefly in the first half returned with a vengeance turning the game into a real war of attrition as the sides battled each other and the conditions.
Cole was booked for foul on Westphal who got up to swing in a dangerous free kick to the back post that Joseph Gibson got his head too but couldn’t direct on target.
United countered with Campbell finding Shodeinde with a pass that the striker hit first time with the outside of his right foot only to see the effort fly over the top.
Back came Town who were starting to get on top now and almost levelled midway through the half. Willis swept a ball wide to Westphal who crossed to find Ben Fell up with his attack.
His header was turned on to the post by the diving Harwood with the rebound falling to Slater. He knocked it goal wards only to see Huddleston recover and clear it off the line.
A combination of the same Blyth attack again almost forced an equaliser with twenty minutes to go. This time Slater headed Westhphal’s cross into the path of Fell whose flick was half saved by Harwood with Huddleston throwing himself into melee to clear bravely.
United had a brief few moments of respite from Blyth’s constant bombardment when the ball fell to Johnson on the edge of the box and his well struck effort deflected wide. Campbell swung in the corner which was cleared by Marriott at the expense of another.
In fact, United forced two further corners from this in quick succession but despite Campbell’s pinpoint delivery both were cleared and eventually Blyth returned to their search for an equaliser putting the United defence under real pressure.
Balls into the box kept getting repelled and even when Town tried something different, Nathan Beesley’s long-range well struck effort looked dangerous but flew inches wide. Park View Academy attendee Dillon Short was on for the home side.
He had Blyth’s last two reasonable efforts which could have produced and ironical equaliser. First of all, a long throw-in to the United box was half cleared to him just outside the box and his first-time effort deflected off Crews from a corner.
That corner was cleared by the United defence but fell to Short who was fouled by Oliver. He took the free kick from a very dangerous position but Cole blocked it and the ball went for a corner that Crews headed clear.
The referee found six minutes of agonising additional time for United’s hearts and minds to survive. But survive they did with some excellent defence lead by the back line trio of Wilkinson, Crews and Huddleston.
When the final whistle eventually went it signalled a great away win for United and a superb three points that had taken all their mettle and character to fight and defend for.
TEAM : 1. Kieran Harwood 2. Keallan Huddleston 3. Dylan Wilkinson 4. Taylor Campbell (c) 5. Josh Crews 6. Aaron Davidson 7. Thomas Cole 8. Jack Oliver 9.Benjamin Shodeinde 10. Sam Johnson 11. Alex Fil
SUBS : 12. James Morley (for Davidson 67 mins) 14. Ethan Gray (unused) 15. Evan Gray (unused) 16. Emanuel Igiehon (unused) 17. Elliot McClean (for Fil 70 mins)
SCORERS : Huddleston, Shodeinde