by Jeff King
Wearside League Division 1 - Saturday 9th April 2022
Chester-le-Street United 3 v 2 Wolviston
A very dramatic day was ended in thrilling fashion after a highly entertaining game between two good committed footballing sides. At the end of 90 pulsating minutes United emerged victorious to stay at the top of the league.
The story started way, way before kick-off with the news that Wolviston, who were due to host the afternoon's fixture, had been blighted with drainage problems overnight. It meant that Metcalfe Park was flooded and unfit for play.
Luckily both teams came together in harmony and agreed to switch the game to The Riverside at short notice. Cue frantic phone calls from both Clubs to organise the venue, officials and players as well as notifying Social Media outlets.
In the end with great endeavour in both camps the two sides were able to line-up opposite each other for a 14:00pm kick-off. United made one change from the side that had beaten Durham Corinthians 1 - 0 in midweek. Dan Lanning coming in for Jack Mortimer up front.
Wolviston started the stronger, immediately showing why they were unbeaten in league play since mid-September. United skipper Josh Crews conceded a free-kick wide on the left. Scott Ryan floated the ball into the Chester box where Joe Thompson got free but he could only direct his header well over.
Top scorer Mikey McGee then showed what a dangerous player he is as he drove forward well from midfield to get away from the United defence but he dragged his shot well wide.
Crews almost set-up United's first chance with a clever ball over the top of the visitor's defence which Jay Gibson sprinted to get on the end of but he was beaten to the ball by the alert Ben Fairless coming off his line quickly to gather the ball.
Jake Stott then made good progress down the Chester right playing the ball into the path of McGee who struck a great effort from the edge of the box that flew just wide of the near post with Arthur Leblond beaten.
Chester had more of the possession but Wolviston were well organised in defence and solid in midfield and able to stem any forward movement from the home side. Meanwhile at the other end Wolviston were looking dangerous.
McGee turned provider with a good ball into the box towards Ryan but George Riley got across well to concede a corner. Thompson swung the ball in dangerously but Gibson was there to clear the danger at the expense of another corner.
This time Thompson's delivery saw Chris Fairless beat the outstretched arms of Leblond to the ball but the big centre back could only head over under pressure. Stott then trying to break down the left earned another corner after he was well tackled by Dylan Wilkinson.
Ryan swung the ball over and Crews powered a header clear. Declan Blades picked up the loose ball and from long-range hit a shot that was easily saved by the well-placed Leblond.
Despite the early possession and half chances Wolviston could not take advantage and United began to grow into the game. Taylor Robinson did superbly to break up play in the middle of the park and find Cameron Brewis.
Brewis laid the ball off nicely to Lanning on the edge of the box and his first-time effort was inches over the bar with Ben Fairless struggling to get across. Back came Wolviston with Jordon Fenwick's cross-field ball finding McGee.
This time the lively McGee sped away from James Bakou and on the run clipped a lovely effort towards the far corner that Leblond took two clutches at before gathering in safely.
Bakou though did well at the other end to find Lanning inside the box. The young striker twisting and turning past a defender and just as it looked like he' made an opening Chris Fairless stood up well to block him.
From the corner taken by Brewis, Wolviston mounted a great counter-attack when Fenwick looked as though he'd put Stott through but the covering defender was the covering busy Bakou.
Brewis then worked himself some space but would have been disappointed with his finish that lacked power and was easily collected by Ben Fairless. McGee was certainly the standout player for Wolviston going forward especially driving from midfield. Another great run and left-foot shot forced Leblond into another smart save going low to his left.
On 35 minutes it was Chester that struck first and what a good goal it was. Day played a superb long ball to the back post which found Gibson inside the box. The in-form striker took it well and went round Ben Fairless in the Wolviston goal.
The defenders forced him wide but he remained controlled and laid the ball back to Lanning who showed his finishing prowess by guiding his right-foot effort unerringly into the top corner.
A great effort from Lanning and a nicely crafted goal from a United side that had been gradually growing into the game as every minute had passed. Wolviston were stung but replied quickly almost forcing an equaliser.
This time Ryan got away to create space for an effort. His well-struck cross-shot flew goal wards but Leblond once again was equal to the task with a great one-handed parry as he dived full-length.
The last action of a great half of football from both sides almost saw Chester double their lead when Crews got up brilliantly to meet Robinson's corner only to see his header cannon back off the cross-bar.
United went in to the changing rooms a goal to the good but everyone watching knew it was still going to be game on in the second forty-five. As the teams came out for the second half United made a change with Lewis Lembikisa coming on for Day.
The first opportunity on the resumption fell to Wolviston and that man McGee again. This time he intercepted a poor ball from Louis Watts before twisting and turning through the Chester defence before firing wide once again.
It was the last action for a clearly struggling Watts who limped off to be replaced by Evan Gray.
Great ball control and adjustment of feet by Bakou saw him wrong-foot the visitor's defence and allow him to pass to Robinson on the edge of the box. The midfielder's curling effort was well intentioned but Ben Fairless adjusted his feet well to make an easy catch.
Brewis then made a great run in the left channel and crossed to the back post where Bakou got free and on the end of it but his connection wasn't full-on and the chance went begging.
At the other end Leblond had to be off his line quickly to beat Stott to Dowson's chip over the Chester defence. The game was certainly one where both sides were giving their all to try and prise open each other's defences.
The search for a visiting equaliser went on with McGee being at the centre of most positive things for his side. He played a lovely ball into his Captain Jae Wilson but the effort from the advanced centre back flashed just over the bar.
McGee then swung a dangerous ball into the United box that Robinson did well to intercept and clear for a corner. Thompson hit an in swinger that Leblond fumbled over his head but saw Bakou do brilliantly to clear off the line and save his blushes.
Leblond though redeemed himself almost immediately as Bakou's clearance was picked up by Stott who drove a great effort through a packed area that saw Leblond fly to his left to turn the ball away in spectacular style.
Then, on 67 minutes Chester doubled their lead with an absolute beauty of a goal. Lanning picked a ball up infield and turned towards goal. With people urging him to pass he ignored the cries and rifled a superb right-foot shot from 20 yards that arrowed into the bottom far corner giving Ben Fairless no chance.
It was a wonderful effort from the youngster who is beginning to make quite the impression on the Chester first-team since his introduction to the squad and the team.
Chester though were not home and hosed as Wolviston showed great character to push them back. Gray had given United fresh impetus on the right linking up well with Wilkinson before crossing deep but there was no one on the end of his ball.
Wolviston almost snatched a way back into the game when a fantastic strike by Fenwick from distance cannoned back into play off the post with Leblond beaten. The ball came out to Thompson whose first-time effort was just too high.
The Wolviston manager Chris Lax rolled the dice to make a further push by replacing Wilson and Ryan with Nathan Bayes and Joel Callender. What an inspired double substitution it proved to be.
On 78 minutes Crews tripped Callender outside the box. McGee stepped up and flashed his shot past the defensive ball where Leblond diving across failed to gather and the ball fell free. Bayes was the first to it and he smashed it into the empty net from close-range. Now it was game on!
Brewis was clearly struggling for the home side and they nearly made a change with Matty Pattison poised to come on. However, Brewis waved ir away in a significant moment for the game.
But before then Wolviston had their moment with 87 minutes on the clock. United cleared a Thompson corner but were slow getting out of their box. It allowed Stott to play a ball over them finding fellow substitute Callender with just Leblond to beat.
He did it very coolly indeed to bring his side level and seemingly give them a point that would have dented United's championship challenge. But, there was one more twist in the tail.
The game was deep into injury-time when Lembikisa played a ball into the Wolviston box for Gray to run onto. Thompson came across to try and cut out the danger and the clash between the two sent Gray sprawling to the floor.
The Chester officials and players all appealed vociferously in unison and the referee had no hesitation in answering their pleas as he pointed to the spot. The far from fully fit Brewis stepping forward as United designated penalty taker.
United's top scorer showed superb composure to drill his spot-kick left-footed right into the bottom corner past the despairing dive and left-hand of the beaten Ben Fairless. It was Brewis' 37th goal of the season and his first in five games.
It was cruel on Wolviston but delight for United as there was barely time for the game to re-start before the referee's final whistle of the day. A dramatic and glorious ending for United giving them all three vital points in the race to be crowned Champions.
It came oh-so late but it came and keeps them on track. The game though was a fantastic advert for the Wearside League and Wolviston deserve massive plaudits for the part they played.
TEAM : 1. Arthur Leblond 2. Dylan Wilkinson 3. George Riley 4. Taylor Robinson 5. Josh Crews (c) 6. Louis Watts 7. James Bakou 8. Cameron Brewis 9. Jay Gibson 10. Dan Lanning 11. Elliott Day
SUBS : 12. Matty Pattison (unused) 13. Mauro Asikaogu (unused) 15. Lewis Lembikisa for Day 16. Evan Gray for Watts
SCORERS : Lanning 2, Brewis (pen)