by Jeff King
FA Youth Challenge Cup 2nd Qualifying Round - Tuesday 3rd October 2023
Spennymoor Town 2 v 4 Chester-le-Street United
United's youngsters continued their fine run in the prestigious FA Youth Challenge Cup and kept their dreams alive of facing professional League opposition with a fine away win in the 2nd Qualifying Round.
Under the captaincy of first team regular Jack Ledger they'll now enter the hat for the 3rd Qualifying Round which is the round before the First Round proper. The stage at which the English Football League clubs join the competition.
Once again through injuries and unavailability it was a very young squad that turned up at the lovely 'professional' looking surroundings of The Brewery Field, Spennymoor.
This was somewhat of a revenge mission as well. Last season's first foray into this FA competition had been ended by Spennymoor Town in the 1st Qualifying Round so United were looking to reverse that result on the night and did they ever!
It was a hugely entertaining game of football from two young sides that all night long went hammer and tongs at each other in a very sporting atmosphere with both sides looking to get the ball down and pass it around.
United had the first opening of the game on 4 minutes when Ben Lawton set-up Charlie Bunton just inside the box but the wide forward's shot was well charged down by Nathan Bushby.
Jonathan Beattie then for the first time but not the last bombed forward from right back before finding Bunton again inside the Moors box. This time Bunton's effort was a cross come shot that Theo Webster in the Moors goal did well to save.
United had made a good start but were rocked on 10 minutes when Town took the lead with virtually their first meaningful attack. Even then the goal came from an initial United error.
The goal was given to Riley Mouat on the night but it was actually Jacob Mallinson that scored it. Beattie giving the ball away to Eddie Cook whose reverse pass infield found Theo Naylor who is actually of Park View Academy.
Naylor slid a great ball into the path of Mallinson who sped clear of the Chester defence before neatly sliding the ball passed the advancing Kieran Harwood in to the bottom left-hand corner of the net.
The goal certainly settled the home side down and they went looking for more with Mallinson testing Harwood from long range but the Chester keeper got down well to the shot and saved neatly.
The from a centrally won free-kick Moors skipper Dan Atkinson set his sights on goal but fired his shot just over the bar. It was all Spennymoor at this stage and when Leo Fasuan lost a tackle in midfield to Mouat the striker was one-on-one with Harwood.
United's keeper did brilliantly to block Mouat's goal bound effort with the rebound falling to Naylor who saw his follow-up well blocked by Emanuel Igiehon who was in the right place at the right time.
Fasuan had been injured and limped off to be replaced by 16-year-old Kymani Severin making his first appearance at this level. He'd just come on the pitch when he saw his keeper Harwood come to the rescue again.
This time Atkinson played a neat ball into the box to Naylor. Naylor showed great awareness of the situation back-heeling the ball into the onrushing path of Hari Bondarenko. His first time angled drive was well saved at his near post by Harwood.
United began to find their feet though and started looking for an equaliser. A fine run down the left by Lawton saw him fouled 30-yards out in the left channel. Michael Mallaburn took the free kick and saw his delivery headed clear.
Beattie intercepted the clearance drove forward a few yards and then unleashed a fierce shot but it was always rising and smashed into the advertising hoardings above the Moors goal.
Chester did though draw level on 34 minutes with a brilliant individual effort by Lawton. It came initially from a good United attack on the right
Mallaburn delivered a dangerous ball into the box which was cleared by Jack Chapman. It was recycled by Severin who dispossessed Lucas Goddard and then found Ledger who immediately swept the ball wide left to Lawton.
The wide man cut inside and drove at the Moors defence waltzing past a couple of defenders and as he got just inside the box he curled a beautiful right foot shot wide of Webster's outstretched right hand and levelled the tie on the night.
United were now really on the front foot and the game had turned around completely. Severin showing great midfield qualities to outbattle Atkinson then drive in a well-hit strike from distance but it was straight at Webster who saved easily.
Beattie and Bunton then combined well on the right and Bunton danced dangerously into the box before Kelly stopped his run conceding a corner. Mallaburn delivered and Harvey Rudd got in at the back post but powered his 8-yard header wide.
Chester's pressure was beginning to tell as they pushed forward. Lawton playing a nice ball across to Mallaburn just inside the box at the right angle and he saw his low drive turned away by Webster in fine style.
It was no surprise when United did take the lead on 45 minutes although there was a huge slice of good fortune about the goal. Once again though it came from good battling and incisive play in midfield.
Harry Marr being the aggressor who won the ball well before finding Lawton. He held it up well before releasing Severin for a shot from 20-yards. The strike taking a wicked deflection off Cook completely wrong-footing Webster and United were in front.
There was even time for Chester to almost go further in front deep in injury time. The chance came from the Beattie-Bunton combination on the right with the latter firing in a good cross that Lawton met on the hal-volley 10-yards out but he was just too high with his effort.
United though went off at the whistle well pleased with how they'd come back from a goal down, soaked up some home pressure and then turned the game around in their favour.
Chester came out in the second half in the same style and mood that they'd completed the first one in and almost went 3 - 1 in front on a couple of occasions.
Firstly Bunton held up play well and waited for Skipper Ledger to make a late burst into the box. The pass was well timed to match the run, Ledger's shot was beautifully struck but Webster's diving save was even better from close range.
Then Lawton broke forward on the other side and put Bunton in on goal but for once the youngster lacked composure on the ball and blazed wide from a good shooting position.
The third goal that had looked inevitable duly arrived on 52 minutes. Ledger making another great burst forward on the left was upended giving United a dangerous free-kick about 22-yards out.
Up stepped Dan Walton who curled a beautiful shot over the wall towards the right hand post. The flying Webster got a hand to it but couldn't prevent the ball hitting the inside of the post and dropping into the net to put Chester two goals up.
Spennymoor had made a couple of substitutions at half-time with Naylor and Kelly coming off to be replaced by Kiyan Bayat and Harry Stewart but it hadn't stemmed the flow of play as United continued to press.
Bunton and Beattie again combined on the right with Beattie overlapping but being denied a crossing opportunity by Stewart. Mallaburn delivered again and Lawton had a free header in the centre of the box but sent it wide.
Once again it was Lawton who had the next chance for his side. He capitalised on poor play by Moors to pick a ball up in midfield and then drive towards the home box before blasting an effort that deflected off Cook for a corner.
Mallaburn continued to be the deliverer finding Igiehon but once again the Chester player's heading chance was not directed on target and Webster watched it sail wide.
Beattie and Bunton were at it again this time Beattie releasing Bunton who put in a dangerous cross that Chapman intercepted but almost diverted past his own keeper.
Another Chester free-kick almost brought another reward when Ledger floated a ball into the box for Igiehon to challenge Bushby who's clearing header only fell to Bunton on the edge of the box and he flashed a half-volley inches wide of the post.
However, Town were not out of the game despite the pressure and chances for Chester and on 71 minutes got back into the game. It came from a quickly taken free-kick from Chapman that caught United out.
Ledger initially doing well to win a challenge but Chapman got it back and found Atkinson who played a great ball inside the Chester defence and box releasing Mallinson who drove a low cross to the back post and Stewart steamed into beat Beattie to the ball and smash it into the net from very close range.
United responded by making a substitution with Walton coming off and Jude Anderson taking his place but as with the United goals, Spennymoor's goal just lifted the home team's game a little.
Stewart did well on the left to work a crossing position and his delivery was headed clear by Rudd. Bayat was first to the loose ball and set himself up for a volley which wasn't far wide of the target with Harwood beaten.
But Chester were soon back on top and Moors had Webster to thank for keeping them in the game. Bunton finding Lawton inside and he unleashed a right-footer that looked destined for the top corner.
Webster though flung himself at the goal bound shot and managed to somehow turn the ball onto the bar in superb style to keep the score line at 2 - 3. It only though delayed Chester for a few moments.
The killer and final goal of the night arriving on 84 minutes and it was another beauty. Bunton's slide rule pass towards Lawton came off the heels of Bushby and fell to Anderson who completed the path of the ball to find Lawton.
He turned inside superbly and then from the 18-yard line curled an absolutely sublime effort with his right foot that hit the top right hand corner of the net giving Webster no chance at all and restoring Chester's two-goal lead.
Chester then made their final substitution giving 15-year-old Ben Gallagher getting his first minutes in an United shirt coming on for Mallaburn who had a fine game. A lovely moment for young Gallagher.
United did not sit back and went looking for more. A bad foul on Lawton by Bushby saw him booked and gave Bunton a free-kick 25-yards out that he hit well but just too high.
Then after tidying up a Moors attack Harwood hit a superb long clearance over the Moors defence to send Lawton in on goal looking for a hat-trick but this time his low shot despite beating Webster went wide of the far post as well.
Deep into injury time Moors had one final opportunity getting the ball into the feet of the impressive Mallinson about 14-yards out. He turned well but was denied a late consolation by Harwood who got down well to smother.
It was the last chance of a game that had ebbed and flowed in stages but that overall United had had the better of. Four goals at a higher league Club on the road is always a great achievement and one that leaves them anticipating the draw for the next round.
TEAM : 1 Kieran Harwood 2. Jonathan Beattie 3. Jack Ledger (c) 4. Leo Fasuan 5. Harvey Rudd 6. Emanuel Igiehon 7. Charlie Bunton 8. Harry Marr 9. Dan Walton 10. Michael Mallaburn 11. Ben Lawton
SUBS : 12. Jude Anderson (for Walton 72 mins) 14. Sol Burton - DNP 15. Joe Walls - DNP 16. Keane Mitchell - DNP 17. Ben Gallagher (for Mallaburn 85 mins) 18. Kymani Severin (for Fasuan 27 mins)
SCORERS : Lawton 34 & 84 mins, Severin 45 mins, Walton 52 mins.