Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Emson strike sends Town into last four as Mulcaster marks return with comeback success


A GOAL in extra time from leading goal-scorer Adam Emson completed a terrific Town comeback at Moor Park on Tuesday evening as the new era for the club got off to the perfect start.

After all the upheaval over the weekend it was good to get back to the action on the pitch with Town bidding to become the first side to retain the Ernest Armstrong Trophy. But Peter Mulcaster's return as manager did not look to be going to plan as goals from Matthew Morris and Nick Gibson either side of the break put Chester-le-Street in control.

However, Town showed all their battling qualities and some really good football to turn the tie around thanks to two goals in three minutes from Jonathon Burton, his first for the club, and a spectacular strike from Carl Chillingsworth, before Emson's extra time winner.

Mulcaster's first team selection since returning to the club on Sunday saw just two changes from the weekend's disappointing defeat at Washington. Emson was back in place of Michael Dunwell in attack, while Alex Caisley replaced the absent Ian Smurthwaite in midfield. Meanwhile, Marcus Laing returned to take his place on the bench alongside Dunwell and Craig Winter.

Looking determined from the start, Town were almost given the boost of an early goal when Emson's snap-shot from the left was beaten away by Chester goalkeeper Matthew Crook inside the opening minute.

But as the snow began to fall, Town started to feel a little Chilli as the veteran striker missed a golden opportunity twenty minutes later.

Gav Parkin whipped in a dangerous corner from the left, and after Emson had flicked it on at the near post, Chillingsworth somehow placed his header over the top of an open goal from 6 yards. And the significance of that miss became clear moments later as the hosts went in front from the very next attack.

A free kick from out on the left by Anthony Burnell was not cleared by the Town defence and the ball fell to Morris 10 yards out. His shot may not have posed too many problems for goalkeeper James Briggs until it took a wicked deflection and looped up into the roof of the net.

But Town refused to panic and Grant Hickman twice headed narrowly over the top from Parkin set-piece deliveries as Mulcaster's men finished the first half on top.

The second period began as had the first, with Emson going close again, while Parkin then struck the post with a free kick. But it was the hosts who doubled their advantage nine minutes after the resumption.

Lewis Lynch did well down the right and his well-flighted cross was directed past Briggs by Gibson with a fine looping header from 10 yards.

With their grip on the trophy loosening, Town dug deep and pulled themselves level with two goals in quick succession. Burton grabbed the first on the hour, firing home from 12 yards after the Chester defence failed to clear another set-piece from Parkin - Town's first goal in over 330 minutes of football - before Chillingsworth equalised with a strike of the highest quality.

Receiving the ball 25 yards out with his back to goal, the 36 year-old controlled it instantly on his chest before spinning and hitting a first-time volley that flew in to the top left-hand corner of the net.

There only looked like being one winner now and Emson almost made it 3-2 seconds later after a lovely move down the left, but he shot straight at the Chester goalkeeper. Crook then denied the Town leading scorer again while Chillingsworth fired the loose ball narrowly over the top.

The final chance of the 90 minutes fell to Steve Butterworth two minutes from time, but he headed straight into the grateful arms of Crook following great work from Emson down the left.

However, Town completed the fight-back in the second minute of extra time. Parkin again created the opportunity with a dangerous free kick into the heart of the home penalty area and Emson was in the right place to fire home at the second attempt.

Mulcaster's side looked comfortable after that and should have sealed their place in the last four as substitute Dunwell twice fired over the top before Emson was again denied by Crook at the death.

"It was a great second half performance," said a delighted Mulcaster after his first game back in charge since 2003. "The first half was a little disjointed even if we did look the most likely team to score.

"The second half was totally different. We played some neat football in all areas of the pitch and were much the better team.

"The players showed great spirit to comeback and it was our talisman, Emson, who once again scored the decisive goal.

"Overall it was good night with some very good performances. I am now looking forward to returning 'home' on Saturday."

Town will now face Jarrow Roofing at the RGPS in next month's semi final, after they overcame Brandon United 6-4 also in extra time, but before that is a vital league meeting with Alnwick on Saturday. Kick off at the RGPS is 3pm with entrance £5 for adults and £2.50 concessions.

CHESTER-LE-STREET - Crook, Smith, Short, Morris, Summers, Graver, Burnell, Surrey, Hepplewhite, Gibson, Lynch. Subs - Smith, Alderson, Brown, Arnott.

TOWN - Briggs, Banks, Bowman, Shoulder, Hickman, Butterworth, Caisley, Parkin, Chillingsworth, Emson, Burton. Subs - Dunwell, Laing, Winter.

REFEREE: M. Bunting


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