It was another great night for football in the North West as AFC Darwen travelled down to Squires Gate in Blackpool. Tension was high for the Darwen players as they looked to claim their first vital 3 points. As always in a Darwen games the drama was high.
It took merely 12 seconds for the action to start after a back pass to Daniel Jackson in the goal led to calamity. As the ball was played back to Jackson, between the sticks, it seemed to take an unfortunate bobble which meant that Jackson missed his kick as the ball rolled passed him. He managed to get back to the ball but, unbalanced, only managed to clear it as far as the Gate striker who then slotted it underneath the keeper. An unfortunate start: 1 – 0 Squires Gate.
But the goal was only the start of a chaotic period. Darwen hit back only a minute later when Nicholas Hepple received a through ball on the right hand side of the field. The defenders wanted “offside” but the linesman rightly kept the flag down. Hepple ran down on the right of goal, the angle was not in his favour, a defender was looming and no support was nearby it seemed an almost impossible task to convert. However as Hepple reached the centre of the area he skipped passed the defender with a brilliantly timed fake shot and slotted the ball home in the near post. 1 – 1
If you were wondering why I described it as chaos, well only a minute later Gate took the lead again! When an over the top ball wrong footed the Darwen defender and the Gate striker controlled well and put the ball neatly home to score his second of the game after only 3 minutes! 2 – 1 Squires Gate.
No it wasn’t over yet. 4 minutes later Darwen levelled the game again, throughout the game Darwen had looked threatening almost every time they attacked and it was only a few wayward passes that let them down, but on this occasion everything went as planned after a good passing move came to Ryan McKenna who laid the ball to the right of the box and into the path of Karl Turner who finished brilliantly into the far left corner of the goal. 2 – 2
After the 8 minutes of madness the game finally settled down and both sides began to start playing proper football. This the made it a much more tense affair as both sides started to get chances and brake down their opponents. On several occasions Daniel Jackson was forced into some brilliant saves that fully made up for his early error. A mention has to go to Martyn Hillier, who was a critical part of the Darwen defence; in my recollection he didn’t lose a single aerial battle throughout the game. By the end of the first half neither side could capitalise further on any chances. The half ended 2 – 2.
Squires Gate started the second half on top with more possession and territory and looked the more likely to score, but it was Darwen who had the first opportunity of the half when in the 57th minute a free kick delivered from 40 yards out met the glancing head of Jonathan McDonald and the ball went just wide of the far post.
3 minutes later Darwen finally made a breakthrough when a corner by the impressive Karl Turner fell to the far side of the box where the ball was laid off to Samuel Morris who drove into the left hand side of the box and fired a shot low and hard at the goal. The shot was too quick for the keeper to even react as it rebounded off the Gate’s keeper’s legs and into the net, it could be seen as an own goal but I think Morris will claim it and it is nothing less than he deserves after his performance at left back.
The remainder of the game was The Gates’ to control as balls were pinged in at all angles and shots were being fired in every few minutes. Credit must be given to the Darwen’s defence as after the 10th minute very little broke them down. They also showed great passion throwing themselves in front of shots and winning nearly all headers bar a few. Hands down the most impressive performance I’ve seen of the backline to date! And because of this the game ended Darwen 3 – Squires Gate 2.
Darwen were the far better team throughout the match with all players putting in big performances. It was only small errors that led to the goals which they conceded whereas the goals that Darwen scored were all well worked, good goals. Finally on the right track!
Full Time – 2-3
1. Daniel Jackson
2. Keith Wedge (Captain)
3. Samual Morris (Goal 60th Min) Subbed for 14
4. Jordan Scott
5. Oliver Birchall
6. Martyn Hillier
7. Kallum Banks
8. Karl Turner (Goal 8th Min)
9. Ryan McKenna
10. Nicholas Hepple (Goal 2nd Min) Subbed for 16
11. Jonathan McDonald
12. Luke McKenna
14. Declan Cunliffe
15. Reece Fletcher
16. Liam Cole
18. Adam Douglas