HALLMARK SECURITY LEAGUE
CONGLETON TOWN 3 AFC DARWEN 3
Congleton Town lost the lead 3 times as they were held to a dramatic draw by AFC Darwen on Saturday.
It looked like Brian Matthews had given the Bears all 3 points in this Hallmark Security League clash with 7 minutes to go but a stoppage-time equaliser leaves them without a win in their last 5 games.
With Ross Heywood injured, Jack Cookson made his debut in goal after signing from Ramsbottom United. Chris Middleton and Andy Alston replaced Luke Trimble and George Whiteoak in defence. Callam Gardner came in for Ian Willis in midfield and James Kirby took Brian Matthews’ place up front.
The Bears started well and were seeing most of the ball. Their first chance came when Gardner had a shot saved by Ben Proctor in the Darwen goal. Paul Bathgate then shot wide before the early breakthrough came.
In the 17th minute, a cross from Middleton was controlled on the chest by Declan Fletcher. He took it past the defender and hammered into the net for his 12th goal of the season.
Congleton then had the chance to double their lead but Gardner’s corner was headed well over by Scott Sephton. Darwen then started to grow into the game and were awarded a penalty in the 25th minute after a push by Middleton. Luke McKenna converted it to level the score.
Middleton didn’t take long to redeem himself for conceding the penalty. In the 27th minute, he received the ball from Fletcher just inside the box and curled it past Proctor and into the net.
Both sides went on to have chances with Bathgate shooting wide from Gardner’s corner. Then McKenna forced a point-blank save from Cookson and Andy Alston saw a header saved from a free-kick.
Right on half-time, Darwen equalised again. Cookson couldn’t hold a long range shot and the rebound was hit back accoss the area to Connor Gaul for an easy finish.
Neither side had many chances at the beginning of the second half. Ian Willis and Brian Matthews were bought off the bench in an effort to make a difference.
Sephton had a header straight at Proctor from Gardner’s free-kick and Gaul headed wide from Jonathan McDonald’s cross. Sephton had yet another header saved from a Gardner free-kick and Cookson saved Gaul’s header with his legs at the other end.
In the 83rd minute, it looked like Congleton had found a winner. Gardner claimed his second assist of the afternoon when his low cross from the left was turned in by Matthews for his 14th goal of the season.
Into stoppage time and a powerful shot from Liam Cole was tipped over the bar by Cookson. Congleton had one final corner to defend but Darwen had loaded the box in search of their third equaliser. Bathgate tried to clear the delivery but miskicked for an unusual and unfortunate own goal.
There was still time for a penalty shout as Fletcher was held back in the penalty area but nothing was given. The Bears now need to pick themselves up ahead of a trip to 1874 Northwich on Tuesday night.
Congleton Town: Cookson, Pritchard, Middleton (S Baker 72), B Alston, A Alston (Willis 60), Bathgate, Gardner, Sephton, Fletcher, Kirby, Koral (Matthews 62).
Substitutes not used: Trimble, Heywood.
By Bobby Lakin
(Report courtesy of Congleton Town)