Darlaston returned to action with a draw against Premier League opposition
By Simon Cox
Darlaston faced a different test yesterday, as they travelled to Smethwick Rangers for a mid-season friendly
Without a game in the last 3 weeks West Midlands Regional League Division One Darlaston Town returned to action in a friendly against West Midlands Premier League side Smethwick Rangers.
The game allowed Darlaston boss Andy Parkes to give his charges some match action and giving his squad a run out. Ryan Kingdom, David Richards, Noah Diallo, Ash Evans all started with Parkes giving a full Darlaston debut to industrious midfielder Makhan Rai. Both managers operated a roll on roll off substitutes system.
On a difficult playing surface, the game was played in excellent spirit with both teams looking to play expansive football. Smethwick’s Ricky Uppal was forced off after 11 minutes following a blow to the head in the opening minutes to be replaced by Ryan Williams.
Darlaston opened the scoring on 16th minutes. Alex Solomon failing to connect with an Isaac Cooper right wing corner, the ball fell to Luke Charlton who drove home from through a group of players high into the net. The goal inspired Darlaston and they started to play well out of defence, using the full width of the pitch. Diallo and Cooper combined well on several occasions, Cooper whipping in some excellent left-wing Daniel Bolzon and Solomon both failing to convert.
Cooper had two long range efforts off target whilst Dominic Constable had Smethwick's best chance of the half also shooting high and wide from distance.
Both managers made half time changes for Darlaston Ryan Jones, Makhan Rai, Alex Solomon, Liam Whittaker and Dave Richards were withdrawn to be replaced by Scott Glasby, Jamie Holder, Jack O’Day and Leon Taylor.
Darlaston doubled their lead on 54 minutes. Bolzon escaped his marker and crossed for Isaac Cooper whose stunning header at the back post superbly saved by keeper Pinheiro, but he could only parry the ball back into the path of Cooper who rose above the static defence to head home from 8 yards.
As the half wore on, Smethwick came more into the game and pulled a goal back on 76 minutes Kieran Smith curling a 20-yard free kick beyond keeper Jack O'Day. Four minutes later Smethwick levelled Smith netting his second, a smart finish from 15 yards, giving O’Day no chance.
Darlaston were close to snatching a winner in added time, Bolzon having two efforts blocked.
Both managers will be pleased with the run out Darlaston boss Andy Parkes testing his team against Premier Division opposition and showing that they were more than capable of holding their own.
This Saturday Darlaston return to league action when they entertain 4th placed Team Dudley, managed by former Wolves and Sheffield Wednesday striker Lee Mills. Both teams are in fine form, Dudley with just 1 league defeat in 11 and Darlaston on an unbeaten run of 15 league games. Kick Off is 3.00pm at The Paycare Ground, Bentley Leisure Pavilion, Bentley Road North, Bentley WS2 0EA.