A totally different performance two Saturdays running produces the points for Parkes Men
By Simon Cox
A Battling, Workman Like Performance see Darlaston Home
Darlaston went top of the West Midlands Regional League Division One following a hard earned three points against an impressive and resilient Old Wulfs.
Following last week's excellent win at then leaders Droitwich Spa, Darlaston faced a confident Old Wulfs team with one draw and five wins in an unbeaten run of six League games.
On a superb playing surface Darlaston opened brightly and in the opening 30 seconds Leon Taylor was within inches of creating an opportunity for himself but keeper Bostock denied the striker, beating him to the ball by inches. The opening 15 minutes saw the visitors prize open the home defence at will, Isaac Cooper and Taylor putting pressure on the home side, keeper Bostock was equal to the task on three occasions and the offside flag came to the home team's rescue on two occasions.
Old Wulfs gradually eased themselves into the game with the influential Scott Stevenson at the heart of most of the Old Wulfs attacking work. Wulfs had their first real chance of the game in the 22nd minute after Scott Glasby brought down Owen-Salmon with a late challenge earning him a yellow card. Stevenson’s 20-yard free kick forced Whittaker into a flying save, plucking the ball ourt from the top right-hand corner.
This gave the home side confidence and for the game became a frenzied affair with Daniel Bolzon, Cooper and Taylor keeping the home defenders busy whilst Stevenson continued to pull the strings for Wulfs. Michael Hancox and Stevenson both had chances and captain Andy Broom missed the target with a header at the far post when it looked easier to score.
Just before the half time interval Darlaston missed a great chance. After an interchange of play in midfield Taylor burst through the heart of the home defence embarking on a 40-yard run. With almost too much time to decide what he wanted to do Taylor got caught in two minds, his tame effort blocked by keeper as he rushed out of his goal. The rebound fell to Isaac Cooper but his 12 yard shot was also saved.
At half time the scores were level at 0-0, Old Wulf’s were the far happier team, having most of the play, would they rue their missed chances in the second half.
The second half started slowly for both sides, but the visitors soon built up a head of steam, playing with the advantage of a slight slope. In the 54th minute the impressive Luke Charlton was about to "pull the trigger" inside the penalty area before being sent tumbling by a Wulfs defender but the Referee waived away Darlaston’s penalty claims. Two minutes later Cooper had another effort pushed away by Old Wulf’s keeper.
Darlaston were now on top and following a spell of pressure they eventually broke the deadlock on 59th minutes. Isaac Cooper cut in from the left, outmuscled two Wulfs defenders before sending in a fine near post cross, which Leon Taylor dispatched into the net on the volley.
A minute later the lead was doubled, Taylor again the scorer and Cooper the provider. Virtually straight from the kick off, Darlaston were at the home defence in a flash, Cooper tried his luck from 20 yards, his blocked effort went behind the flatfooted defence, Taylor finding himself in the clear to score easily.
Wulfs response was immediate and straight from the kick off keeper Liam Whittaker was forced into making successive saves from Owen-Salmon and Tony Agnello.
Darlaston were on top and managing the game well but and they just could not convert a series of chances failed to get the all elusive third goal to settle the game. It was the home side who against the run of play pulled a goal back to give the visiting supporters a finger biting final 20 minutes. In the 69th minute Luke Charlton conceded a penalty, in a effort make a tackle on the edge of the area he was adjudged to have handled the ball by the referee. Nathan Lodge stepped up and dispatched the spot kick hard and low to Whittaker's right.
Darlaston continued to manage the game well, substitutes Noah Diallo and Tyrone Clarke O'Connell injected pace down the left flank and whilst both sides had efforts on goal in the final quarter, neither side created any clear chances of note. Old Wulfrunians worked hard and tried everything to beat the resolute Darlaston defence, but they held firm and strong to give their team the three points needed to top go top of the Division.
Old Wulfrunians were impressive and played their part in a good match, both sides looking to play football in a competitive but friendly spirit.
This Saturday the tough games continue as Darlaston are away yet again in the League, this time the return fixture at Sikh Hunters who are unbeaten in their last five League and cup games. Kick-off is 3pm at their new home this season on Long Lane, Essington.