Both teams produce a pulsating local derby in appalling conditions
By Simon Cox
Darlaston lose top spot on goal difference after local derby draw
The weather was the ultimate winner in this Black Country derby, a strong wind and heavy rain for most of the first half played a major role in the outcome of this enthralling encounter.
Both teams played with great endeavour and high intensity and at times, during a drop in the high winds both played some neat controlled football, but overall quality of play was nullified by the strong winds. A late Darlaston equaliser enabled the table toppers to maintain their excellent points tally taking 10 points from four consecutive away games.
Darlaston played the first half with the wind at their backs and made the brighter start but many passes went astray or were over hit. Isaac Cooper had two early half chances, shooting over the bar on 6 minutes and bringing a comfortable save from keeper Chris Thomas on 8 minutes. The visitors forced three corners all coming to nothing, although Leon Taylor should've done better with a 6-yard header from a Jarrod Grant corner.
Tipton broke the deadlock after 15 minutes with their first attack of the game. TJ Davies found space on the left and drilled in a low cross which evaded everyone but found Ben Store on the wide right, the striker returned the compliment by again drilling the ball across the face of the goal, again avoiding everyone except the unmarked Davies at the back post. The striker lashing the ball home from 8 yards high into the net past Darlaston keeper Liam Whittaker.
The visitors responded immediately the equaliser coming within a minute, Leon Taylor held the ball up well in the penalty area laying it off to Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell to score his second goal of the season with a crisp left footed finish across keeper Chris Thomas.
Curtains of heavy rain flew across and soaked the pitch during most of the half affected both teams as it was near impossible to play the expansive football that both teams like to. Whilst the quality of play was impacted by the weather both managers were delighted with the effort and endeavour of their players whose work rate was exceptional.
The visitors finished the half the stronger with Jarrod Grant twice and Clarke O'Connell both having efforts saved or wide of the target.
The home team now had the advantage of the wind and with the wind at their backs had the better of the half. In the 47th minute the home team were appealing for a penalty, but referee Ryan Smith waived away their appeals as ball to hand after Davies' left-wing cross across goal struck the arm of left back Isaac Cooper after skipping off the surface just in front of him.
The pace and trickery of TJ Davies was more evident in the second half and his combination with former Darlaston striker Scott Broadway was causing the makeshift visitors defence plenty of problems. Davies attempted an overhead kick which missed the target whilst Adam Skeldon's 22-yard free kick went high over the bar after Ryan Kingdon had felled Broadway.
Keeper Whittaker was called into action twice on 56 minutes, firstly acting as sweeper as he won the race to deny Broadway with a sliding tackle, as the ball rebounded Whittaker was first to react winning a second sliding tackle to clear the danger.
On 62 minutes Alex Solomon shot wide for the visitors before Tipton regained the advantage after 65 minutes. TJ Davies was again the instigator his pace taking him clear on the left flank his pin point cross converted at the back post by Scott Broadway who drilled home from 6 yards.
In an attempt to replenish energy levels both managers made changes, some enforced and others tactical. Instead of the game opening up it became even tighter. As the game progressed it became clear that neither side was going to give any quarter as the energy, effort and endeavour of all 22 players was a pleasure to see.
Despite this chances were few and far between, neither side creating any clear opportunities until the 81st minute. It was the visitors who came within millimetres of the equaliser. Leon Taylor held the ball up once again on the edge of the area, playing a deft ball to Isaac Cooper behind the static home defence, his low cross was millimetres away from the full stretch sliding Noah Diallo at the far post.
As the game was entering the final minutes Darlaston netted the equaliser. An intelligently placed throw in by Cooper was flicked on by substitute Daniel Bolzon, to Leon Taylor. Taylor shielded the ball superbly, turned his marker and drilled home an 8-yard right foot finish beyond keeper Thomas into the bottom corner.
In an effort to snatch the winner Darlaston piled on the pressure in the 5 minutes of added time, Taylor and Diallo both failing to convert difficult headed chances.
Both sets of players can be proud of their performances in difficult weather conditions. Honours were even, in what was a scrappy game, marred by the weather and after a tremendous 90 minutes a point was about fair for both teams.
Tipton will be disappointed that they could not hold onto the lead twice whilst Darlaston had the edge in terms of possession which they did not always use well.
The result saw Darlaston drop to second place on goal difference being replaced at the top of the Division by Droitwich Spa following their 1-0 home win against Allscott.
For the first time in 5 weeks Darlaston return to action at the Paycare Ground this Saturday for their final home fixture of the year. Wellington Amateurs are the visitors to The Paycare Ground, Bentley Leisure Pavilion, Bentley Road North, Bentley Walsall WS2 0EA kick-off is at 2 pm.