Darlaston continue their unbeaten run to remain top of the Division
By Simon Cox
A fine second half performance produces a 4-0 win against their Black Country Rivals
Darlaston finished the year on top of the West Midlands Regional League Division One with an emphatic win at Garden Walk following a fine second half performance. The win extended their unbeaten league run to 8 games taking their points tally to 22 from 24.
With Sam Causton and Noah Diallo suspended and Ash Evans and Daniel Bolzon unavailable Darlaston were a little disjointed in the early exchanges as Gornal made a bright and energetic start.
Two early corners saw ex Darlaston striker Nathan Griffiths head over whilst Geoff Hill forced visiting keeper Liam Whittaker into a diving save. Midfielder Liam Morris had a shot from just outside the area missing the post by inches.
On a difficult playing surface, the visitors were second best in the early stages but started to ease themselves into the game and on 10 minutes Isaac Cooper had a goal bound effort blocked. The visitor’s midfield of Alex Solomon, Jarrod Grant and Jamie Holder were now finding their feet as the visitors awoke from their slumber and for a 10 minute spell the game became a midfield battle.
The lively Geoff Hill and Liam Morris were proving a handful and on 22 minutes Hill brought out the best from keeper Whittaker after 22 minutes.
After withstanding Gornal's bright start the league leaders took the lead on 25 minutes. Jarrod Grant was fouled out on Darlaston left by Carl Whyte, whose continued remonstration with the referee saw him earn a booking for his troubles. Isaac Coopers free kick was met at the near post by Jamie Holder whose commanding header found the back of the net to give the visitors the lead.
The goal gave Darlaston a much-needed boost skipper Scott Glasby having a header superbly finger tipped saved by Ashley Green in the 28th minute from a Tyrone Clarke- O'Connell corner. The visitors lost centre-back Ryan McAllister to injury in the 30th minute after visibly struggling with what appeared to be a pulled muscle, he was replaced by Ryan Kingdon.
Alex Solomon had a shot blocked by a Gornal defender before Gornal's Drake-Cervantes also had a shot blocked and Nathan Griffiths who had time and space for a shot, but he decided to try and turn Darlaston defence inside out and the chance was gone. The busy Liam Morris had another effort narrowly miss the target after 32 minutes.
Darlaston ended the half strongly with two late chances. A Solomon pass opened up the visitor’s defence and Taylor broke clear on a 30-yard run but his 15 yard shot hit the legs of keeper Green. The half closed with Holder having a shot blocked by Gornal skipper Chris Hill.
The second half soon produced a controversial refereeing decision. Solomon burst through the home defence and with only keeper Green to beat he was sent crashing to the ground by a cynical challenge by the previously booked Carl Whyte. Much to everyone's dismay not only did the referee not brandish a red card but he did not caution Whyte and simply let him off with a lecture. The free kick came to nothing as Grant blazed it high and wide.
Gornal Midfielder Liam Morris had a chance to equalise on 52 minutes but failed to hit the target. The remainder of the half saw Darlaston assert pressure on the now over worked home defence and Glasby once again headed narrowly over in the 60th minute as the league leaders looked to consolidate their fragile lead. Leon Taylor had a golden chance in the 64th minute but couldn’t convert from a yard out, Chris Hill blocking his effort on the line.
In the 73rd minute the face of the game changed as the pressure finally paid dividends. Substitute Ant Follows played an intelligent pass into the feet of Leon Taylor inside the penalty area, the striker turned his marker Chris Hill but with just Green to beat was brought down by Hill 10 yards from goal. This time the referee had no option and produced a red card. Isaac Cooper stepped up to easily convert the resultant penalty.
It didn’t appear to be top scorer Leon Taylor’s afternoon as the hard-working striker he missed another gilt-edge chance to put the game beyond Gornal’s reach in the 81st minute, Solomon and Holder also having efforts off target.
Darlaston scored the goal of the game to make it 3-0 a superb 18-yard angled volley from Isaac Cooper following Ryan Kingdon’s excellent 60-yard cross field pass ball which opened up the home defence to set Cooper clear.
Taylor was denied a second penalty when within the space of 30 seconds he was brought down twice in the penalty area the referee waiving away both appeals.
On the stroke of full time Taylor's impressive work rate was rewarded with the strikers 20th league goal of the season. A superbly weighted through ball from Alex Solomon put Taylor in behind the home defence, he outpaced Whyte rounded keeper Green to slot the ball into the net from 12 yards despite the despairing efforts of Whyte.
The win secured Darlaston’s tenure at the top of Division One at the turn of the year.
Next Saturday Darlaston play Wrens Nest in a league fixture. The game is at the Paycare Ground, Bentley Leisure Pavilion kick off 2.00 pm.