Key Decisions and Clinical Finishing Decide Pulsating Encounter
By Simon Cox
The result could have gone either way, but thanks to a bullet header and a penalty Darlaston continue their reign at the top of the table
In a game of two halves Darlaston maintained their position at the top of the league coming out on top in this enthralling encounter between two in form teams.
With the wind at their backs Hunters had much the better of the first half with attacking midfielder Hinesh Patel unplayable at times, causing havoc at the heart of the visitor’s defence.
The home side started the game very much in the ascendancy taking full advantage of the elements in their favour dominating the opening 45 minutes. The visitors seemed incapable of stringing two passes together, conceding seven free kicks on the edge of their area, two ending up in bookings for Scott Glasby and substitute Sam Causton who had replaced the injured Ryan McAllister after 12 minutes. Fortunately for the visitors none of the free kicks troubled keeper Liam Whittaker.
Sanjay Malhi and Tyrone Atkinson had half chances blocked by the overworked visitors defence and Ashley Smith spurned an opportunity in the 25th minute, heading high and wide when unopposed at the back post following a Chetan Singh Goray corner.
Smith and Patel both had half chances but some last ditch defending by Luke Charlton and Scott Glasby kept the scoreline even as the half time whistle approached.
On the stroke of half time the home side thought they had taken a deserved lead, Justin Nisbett got behind Darlaston’s defence down the right flank chasing a ball into the penalty area, visiting keeper Liam Whittaker was favourite to win the ball and slid to collect the ball, as the two collided the ball fell from his grasp and Tyrone Atkinson followed up to score into an empty net. Referee Coates originally awarded the goal, but after a long discussion with his assistant the goal was disallowed for a foul on Whittaker. The decision looked harsh on the home side whose play deserved a half time lead.
After going through the first half without a clear effort on goal, the league leaders needed to find a way to counteract Sikh Hunters front foot aggressive approach if they were to get anything from the game. Whatever was said in the visitors changing room during the break made a difference and with the elements now in their favour Darlaston had much the better of the second half. Hinesh Patel, so influential in the first half was far less influential whilst Darlaston's front three of Leon Taylor, Noah Diallo and Daniel Bolzon were brought in to the game much more after an ineffective first half.
The game was won early in the 2nd half in a six-minute spell. On 55 minutes a Noah Diallo corner was superbly delivered into the 6-yard box was met at the near post by a Leon Taylor bullet header past Ben Lawley and keeper Liam Haynes, to send the Darlaston players and large travelling contingent into raptures.
Taylor had a glorious opportunity to double the lead 2 minutes later, A long clearance eluded everyone, and Taylor broke clear 35 yards out and was now in a one on one against keeper Haynes. With too much time to think what he was going to do; a poor first touch allowed keeper Haynes to come off his line and save easily.
The lead was doubled three minutes later from the penalty spot.
After a neat exchange in Darlaston’s midfield Leon Taylor was in behind the home defence, his cross evaded the run of Daniel Bolzon but found Noah Diallo who was brought down by Hunters right back Connor Archer. There were few arguments from the home players and supporters. Diallo dusted himself down and smashed the penalty into the top right-hand corner giving keeper Liam Haynes no chance.
As Darlaston's energy levels and confidence visibly grew, the opposite was true of the home side who after such an impressive first half now found themselves two goals behind and chasing the game in an effort to extend their winning run to 6 games.
As the half progressed, Darlaston’s game management was impressive with a significant attacking threat in the second half. Like the visitors had in the first half, Hunters had difficulty clearing the ball against a strong wind and whilst they continued to play some good one touch football at times, they lacked at cutting edge and the impressive defensive line up ensured keeper Whittaker was protected and rarely brought into action.
As the game entered the final few minutes, the game became stretched as Hunters did everything they could to get back into the game. Their only chance of the second half came on 86 minutes when a Hinesh Patel run saw his left foot shot strike rebound off the post and onto the chest of substitute Todd Perry, eventually going inches over the bar.
Isaac Cooper and Tyrone Clarke O'Connell both had late chances for the visitors but shot wide from good positions.
As Darlaston secured the three points and consolidated their position at the top of the table, Sikh Hunters will rue their first half missed chances, but the game is about converting chances and that's exactly what Darlaston did.
After 3 successive away wins Darlaston are on the road again this Saturday as they travel to Tipton Sports Academy to face Tipton Town. Kick-off 3 pm.