The spoils were shared at The Paycare Ground between the League's top two
By Simon Cox
A goal 3 minutes into injury time by defender Carey gave Worcester Raiders the draw
Yesterday at the pike aground the game advertised by both teams as a title deciding game certainly contained incidents of discussion outstanding goals two teams highly committed to the course but played in the right spirit with no major incidents on or off the pitch but because of a 3-3 draw subject to both teams winning their remaining games the destination of the league title could well be decided by the games administrators.
Both teams before yesterday's fixture with forced into making changes Worcester Raiders more so than Darlaston as keeper Louis Pinches who has been who has been ever present all season missed the game through a nasty injury suffered against Sikh Hunters on Tuesday evening. Logan Stoddart, Alex Marsh and Josh Weatherby were also missing from Tuesday’s line-up, they were replaced by Dean Waldron, Luke Molloy, Ryan Rowe and keeper Dan Norcott.
Darlaston made one change Daniel Bolzon was dropped to the bench after the injury suffered last week at Allscott, Leon Taylor returned to the Starting XI to head the attack.
As you would expect the opening minutes of the game were frantic, both sides conceding free kicks as they looked to gain a foothold in the game. Worcester had the first effort on goal after 15 minutes with a Matthew Tyler shot from distance clearing the bar. Darlaston had a great chance of opening scoring in minutes later an Alex Solomon snapshot from 15 yards was palmed round the post by keeper Norcott.
From the following corner Scott Glasby scored with a near post header from a well-placed Tyrone Clarke O'Connell corner giving the home side the lead in the 17th minute.
The lead was short-lived, 5 minutes later an outstanding goal from Paul Smith from 22 yards levelled the scores. Fowler played the ball inside from the left to his captain Tyler, who intern squared the ball following a call from his colleague Paul Smith, his well struck drive flew past Darlaston’s keeper Whittaker giving him no chance to level the scores at 1-1
Worcester will level for less than a minute as they conceded a penalty. Keeper Norcott and centre-half Waldron combined to bring down centre forward Leon Taylor, Referee Priest had no hesitation in pointing to the spot, Raiders players did not contest the decision. Up stepped the dependable Isaac keeper to send Norcott the wrong way and score putting Darlaston back in front at 2-1.
Both teams continued to attack at every opportunity although the play was continually broken up littered with silly and small infringements penalised by the officials, and neither side could build up any momentum. Both teams were enjoying played on a plane on a perfect smooth surface where they could trust the roll and bounce of the ball, although the wind was proving to be a distraction from one side of the pitch at times.
Worcester's defensive three of Carey, Corbett and Waldron controlled central areas but we're struggling to contain the pace and threat of Cooper and Clarke-O'Connell out wide whereas Darlaston defensive partnership of Glasby and Charlton were handling the threat of Raiders front two in Smith and Ryan Rowe, Riders real threat was coming from the midfield and wide areas.
Darlaston were unlucky in the 34th minute, a piece of outrageous skill and opportunism from Isaac Cooper nearly increased their lead. After receiving a knockdown header from Leon Taylor, a controlled volley from 35 yards out with his first touch a lob which beat everybody but not the crossbar it bounced off the top meaning it was a foot away from perfection.
One big chance remained in the half which fell to Darlaston Tyrone Clarke O'Connor a quick counter attack from a defensive corner saw Clarke-O’Connell run half the length of the pitch beating two defenders but his shot drifted narrowly wide of the far post.
As both teams left the field at the half-time interval their management teams would have been happy with their team's performance first half certainly the fans were royally entertained and were looking forward to another enjoyable half with the home fans hoping that Darlaston would hold onto their lead and the Worcester Raiders contingent would be desperate to at least bring the scores level.
Darlaston as usual started the second half at pace Leon Taylor putting a left-footed shot over from six yards out of the first minutes of the second half and Isaac Cooper not quite getting enough elevation on her yet another chip from wideout on the left-hand allowing keeper Norcott the opportunity of saving his effort Worcester had a Kyle Belmonte shot blocked when it looked like it was on its ways into the net.
Darlaston for the first time in the game were able to build up some pressure and gain some momentum because for a period of 15 minutes there are only three files committed by both sides, where as in the first half there were as many aa 10 in the same period. Tyrone Clarke had another shot saved by the now busy Norcott, Ashley Evans hit the bar and Leon Taylor dragged the shot off the rebound wide of the left-hand post. Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell was causing huge problems down Raiders right side, once again he was the suppler with another pin-point cross which Taylor blazed over the bar.
The ever-dangerous Isaac Cooper dragged an effort wise in 58 minutes. Raiders this stage was struggling to live with Darlaston’s firepower despite the efforts of the now overworked back 3 and midfield of Smith and Tyler. Cooper also missed chances in the 60th and 64th minutes.
The game was turned on its head in the 70th minute, Raiders made a double substitution replacing Anthony Smith and Ryan Rowe with Tyler Atwood and Roland Krol Worcester Raiders top scorer. From free kick that restarted the game Krol scored with his first touch prodding in at the far post to bring the scores level at 2-2 it was his 19th goal of the season.
The goal ended Darlaston’s period of pressure something that they would come to regret latter in the game, the missed opportunities could cost them dear, Raiders defensive line and midfield had worked so hard to stay in the game putting bodies and giving on the line and giving everything to the course.
It was that man Isaac Cooper once again the gave Darlaston the lead back sending the home supporters and players into raptures in the 82nd minute with a deflected effort finding its way just inside the far post giving Darlaston the advantage with only 8 minutes remaining till full time.
The home side were forced into a late substitution with Lucas Hough replacing the injured Ryan Jones, Ashley Evans moving to left back.
The game was coming to an end, 3 minutes into added time Referee Priest blew for a foul in the middle of the pitch just outside the centre of circle for an alleged Clarke-O’Connell push on Paul Smith.
Smith took an excellently flighted free kick that found the head of defender Sam Carey just between the penalty spot and 6 yard area, Darlaston’s keeper Whittaker called for the ball but never made it and Carey’s header found its way into an empty Darlaston sending the Raiders players management and supporters into absolute delight and celebration with the score now at 3-3.
You could physically see the deflation in the Darlaston players who have given their all during the game shortly afterwards Referee Priest bought the game to an end, honours were shared again as the leagues two top teams could not be separated for the second time this season.
Both clubs should be proud of their respective teams for yesterday’s game, no one can deny the commitment and bravery of every player, as they would have done anything yesterday to ensure their club came out on top at the end of the fixture.
Darlaston certainly had enough opportunities and chances to win the game over the 90 minutes and at times Worcester were hanging on, but that's what squad togetherness and strength is all about is digging in and collectively putting everything they can to the cause too ensure that Raiders succeed. It’s happened too many times this season with late goals in games that have rescued their now 27 game unbeaten run which at any level football is a hugely outstanding achievement and quite rightly should receive the praise that deserves for the achievement.
Darlaston’s run now stands at 18 games unbeaten, the West Midlands (Regional) League and both sets of supporters are none the wiser as to where the league championship trophy will be living for the next 12 months or more importantly who is likely to be promoted to the premier Division. Both teams have games remaining Worcester single League game against Tipton Town at home next Saturday where as Darlaston travel to Newport Town on Tuesday evening and then play their last fixture of the season on the 27th of April at Telford Juniors.
Unless either team drops points, which is more than possible as this season has proved on many occasions as any team in this league is more than capable of beating anyone on their day. Darlaston left the Paycare Ground deflated, where Worcester drove out of Darlaston’s car park celebrating in their minibus, banging the windows and internal panels, it’s a real shame that it looks like neither team will be able to 100% celebrate their success at their last game of the season. It looks every so increasingly likely the winners of the Division will be decided by the decision made by the game’s administrators or the League over the abandoned game at Bustleholme.
There is been no indication as to how long this will take you could take well into the close season before the county FA punishments or decision of guilt is decided and then it will be the decision of the West Midlands regional League if any club either bus alone or Worcester Raiders will face sanctions and a points deduction.
Both teams still have everything to play for but after they have played their last game it is more than likely that neither club will be celebrating because no one will know where the league trophy should be presented.
Darlaston’s next fixture is Tuesday evening against Newport Town kick-off 7.45 pm. The game is to be played at Newport’s new home at Eccleshall FC just off Junction 14 of the M6, further details of the fixture will be published tomorrow