Fans see a different side to Darlaston as team spirt and workrate produce the points
By Simon Cox
Yesterdays game confirmed that at this time of the season its all about the result, performances don't matter
Darlaston Assistant manager Scott Moore summed it up superbly after the game when he said, "At this time of the season it is about the result not the performance". Moore was reflecting on a game where an excellent Team Dudley side had the edge on possession and fluency but Darlaston had the edge on work rate and goal threat.
Despite a 3-week layoff from competitive football Darlaston boss Andy Parkes made changes Bekir Halil and Noah Diallo unavailable, Ryan Kingdon Tyrone Clarke O’Connell were relegated to the bench and in came Ashley Evans Isaac Cooper and Luke Charlton. On the bench was returning fans favourite Lucas Hough a recent signing from Black Country Rangers.
Looking to avenge a 4-2 away defeat earlier in the season Darlaston opened brightly on a superb playing surface in bright sunshine. Early in the game both teams setting out their intentions with some excellent free flowing football.
Darlaston had the edge early on Daniel Bolzon having a blocked effort in the second minute and Isaac Cooper shooting wide on 10 minutes. Ashley Evans and Alex Solomon also had efforts, both failing to trouble visiting keeper Peter Hawk.
The only goal of the game came on 19 minutes from the penalty spot. Some excellent build up play out of defence down the left saw Isaac Cooper beat his marker to whip in a cross for the onrushing Daniel Bolzon who was pushed by Team Dudley left back Daniel Hadley leaving referee Priest no alternative but to point to the spot. Cooper stepped up to blast the ball beyond Hawk giving the keeper no chance.
As the half wore on the impressive Team Dudley forced Darlaston to concede several cheap fouls as they started to assert themselves without creating any clear chances or troubling the home defence. Sam Causton found himself in the referee's book for a heavy challenge on Hadley
Taylor missed a chance to double the lead on 35 minutes whilst Team Dudley's best effort of the half came in the 39th minute from the busy Alex Pinches whose shot drifted just wide of the far post.
Darlaston should have added a second goal on 39 minutes with a superbly created opportunity. Jamie Holder’s sliding tackle found Cooper wide on the left, running at full pace Copper produced a delightful cross, which eluded the Dudley defence. Leon Taylor Darlaston’s and the Division's top scorer found himself unmarked in the centre of the 6-yard box, the simplest of touches was needed for the talisman striker's 34th league goal of the season, but somehow the ball eluded him, and the opportunity was lost in an instant.
Team Dudley finished the half strongly Pinches and Callum Swain both having half chances.
Shortly after the interval Cooper fashioned a chance for himself, from nothing he beat two Team Dudley players cut inside and curled his effort inches wide.
Whilst Darlaston had the edge in the first half it was the visitors who had the better of the 2nd half. James Hill was instrumental in much of their best work and the skill, youth and pace gave Darlaston plenty of trouble, but the home side stood firm their work rate and will to win clearly evident.
Darlaston lost Daniel Bolzon to injury early in the second half, Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell came off the bench, seconds later he played Isaac Cooper in behind the square Team Dudley defensive line with a sublime pass, Cooper shot whistled just wide.
As the half wore on Team Dudley pushed on, the inventive Alex Pinches wide on the visitors left and captain James Hill with his probing runs and balls from midfield and the defensive partnership of Mantom and Smith only too eager to drive on with marauding runs to put their team on the front foot.
Dudley had the upper hand but chances were few and far between, Luke Charlton and Scott Glasby majestic at the heart of defence, with Ryan Jones and Sam Causton also working hard to keep the pressure off keeper Liam Whittaker whose confident handling and positioning gave his team plenty of confidence, Dudley central defender Mantom was a real threat at corners and set pieces heading wide from a corner but despite all of the quality football played by Team Dudley they failed to create a clear cut chance.
The home side looked for the sucker punch on the break and Clarke O'Connell, Cooper and Ash Evans all had half chances saved or blocked.
The Darlaston goal led a charmed life in the 78th minute. After failing to clear a left-wing corner a scramble ensued for at least 45 seconds, several lunging block tackles from the resolute home defence denying Dudley a clear shot at goal, Luke Charlton eventually clearing to relieve the pressure.
The visitors captain James Hill’s shot from 20 yards was deflected just wide and on 84 minutes Jack Bailey on 85 minutes but after soaking up the pressure it was Darlaston who had the opportunity to double their lead on 87 minutes. Tyrone Clarke O'Connell broke clear of his marker to unleash a vicious dipping shot from 25 yards, with keeper Hawk stranded, the ball struck the foot of the post and rebounded to safety.
The relief around the Paycare Ground at the final whistle was palpable as Darlaston secured a precious 3 points against the best footballing side seen at the Paycare Ground this season.
Whilst Darlaston were not at their best their team spirit and will to win were second to none as they extended their unbeaten league run to 16 games.
This Saturday Darlaston travel to Shropshire where they play Allscott FC KO 3.00pm.