Darlaston overcome difficult conditions and motivated opposition in yesterdays local derby
By Simon Cox
Willenhall and Darlaston served up a great advert for non-league football in a quality local derby played at times in awful conditions.
League leaders Darlaston extended their unbeaten league run to 11 games with an excellent 5-0 away win at Willenhall Town and in doing so extended their winning run to 6 games scoring 29 and conceding just 2 in the process.
The visitors opened brightly, in the 2nd minute Tyrone Clarke O'Connell beat two defenders and cut in from the left unleashing an angled drive across the face of the Willenhall goal skimming the cross bar. On 7 minutes Darlaston were awarded a penalty when former Darlaston defender Liam Cox was harshly adjudged to have held back Leon Taylor in the penalty area. Noah Diallo confidently stepped up to strike the resulting spot kick with pace and height, but Willenhall’s ex Albion keeper Chris Adamson made a stunning save tipping the ball onto the bar with a one handed save.
In difficult playing conditions both teams were playing some good controlled football and Willenhall started to get a foothold into the game going toe to toe with their local rivals. Liam Cox and Connor Fellows were impressive at the heart of the home defence whilst Steven Homes and Liam Hickman were prompting and probing looking to create a clear chance. On 13 minutes Holmes had Willenhall's best chance of the game getting in behind the visitor’s defence, he was forced wide in rounding keeper Liam Whittaker and the chance had gone, as his angled shot went across the face of goal Ash Evans cleared the danger.
Darlaston took the lead on 24 minutes a long goal kick by keeper Whittaker caught the home defence at sixes and sevens, the pace of Tyrone Clarke-O’Connell saw him burst through the heart of the defence and beat the advancing Adamson to lob him from 12 yards.
On 27 minutes Daniel Bolzon cut in from the right to unleash a powerful left footed shot only to be denied by Adamson's outstretched leg. Josh Rayden shot wide for Willenhall whilst Adamson again came to his side's rescue keeping out Clarke-O’Connell’s in swinging corner.
As the rain came down and playing conditions worsened both teams continued to play neat attractive football the impressive Hickman and Mills looking dangerous but kept at bay by the superb Luke Charlton and Scott Glasby whilst Taylor Clarke O'Connell, Bolzon and Diallo were a constant thorn in the side of the Willenhall defence.
A goal of the highest quality gave the league leaders their second goal on 34 minutes. Taylor held up the ball in midfield laid it off to Noah Diallo who held the ball up superbly before playing in a superbly weighted pass to the overlapping Sam Causton who whipped in a magnificent right-wing cross for Taylor to net his 23rd league goal of the season with a power header giving Adamson no chance.
The visitors were now turning the screw on an overworked home defence, Bolzon hit the post with a sliding effort, after O’Connell whipped in a low cross into the 6-yard box whilst Taylor was again thwarted by Adamson on the stroke of half time.
Willenhall were still in the game at half time, their work rate, endeavour and quality of play was impressive but within a minute of the restart the game was put beyond their grasp. Another goal of the highest quality gave the visitors an unassailable lead on 46 minutes. Clarke O'Connell picked up the ball midway in his own half, advanced fully 50 yards to set up Daniel Bolzon who took one touch before drilling home beyond Adamson from 15 yards.
Willenhall created two half chances Liam Hickman forcing Whittaker into a rare save with a 20-yard effort, the keeper was again in action saving a Lee Mills shot at the second attempt to deny Nathan derrick snapping up the rebound.
The heavy rain was making the pitch a quagmire in midfield but both teams continued to entertain in a game played in the right spirit. Jamie Holder and Alex Solomon were now controlling midfield with some excellent interventions as full backs Ash Evans and Sam Causton made several marauding runs down the left and right flanks respectively.
On 65 minutes Willenhall's Lee Mills saw red as he argued with referee Mowbray. Mills appeared to put his hands on the referee and was dismissed instantly. Despite playing with 10 men for 25 minutes and being 3 goals down Willenhall showed great pride and tenacity, continuing to show good quality and passing skills.
However, Darlaston remained on top and as the conditions deteriorated, they netted their 4th goal in the 70th minute and it was another stunning goal of top quality. The interplay between O'Connell and Taylor was causing all sorts of problems for the home side and the two combined again in the 70th minute, Taylor out wide on the left measured his pass perfectly for O’Connell to unleash a right footed shot across Adamson.
Darlaston continued to push forward, Evans shot from distance was saved, Taylor's powerful header cleared the bar and Jarrod Grant forced Adamson into another outstanding save.
The final goal came 6 minutes from the end. On the edge of the Willenhall penalty area the ball fell to O'Connell whose overhead kick eventually fell to Taylor who side stepped a defender to score from 8 yards.
This Saturday Darlaston welcome fourth placed Team Dudley to the Paycare Ground. The visitors are also in fine form on a 6-game winning streak, so another excellent and competitive game is in prospect. Kick Off 2.00pm at The Paycare Ground, Bentley Leisure Pavilion, Bentley Road North, Bentley Walsall WS2 0EA.