AFC Darwen vs Golcar United FC
Red card halts Darwen in tightly-contested ‘Roses’ clash
Golcar ended The Salmoners’ decent home run of late by edging a thrilling five-goal ‘Roses’ clash at the Anchor after Rio Wilson-Heyes was dismissed in bizarre circumstances.
Prior to kick-off, players, supporters and officials of both clubs joined together for a minute’s applause to honour the late Stephen Hart.
The game got off to a pretty frantic start.
The visitors took the lead after just 90 seconds - Darwen failed to clear a cross from the right and Buddy Cox volleyed low beyond Fieldhouse. 0-1.
The Reds almost replied instantly - Steele forced a decent save out of McLachlan and Creech’s rebound was blocked on the line. So unfortunate for The Salmoners.
With eight minutes gone, it was two for the visitors. The ball was cut-back from the left and dispatched by Ashley Flynn, His cross-goal shot nestled in the bottom right-hand corner. 0-2.
It very nearly got much worse for The Salmoners as just moments later Flynn must have only been inches away from sliding a dangerous-looking ball home into an unguarded net.
The away side were enjoying much of the ball. Darwen looked a little rocked by The Weavers quick start.
The game began to get pretty scrappy around the 20th minute mark - neither side could retain possession long enough to create a proper clear-cut chance.
It was The Reds that broke this mould, establishing a bit of authority on the game and winning a penalty when Bond was fouled in the area, which Creech dispatched in his usual confident fashion. 1-2 - 25 minutes gone.
A couple of minutes later, United had a penalty appeal waved away - much to the frustration of those in green and black - when Cox went down in the box.
The visitors almost restored their two-goal advantage in the 32nd minute, with Fieldhouse planted, Alex Hallam could only hit the left upright from around 12 yards out. Groans from the away fans followed.
Steele forced another good save from McLachlan in the Golcar goal. The keeper used his feet to divert the striker’s near (right-hand post) effort from close range.
A few tough tackles saw Langdord and Lonsdale receive bookings in quick succession.
Darwen did occasionally threaten to equalise in the minutes prior to half-time, but to no avail.
A cry of “he’s in here” came from the travelling Golcar faithful as Flynn ran in behind The Salmoners’ back line. Fieldhouse stopped such anticipation dead in its tracks when he came out to clear the through ball intended for the forward, however.
Wilson-Heyes clocked the keeper off his line and tried for the spectacular. His floated effort from just right-of-centre sailed not too far over the crossbar.
Darwen had more of the ball as the visitors began to play for the counter-attack as the interval drew nearer.
A brilliant bit of last-ditch defending from Holt on the stroke of half-time ensured the score-line remained 1-2. The defender somehow managed to leap up to block a Golcar attacker’s volley.
HALF TIME: Darwen 1-2 Golcar United
Darwen got the second 45 underway.
Steele had a good chance to equalise at the back (left-hand) post and probably would have had he made a better connection with Wilson-Heyes’ deep cross.
Just seconds later, it wasn’t to matter as Creech was sent through. He side-footed past McLachlan into the bottom right-hand corner. 2-2. 51 minutes gone. Creech’s 21st of the season.
Lynch then did well block a close-range shot from Flynn.
Steele should have put The Salmoners ahead when he hit the right upright after being played in by Jarrold - who made a good run through the middle.
Wilson-Heyes was then sent off for what I could only assume was foul language directed towards the official(s), leading to a show of bemusement and anger among the Darwen Ultras and one of absolute delirium from the away support. He took the ball down the line and for some unknown reason, the assistant claimed it went over the line and out for a throw to Golcar.
The game was becoming more and more feisty. A change primarily fuelled by the away fans’ tongue-in-cheek overreaction to almost every altercation.
It was now Darwen - with the numbers disadvantage - who were playing for the counter-attack and the visitors who were having more of the ball and pressing for a winner
Pandemonium ensued to the left of the press box when Golcar got their third goal. Fieldhouse initially made a good save from Cox but the rebound was tapped home on the line. 2-3.
It felt as though The Reds’ momentum brought about by Creech’s equalising goal had been crushed by the bizarre dismissal of Wilson-Heyes and then The Weavers re-taking the lead.
The game in general lost some of its tempo in the minutes after United got their crucial third.
Creech had a half-chance to equalise as we headed into the last quarter of an hour, his shot from the left-hand edge of the area was too tame to trouble McLachlan, however.
The Weavers had a chance to finish Darwen off when Cox latched on to a long-ball over the top from McLachlan. Fieldhouse was on hand to block with his legs.
Creech felt he had a fair shout for a penalty when he was taken down by the keeper. Referee Jacob Widdowson had none of it whatsoever.
Fieldhouse made a brilliant save to keep The Salmoners in the game after the Darwen backline had lost out to a high-press. The score was (somehow) still 2-3.
United closed in the game out in pretty comfortable fashion, holding the ball in the far corner for the vast majority of the final minutes.
Darwen did have one last opportunity from a Steele free-kick. The forward’s lofted ball was headed behind for a corner by a Golcar man.
FULL TIME: Darwen 2-3 Golcar
The side from West Yorkshire travel back over the Penines with all three points.
For Darwen, a frustrating afternoon - an afternoon that at one point promised much more. But it simply wasn’t to be.
1. Lenny Fieldhouse
2. Luke Jarrold
3. Kallum Banks
4. Christopher Lynch
5. Samuel Holt
6. Kiel Lonsdale
7. Ben Langford
8. Nathan Bond
9. Leon Creech
10. Ryan Steele ©
11. Rio Wilson-Heyes
12. Lewis Cumpsty
14. Jake Townsend
15. Matthew Johnson
1. Graham McLachlan
2. Matthew Stor
3. Dan Stocker ©
4. Lee Bradshaw
5. Nick Crane
6. Nathan Tayo
7. Alex Hallam
8. Alex Hallam
9. Buddy Cox
10. Ashley Flynn
11. Malakai Phillip
12. Jordan Townend
13. Harry Stead
14. Michael Fish
15. Ryan John-Mackay
16. Joseph Skarz