Lancashire Challenge Cup 1st Round
AFC Darwen V Garstang
After a string of bad results and a whole host of away fixtures, Darwen were at home for only the second time this season. This time the back room staff had changed with the departure of Luke Evans Just a couple of days prior. Kenny Langford had now stepped into the role of Manager. Fortunately he kept the experienced Colin Mason and John Brotherton as his two coaches, two men who have coached at very high levels in the professional game and certainly know how the game is to be played.
Darwen were fielding a very similar to side to what they had been playing, the biggest difference being the formation. Solidity is what was required and most importantly, teamwork.
Within minutes of the game starting, you could see the intensity that Kenny had asked of the players. They were winning challenges in the air, first to every ball and commanding from back to front. Garstang couldn’t get a foot in. They were passing the ball around with pace and the football was looking good. Darwen should have been 1-0 up early on when Centre Half Luke Jarrold made a run from the half way line untouched. He got to the edge of the area and unleashed a shot the smashed off the bar. It only took 10 minutes for Darwen to break the deadlock though. Leon Creech picked the ball up on the edge of the area and hit a ferocious shot straight at the keeper. He could only fumble it and the Garstang defence had no reaction whatsoever, however, Corey Harrison was the first and only man on the scene to smash the ball home from 8 yards.
Darwen were now in control of the game. Some of the football was sublime to watch at ties. Quick passing, 1 and 2 touch football and a team on a mission.
Not long after that, it was 2-0 to the home side. Again it was neat football being played down the right side. Corey Harrison picked the ball up on the corner of the area and with his back to goal and a man tight on him; he took one touch and unleashed an unstoppable shot into the far right corner. Most definitely a goal of the season contender so far.
Although Darwen were playing good football throughout, the one thing they needed to have was composure at the back. Goals conceded was had been racking up lately. Having the 4 men in midfield certainly helped them in that area. It was a lucky break that Garstang back into the game. The ball fell to the number 9 who took the ball down on the edge of the area, swivelled and hit the ball towards goal. It looked like it was going over but then dipped. The keeper assumed it was going over and left it. The ball hit the bar and onto the line and back out for the keeper to grab safely. Neither the Referee or his assistant gave it at first, then out of nowhere, the referee blew to say it must have gone over the line. To be fair, the ball did go over the line and it was definitely a goal. Garstang had puled it back to 2-1.
It was not long before Darwen restored their 2 goal advantage. Again it was that man Corey Harrison in the thick of the action. He made a fantastic run down the right side, which a lot of the Garstang supporters were claiming for offside. He pulled into the box and slid the ball into the on rushing Leon Creech who sent the keeper the wrong way and placed the ball into the bottom right corner. Another great footballing goal from Darwen.
Half Time AFC Darwen 3-1 Garstang
The second half started a little brighter for Garstang, they had a bit more of the ball but with no penetration. The Darwen defence was looking solid with Sam Holt and the impressive Luke Jarrold in the heart of the defence. The two full backs in Kallum Banks and Nathan Heath were looking as comfortable at the back as they were going forward.
The partnership of Kiel Lonsdale and Sam Knowles in midfield was the perfect combination. The two wingers in Leon Creech and Jamie Edwards were unstoppable. Their tenacious runs with the ball and more importantly off the ball were enough to scare any defence.
This was all topped off with the two forwards in Corey Harrison and Jack Iley up front. A partnership that just seemed to work.
Mid way through the second half, Darwen were down to ten men but only for a short period. Sam Knowles must have said something to the referee and he was sin binned for the allotted 10 minutes.
This didn’t stop Darwen, who then added a fourth goal. A free kick for Darwen just in the Garstang half was taken by Sam Holt. He clipped the ball onto the edge of the area were Kiel Lonsdale jumped highest. He managed to produce the header of the game and he knocked into the path of Corey Harrison. He coolly slotted the ball past the keeper for his Hat trick. What a finish and what game he was having.
Not much happened for the rest of the game. Sam Knowles was replaced in the middle of the park when his sin bin ended by Jamie Gibson. Jack Iley was replaced by the energetic Jack Prince and the 3rd sub was Nyle Ellis replacing Leon Creech.
The game almost finished on a sour note when the Garstang keeper had a little to do with Jack Prince, even though the keeper pushed Jack 3 times, it was Jack the that earns the yellow card.
The Full time whistle blew and it was Darwen who progressed to the next round with a 4-1 victory.