AFC Darwen 2-1 Prestwich Heys
The pressure was certainly on the club for this game due to all the talk being we are top of the in form table. Could we live up to this or was it just a few games of luck.
Prestwich came into the game with a different run of games. Beating Colne 5-2 in the cup would have given them a high but they lost their next 2 and won the latest game. They had made quite a few signings over recent weeks, which could go against them or for.
Darwen had to call on a Reserve keeper due to Lewis being banned for the game. Ben Langford was also back from injury to give some strength to the midfield. Other than that, the team was still the same.
Darwen started slowly with Prestwich tightening everything up and not allowing the forwards to get through. We knew this was going to be a tough test.
On 25 minutes Prestwich took the lead when a mistake at the back allowed the forward to take the ball, this was played down the left to the on rushing winger who whipped a ball across goal to the full back who had sneaked his way through to slot the ball home.
This seemed to give them a bit of a lift and Darwen began chasing the ball but to no avail. It was one of these chases that the game completed changed. What looked like a foul on a Darwen player was allowed to play on by the referee, the ball was loose and Ben Langford slid in with the opposition but was second best. The referee blew for the foul and it looked like it was a booking into the Assistant Referee decided to intervene and Ben was shown a straight red card. Down to 10 men and 1-0 down with less than 30 minutes played. This was going to be tough.
Darwen reshuffled and went to a 4-4-1 formation with Leon Creech the lone man up front.
It was 1-0 at half time to Prestwich who probably deserved the lead.
In the second half, Darwen came out with the same formation but a different attitude altogether. Again they chased balls down but this time they were winning them. The midfield duo of Kiel Lonsdale and Sam Knowles were winning every dual that came their way. The defensive 4 looked more solid and nobody was getting past Jamie Gibson at right back.
Darwen were actually pushing forward better in this half than in the first. Nyle Ellis was causing havoc to their right back with his pace and power. It was this that brought Darwen back level. A superb defence splitting pass down the left side by Sam Knowles saw Nyle run clear. The keeper came out but Nyle took it past him. You were expecting him to go down but he stayed on his feet and it looked like he was going to score but the keeper challenged him again and the penalty was given. The keeper was given a yellow card. Up stepped Leon Creech he slammed the ball home down the middle.
Prestwich were struggling to compete with the energy of Darwen at this point.
10 minute later and Darwen took the lead. Jamie Gibson picked the ball up on the edge of the area and shot towards goal, the keeper saved his effort but he couldn’t hold onto it. Everyone stooped apart from Leon Creech he followed up and slotted the ball home for a deserved 2-1 lead. Prestwich tried to get back into the game but defensively Darwen were too good. Creech almost had his hat trick and a Darwen 3rd in the last few minutes when his run and shot smashed against the post and stayed out.
Darwen held on for a nervy last few minutes to take home all 3 points.
Man of the Match: Leon Creech
1 Andy Duffy
2 Jamie Gibson
3 Danny Ashburner
4 Sam Holt
5 Luke Jarrold
6 Kiel Lonsdale ©
7 Ben Langford
8 Sam Knowles
9 Nyle Ellis
10 Leon Creech
11 Jamie Edwards
12 Matthew Johnson
14 Leighton Jones
15 Lloyd Bannister
16 Livesey Mason