Updated: Jan 2
Emley 3-1 AFC Darwen
What a fixture to have on a Wednesday night. Emley away with a 19:45 KO. A 108 mile round trip pursued in early evening traffic to get there an hour before Kick Off. This was always going to be a tight one. We arrived at 19:20 and asked to put the game back to 8pm but this was refused by the opposition. A very quick warm up on what could be said was a very, very cold night. The wind was chilling and the rain only went sideways on a very wet and sticky surface.
After the quickest team talk in Kenny Langford history, the lads made their way out for what was to be another tough test against a team in third place.
Emley won the toss and decided to play the game uphill in the first half.
You could say it was an unusual slow start for Darwen but seeing as though the warm up lasted around 10 minutes, you can understand it needed time to get them warmed up. Emley took the lead after 4 minutes in dubious circumstances, where was VAR when you needed it. A shot crashed against the bar and came down and the keeper collected. The linesman, some good 10 yards behind play, deemed it to be over the line and the referee gave the goal.
From this point Darwen began to play the ball a little more and controlled the middle of the park. Starting his first game, Livesey Mason on the left side had acres of space to run at the defence and was causing them huge headaches. The midfield three of Gibson, Hamilton and Knowles where winning everything. It wasn’t long before Mason grabbed his first goal for Darwen. Great play down the left side with good football into the box, the ball fell to Mason some 8 yards out, he coolly slotted into the bottom right corner.
It was a dominant Darwen display going forward but were still vulnerable at the back as Emley broke at pace each time. A few times they got through but it was either a late tackle from Ashburner or another quality save from McPartlan that kept the score to 1-1. It was McPartlan again who showed why he is respected so much after his short time at the club. Bordman went through 1 on 1 with McPartlan but it was the latter that came out on top, he stood up well and got his hand to the ball to deny the forward a 2nd goal for Emley.
Darwen had so many chances to go ahead, testing the keeper from different angles but none of them managed to hit the target. Sam Holt who was playing the central strikers role was holding the ball up and laying it off perfectly for the on rushing midfielders.
Half time 1-1
Darwen were now kicking up the hill and into the icy chilling Yorkshire wind. The second half started scrappy with not much happening, Darwen again were trying to play the good football they had been for a few games but the final pass was eluding them on such a tough surface. It was one of these build up plays that allowed Emley to take the lead again on 54 minutes. Knowles passed the ball into Holt who was looked to have fouled , allowed Emley to break quickly and the ball fell to Bordman on the edge of the area, he flicked the ball into the area and slotted home to put Emley 2-1 up. Not what Darwen had deserved at all.
It was the same as the first half with Darwen dominating possession and Emley breaking on the counter. Chances were few and far between in the second half with both teams looking tired due to how heavy the pitch was. Darwen were pushing again but that final ball would not fall for them. It was Emley who were to score a third goal. Another break from a Darwen attack fell to the right winger who smashed the ball past McPartlan on 85 minutes. The game gave nothing else until the final whistle.
On another day, this could have been a different story. Darwen turned up with 7 defenders, playing 1 of them up front and the rest on the bench. Turning up late and no proper warm up. Being let down at the last minute and having to draft in reserve team players yet again.
It was not our night and Emley deserved the 3 points because they put the game to bed.
1 Lewis McPartlan
2 Kallum Banks
3 Leighton Jones
4 Danny Ashburner
5 Luke Jarrold
6 David Hamilton
7 Jamie Gibson
8 Sam Knowles
9 Sam Holt
10 Livesey Mason
11 Jamie Edwards
12 Joshua Brierley
15 Matthew Johnson