Radcliffe FC 1-0 AFC Darwen
Lancashire Challenge Trophy 2nd Round
Darwen were on the travels again but this time at Radcliffe FC, a team three levels above, playing in the Northern Premier League. This was probably the most severe draw we could have been faced with.
Only 3 days previous we had been beaten at home after our Keeper, Lewis McPartlan, was sent to hospital with Concussion and what looked broken ribs (luckily this was just bruising. We also lost Jack Prince for 6 weeks with a damaged ankle and Knee ligaments. Then we lost Leighton Jones with a dead leg. The same person took out all three key players.
This left Darwen severely short at the back, especially when we lost Jamie Gibson and Nyle Ellis through illness on the day of the game. The only option was to draft in the reserve team players again. In stepped Ryan Steele to lead the line up front. Ben Langford and Nathaniel Bond in the middle, Luke Williams sat on the bench.
The other position we were still short of was the goalkeeper. Our reserve keeper was unavailable, Connor Stone was still recovering from his broken fingers against AFC Liverpool and as mentioned, Lewis was out with Concussion. In stepped the old boy and returning James Brindle. Having not played for over a year and not at this level for a lot longer, in he came to give some experience to the back line. With Leighton being injured, we needed an old head in the heart of the defence, at the last minute, we drafted in Martin Parker and what a draft this turned out to be.
Darwen began the game with a 3-5-2 formation and the task was to defend as a group. Pushing the two forwards back into their own half to stop the full backs from pushing on.
The game began with Radcliffe on the front foot as expected. They were spraying the ball around nicely but struggling to get through the heart of the midfield. They had to go around the sides but struggled even when in that position. Jamie Edwards on the left and Kallum Banks on the right never gave the wingers a sniff. As tricky as the left winger was, Jamie stuck to him like glue. The first half was pretty quiet in terms of goal scoring opportunities. Radcliffe had a couple of chances but the defence, backed up by the midfield were holding their own.
We went in at half time 0-0 and some heavy breathing from the lads with the amount of running they had done.
The second half started with Darwen kicking down the hill. Maybe this was a clever ploy by Radcliffe to kick uphill in the second half and get us turning. The only issue with that was we were already in position to defend and we found it easy to contain them.
When the defence did make a mistake, the forward for Radcliffe went through and you thought it was going to be rifled into the back of the net, he hit his shot and it went wide of the goal by some margin.
Darwen had their best chance of the game when Ben Langford picked up the ball in the their half. He looked to get away from his man and find a yard to make a pass. The defender pushed him sideways and when he did find that yard, he leashed a shot from 35 yards, and this looked like it was going in when the keeper pulled off a fantastic save to tip it over the bar.
Darwen were still being resolute in their defending and Radcliffe still struggling to break through. With a few minutes to go, Darwen Replace Kallum Banks through a Hamstring injury and replaced him with Danny Banks. He received the ball from a fantastic through ball down the left channel, he raced clear and whipped over a cross that fell just behind Ryan Steele how was in acres of space. If that had landed at his feet and his goal scoring prowess, it would surely have been 1-0 and what pundits would call a snatch and grab scenario.
With just 4 minutes of the game remaining and the match looking like it was going to a penalty shootout, the left winger picked the ball up in the penalty are and weaved his way past a couple of players. He knocked the ball past Luke Jarrold who stuck out a leg and tripped the Radcliffe Player. Penalty to Radcliffe and heartbreak for the Darwen players. The same player took the ball and made sure the penalty was going to be his to take. He stepped up and slotted the ball into the bottom left corner with James going the opposite way.
His is how it stayed for the final few minutes. The Radcliffe players looked relieved as did their management after a tough night at the office for Jon Mackens lads.
The AFC Darwen players turned up, stood up and made the club proud on what was expected to be a tough night.
1 James Brindle
2 Kallum Banks
3 Jamie Edwards
4 Martin Parker
5 Luke Jarrold
6 Danny Ashburner
7 Sam Knowles
8 Ben Langford
9 Nathaniel Bond
10 Ryan Steele
11 David Hamilton
12 Daniel Banks replaced no.2
14 Luke Williams replaced no.11
15 Connor Greenhalgh
GK Connor Stone