North West Counties Division One North
A 6 pointer was being branded about on Social Media for this fixture between St Helens Town who sat 18th and AFC Darwen 19th. Both teams on 11 points but Darwen with the one game advantage.
St Helens Came out late for the warm up, maybe due to the fact they had only just played 48 hours previous were they had drawn 1-1 away at Nelson.
Darwen were in full spirit for this game knowing that a win would set them on the road to a higher league placing.
Darwen came out with the intention of attacking with Nyle Ellis being the main outlet up front with Ryan Steele as his partner. Darwen have been struggling defensively over recent weeks and it showed again within 3 minutes. A long ball by the Goalkeeper was miss-timed by Kiel Lonsdale in the middle of the park. The ball ran on to the left winger for St Helens who played the ball through to the forward who slotted home past Connor Stone in Goal. Not the start we needed from a position of attack.
Darwen began to put their foot on the ball and play the kind of game we are used to. Just 2 minutes later it was a through ball by Steeley that sent Nyle Ellis running through on goal. The ball was not running through due to the amount of rubber that was on this 3G pitch. Nyle attempted to get the ball under control but looked like the defender tripped him and he went don in the box. The referee waived away any claims of a penalty.
On 9 minutes Darwen had a free kick 25 yards out after some tenacious play by David Hamilton. Ryan Steele stepped up and hit the ball towards the top corner. The keeper looked like he was going to take it comfortably but he somehow let the ball through his fingers and into the top corner. It was 1-1 with 9 minutes on the clock.
On 14 minutes it was another defensive slip up by Darwen that allowed St Helens to take the lead again. A ball in midfield played down the wing to the number 9. He had acres of space to cross the ball but it landed at Danny Ashburner. With nobody around him he tried to take a touch. He then slipped and the number 10 took the ball and slotted past Connor into the bottom left of the goal. 2-1
On 22 minutes it was a hopeful ball down the right wing to the number 9 again, this time Danny was there to recover and held off his man, he was fouled and a free kick was given to Darwen. The number 9 was not happy and kicked the ball away. He was then Sin Binned for the action and now Darwen had a man advantage for ten minutes. Darwen began to Spray the ball around now at the back with ease. It was Sam Holt who had the ball, with no Players showing for it, he played a magnificent ball over the top to the onrushing Nyle Ellis, he cleverly slotted the ball past the oncoming Keeper. 2-2
The game was end to end and Darwen should have had a 3rd when Nyle again was sent through on goal, this time the keeper got a leg to it and the ball went out for a corner.
Half Time 2-2
It was Darwen who needed to come out in the second half with the same vigour and tenacity as they did in the first, however, it was St Helens who took the lead for the 3rd time.
Again it was a ball played down the channel from the full back to the number 10, Connor came out to the ball but he clipped the ball over him, Connor getting a touch which changed the angle of the ball, this landed to the feet of the number 10 a few yards out who slotted it between the two defenders.
The game was open but it was Darwen who had St Helens on the back foot. They were defending deep soaking up the Darwen pressure. They looked like a nervous team who were holding on for dear life. The only problem was Darwen were not managing to break through.
The game was becoming silly and the referee was throwing out yellow cards for the craziest of fouls. Darwen were getting the free kicks on the edge of the box but Steeley and Ben Langford couldn’t keep it down with their attempts.
It was good play by Darwen with 5 minutes to go that had Darwen level. A ball was played into Nyle who turned his man and ran down the right wing, his cross landed at the on rushing Ben Langford who took a touch and slotted the ball home. The flag was up. The linesman disallowed it for an offside decision, HOW!!.
This angered the Darwen management and players. Just a few minutes later, Sam Holt was shown a straight red for a challenge on the St Helens defender. He rushed through with the ball and Sam went in Studs high wiping him out, this started a game of handbags on the park and took the referee a few minutes to calm it down. Sam was given his marching orders and it let Darwen with 10 on the field.
Darwen had one last chance when the impressive Nyle Ellis was sent though on goal again, the keeper came out and knocked Nyle off balance. This allowed the defenders to get back in time and they somehow managed to clear their lines. If only he had gone down.
The game was scrappy at times on possibly the toughest surface in the league to play football on. If anything, both teams should have come away with a point but on another day, this would have been all 3 points to Darwen.
1 Connor Stone
2 Sam Holt
3 Leighton Jones
4 Danny Ashburner
5 Jamie Edwards
6 Kiel Lonsdale
7 Sam Knowles
8 David Hamilton
9 Nyle Ellis
10 Ryan Steele
11 Kallum banks
12 Ben Langford
14 Jamie Gibson
15 Luke Jarrold