High fives all round

AFC Darwen 1-5 Pilkington FC

30 October 2019, NWCL Division 1 North

A dominant away performance by Pilks produced a deserved 5-1 win on a cold night in Darwen. After last Saturdays 5-1 home defeat Pilks needed to respond and they did so emphatically. The Chairman had demanded a response, the management had planned it and the players delivered it.

It was pretty much Pilks all the way in this game despite playing the last 10 minutes with only 9 men, after Mike Samson’s second half dismissal and Nathan Moore succumbing to an injury he had carried into the game.

As early as the 2nd minute Callum Laird was put through one on one with the keeper but Darwen Keeper McPartlan managed to save with his legs.

On 5mins Darwen had an early attempt of their own but it proved to be typical of their efforts all evening as their finishing was poor.

It was on 15 mins when a Pilks corner was deftly headed in by Miguel Gillam to his obvious delight. 0-1 was no more than Pilks deserved. Gillam had another headed opportunity soon after but this one went well over the bar.

Both teams had chances in this half but it was the Darwen keeper who was busier while Pilks keeper Sam Tickle remained relatively undisturbed.

Despite a first half dominance of possession Pilks were unable to add to the score but the signs were that Darwen would not be able to contain the Pilks approach of being first to every ball and of using their possession with imagination and penetration.

Darwen did have a spell of good pressure shortly before half time with a few corners resulting but nothing came of that pressure.

It took Pilks just 2 minutes of the second half to extend their lead when the Darwen keeper could only parry a cross right into the path of the advancing Luke Sephton who drilled it home for 2-0.

The next best chance came from Pilks Danny Greene who hit a superb volley that rattled the left post, went across the line and hit the other post before being collected by a grateful Darwen keeper.

On 50mins Pilks Mike Samson was booked for tugging the shirt of the Darwen left winger and that paved the way for an astonishing development. As he returned to the penalty box there was an altercation between Samson and the Darwen no9. The officials consulted and decided to issue Samson with a straight red card. It isn’t unusual for the aggressor to escape punishment and the retaliator to be pay the price and such was the case here. Samson had been a towering figure at centre back up to that point.

If Darwen thought that was going to work in their favour they were badly mistaken. Pilks were further energised by the apparent injustice and upped their game even further.

On 60 mins Phil Marsh chased a seemingly lost cause as an overhit pass headed for the goal line. He got there however and pulled the ball back superbly for Laird to crash the ball home for 3-0.

It was the best possible response to the sending off and Pilks hadn’t finished yet.

Darwen inevitably found some spaces and Pilks management responded by bringing on Declan Connolly to shore up the midfield, Danny Greene giving way after a good 60 min contribution.

MOM Jack Cunliffe had been superb throughout but a few indiscretions caused the referee to lose patience and he was booked on 65 mins.

If there is a particular way of playing against 10 men when your 3-0 down, Darwen couldn’t find it and things were going to get worse for them.

Keeper Sam Tickle hadn’t had much to do but on 68 minutes produced a moment of brilliance, saving a header down low to his right, reminiscent of Banks against Pele, a memory familiar to some of a certain age.

Darwen had a few headed chances after that but none were on target and Pilks pursued further goals.

On 70 mins another magical moment this time from skipper Sephton who adjusted his stance perfectly to receive a cross and volley it home for 4-0.

Taylor Prescott replaced the injured Laird with 15 minutes to go and made an immediate nuisance of himself to the Darwen defenders.

The ever probing Marcus Giglio was then replaced by Mike Dunne who went to centre back. Nathan Moore’s last contribution was to link up with Phil Marsh down the right side who then found Sephton who squared the ball across the goal for Taylor Prescot to touch the ball home for 5-0.

A Darwen strike in added time made it 1-5 after pressure from a few corners finally told on the Pilks defence. It was of no consequence as the game finished soon after.

This was a complete performance from Pilks all the more impressive given the adverse circumstances on the night.