This fixture was a re-run of an abandoned fixture earlier in the season where heavy rain had eventually taken its toll on a sodden Darwen pitch. Charnock came into this re-scheduled game looking to avenge the previous Saturdays defeat at home to Widnes and came away content with a 4-1 victory from a rather scrappy performance against a much improved Darwen outfit who had suffered a 9-1 defeat to the villagers at Mossie Park in late November. A headed goal from Ash Young gave Charnock an early lead but Darwen gradually worked their way back into the game before going down to ten men late in the first half. Charnock took a 2-0 lead early in the second half before an error from Charnock keeper Adam Halton mid-way through the second half gave Darwen an unexpected lifeline back into the game. Charnock eventually made the extra man count late in the match with two late goals to secure the three points.
There were three changes to the Charnock starting line up from the previous Saturday. Adam Halton, Anthony Hough and new signing Harvey Close were in the starting line-up replacing Jordan Gidley, Joe Noblet and James Walker. Jon Hession was back on the bench following a recent thigh injury. It was a damp evening with the pitch looking a little heavy but a healthy attendance of 118 were looking forward to a competitive match.
Charnock immediately took the initiative in the game and were quickly 1-0 up after only 5 minutes. A short free kick from Woods was crossed perfectly by Bibby onto the head of Ash YOUNG who made no mistake with a free header into the net. Three minutes later, the Darwen keeper scuffed a clearance straight to Grimshaw but Carl’s attempted shot from distance into the empty net was weak and wide. Darwen gradually worked their way back into the game as Charnock struggled to keep possession of the ball. A good chance for Darwen’s Foffana on 16 minutes brought out an excellent stop from Halton as the home side started to take control of the game. On 26 minutes, a second successive Charnock corner from the left gave Fairhurst a headed chance which was just over the bar. Five minutes later, a goalmouth scramble in the Darwen box saw a number of shots blocked as the defenders somehow kept the scoreline at 1-0. Halton was forced into another good save on 36 minutes after Charnock again failed to clear their lines on the edge of their box. Two minutes later, a Fairhurst header rattled the Darwen crossbar from a Woods free kick. In a rather bizzare incident on 42 minutes, Darwen were reduced to 10 men as central defender Martin Parker, who had already been booked earlier in the half, was shown a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration following a foul on Grimshaw. Just on half time, a fast Charnock counter attack saw Davison work his way to the right bye-line but his inch perfect cross to Grimshaw saw the strikers effort deflected just wide for a corner.
There was steady light rain now falling for the start of the second half started but the game started fairly even in the early stages, with Darwen holding their own despite being a man down. On 54 minutes, Charnock were able to take advantage of the extra man with a Woods working his way down the left before firing in a cross to the far post which was easily volleyed in by FAIRHURST to give the villagers a 2-0 lead. A minute later, Walker replaced Woods and Charnock reverted to a back four as manager Andy Westwell looked to consolidate the two goal lead. Five minutes later, Darwen were given a lifeline back into the game as a long free kick into the Charnock box was spilled by Halton and the loose ball was easily slotted into the net by Hepple. The goal gave Darwen the belief that they were back in the game and Halton redeemed himself five minutes later when a Darwen shot from the edge of the box was brilliantly tipped around the top left upright at full stretch. Shortly afterwards, a Grimshaw header from a tight angle was just past the post and a minute later Davison fed in Grimshaw but his effort which hit the back of the net was ruled offside. Hession then replaced Hough on 77 minutes and a minute later, Charnock sealed the three points as WALKER struck an unstoppable shot into the left corner of the home goal following a short corner with Davison. It was all now Charnock and a fourth goal came three minutes later as Hession broke through the defence but his shot was saved before GRIMSHAW easily slotted in the rebound to give Charnock a three goal cushion. Charnock made their final substitution on 82 minutes as Sherlock replaced Grimshaw. Another Hession run into the box on 85 minutes looked as though he was tripped but Jon regained his feet to gain control of the ball and his subsequent shot was turned wide as the referee had seemingly played advantage for the striker. There was one final chance for the villagers on 88 minutes as Young fed Bibby in clear on goal but his shot was blasted over the crossbar with just the keeper to beat.
I had been a hard fought match which ended up with a relatively comfortable 4-1 victory for the villagers but one wonders how much of a threat would have come from the home side had they managed to keep all 11 players on the pitch for the duration of the match. It is fair to say that Darwen looked a totally different side to the one which had been comfortably beaten at Charnock just a month earlier.
Charnock continue with their league action this coming Saturday with a mouth-watering home fixture against City of Liverpool with a 3.00pm kick-off.