Gornal End 2018 in Defeat
By Ashley Davies
Darlaston Town tightened their grip on top spot with a flurry of late goals at Garden Walk
Ash Causer made a couple of changes for the final game of 2018 with ever reliable Jack Latham carrying a groin injury Imar Shimmer came into the XI and the impressive Tyler Charris was also injured and replaced by Liam Morris. Other than that, Gornal could keep the same side that did so well last week in Wyrley.
Like the previous week Gornal started brightly with the League leaders on the ropes at Garden Walk. An early header from Nathan Griffiths missed the target before within the first five minutes Geoff Hill was racing through from a Liam Morris pass. Hill cut inside and shot at the near post but Liam Whittaker denied the forward with his outstretched leg.
Gornal then battled well, Morris and Drake Cervantes really controlling the game for Gornal and set pieces were creating problems for the visitors who were struggling to get Leon Taylor into the game.
23 gone and Geoff Hill was, again, denied, he used great pace to hunt down the ball and shoot at the onrushing Whittaker but the keeper was, again, equal to the effort and kept Darlaston level.
As the old clique goes if you don't take your chances, you'll get punished and the first opportunity to show some championship pedigree was taken by Darlaston. A free kick, set piece danger is always strong from a big side like Darlaston and Jamie Holder opened the scoring on 26 when he got highest and directed a free kick into the far corner. A superbly placed header from the midfielder but somewhat against the momentum of the game.
Ash Green was then called into action as a Darlaston corner was won by former Gornal defender Scott Glasby, his glancing effort was heading for the bottom corner until a Green tip around the far post.
Just past the half hour and Garden Walk saw another Geoff Hill chance spurned, he used pace and strength to beat Glasby to the ball and cut inside but the connection wasn't as strong as we know Geoff Hill to be and the near post effort was held low down by Whittaker. Off that corner was a huge scramble that saw Joe Drake Cervantes denied from twelve yards with a superb block. Darlaston were digging it, it was a really good showing from both sides and a really good advert for non league football in the West Midlands.
Liam Morris was next to have a shot, from 25 yards he drove a strike low but, once more, Whittaker would hold the shot. You couldn't knock the creation and endeavour of Gornal who were really taking the game to the table toppers, they just lacked that killer instinct in front of goal.
A key moment then came on 44, Alex Harvey-Beach ran through on goal, best Whittaker to the ball and saw his touch roll just too far away from him, it was a huge chance and the first time Darlaston keeper Whittaker had been beaten all day, just too heavy a touch from the teenager Harvey-Beach.
Nathan Griffiths then got on the end of a Joe Drake Cervantes cross and controlled the ball well but just as the former Darlaston man went to pull the trigger a great tackle came in to deny him and Gornal yet again.
Three minutes into added time and Leon Taylor looked sure to double the lead of Darlaston as he paced through and got a shot off at Garden Walk but a superb spread eagle save from Ash Green kept Gornal just one away. Off that corner it was Green again who was the hero as Jamie Holder headed an effort at the back post that was stopped by Green. Back post corners seemed a favourite of Darlaston all afternoon but came so effective with their height and desire to attack the ball.
All that was just the first half, a really entertaining affair where both sides played their part.
The second half saw Liam Morris with an early chance on the turn, the ball just stuck under his feet he lifted it just over the bar but another Gornal creation you can't fault.
Scott Glasby then got free off a free kick and sent a rather central header over the bar. He should've done better with the opportunity as Gornal worked out who'd lost their man.
Just past the hour Leon Taylor really should've had his eighteenth goal of the campaign with the number 9 a yard out and just Halwest Wahab to beat he tried dropping the shoulder but Wahab read him like a book, stuck out a foot and cleared the effort. Gornal were a little more tested this half.
The game then changed on 73' when Leon Taylor rolled captain Chris Hill, Chris pulled back Taylor and down he went. Penalty and red card to Hill, no malice or nastiness in the challenge but as the official adjudged Hill to have no intention of playing the ball he had to walk.
The penalty was dispatched by Tyrone Clarke-O'Connell and that left ten men Gornal with a mountain to climb.
Liam Morris saw Whittaker off his line late on and from 45 yards almost did the unthinkable but the lob dropped just the right side of the post and wide. Agonisingly close for Gornal who'd battled well throughout.
Darlaston Town then scored as Liam Whittaker lay on the ball for an age the official went to check for an injury, he got up and pumped the ball up field, the header back to the midfield saw Darlaston then launch another ball coming down with snow on it but the finish was great from Isaac Cooper on 90. The winger hit the bouncing ball sweet across Green and into the far corner.
In added time Geoff Hill still found another opportunity to put Gornal, deservedly, on the scoresheet but he lost all composure from 16 yards and sent his effort well off target.
Ash Green at the other end then produced a wonderful save to deny Taylor from four yards he got in front of his man and turned and whacked an effort goalwards but Green was big and brave and stopped Taylor with his legs.
Ozzy Aigbe then beat his man, he could've gone down under the tackle, but was honest and didn't, his cross was then well defended by Darlaston who netted a flattering fourth on he counter attack as Leon Taylor strode through, rounded Ash Green and rolled home past Carl Whyte on the line to keep Darlaston ticking at the top.
So 2018 was closed with a loss but a hugely positive performance - all at Garden Walk wish you a very happy new year and look forward to welcoming you back to the club in 2019.
Reminder no game next week so well see you on January 12th against Allscott at Garden Walk 3pm KO.