MATCH REPORT | West 4-1 AFC Darwen – West Didsbury & Chorlton AFC

MATCH REPORT | West 4-1 AFC Darwen

Tuesday 23rd January 2018, NWCFL Premier Division

West 4 (Bailey 14, 18, 19, Woods 78)
AFC Darwen 1 (Langford 54)
Att: 141

Tom Bailey’s five-minute hat-trick was the catalyst for a second consecutive win as AFC Darwen were swept aside at Brookburn Road.

West’s leading scorer clinically pounced on a dormant Salmoners defence as the home side raced into a commanding half-time lead, and though Bobby Langford pulled a goal back after the interval, Ash Woods added the gloss in the closing stages to seal back-to-back wins for the first time since October.

This was ultimately a comfortable win as West winched themselves further away from the relegation zone, but the seemingly-doomed visitors were left cursing the assistant referee after the match swung on a moment of controversy while the scores were still level. Jack Prince’s low ball across the six-yard box was nudged towards goal by Jordan Scott, with the linesman ruling that James Hodges had pawed the ball to safety before it had crossed the line.

Darwen were still howling for a goal when West opened the scoring for real four minutes later. Bailey, who had already headed over from point-blank range inside the first 60 seconds, was presented with a gift by Salmoners keeper James Whittingham, whose ill-judged expedition out of his area ended with Bailey tapping the ball into the empty net.

Bailey doubled the lead in similarly remorseless fashion when he gobbled up a loose ball in the box following a Woods cross, and seconds later ran the length of the Darwen half and rounded Whittingham to complete a sense of déjà vu for the visitors, who had seen Bootle’s Andrew Gillespie score three in seven minutes ten days earlier.

At this stage, West may have been contemplating matching the Bucks, who hit Darwen for ten, and Charnock Richard, who managed nine against the same opposition in November, but the Salmoners hardened and restricted West to half-chances before the break. Woods prodded wide from inside the box after one of a series of excellent link-ups with Bailey, and Shaw turned Bailey’s low cross just over the bar as the interval approached.

Shaw was off target again from Cavell Coo’s centre after the break, but the visitors were more accurate not long before the hour as they scuppered any hopes of a first West clean sheet since the August bank holiday. Langford was allowed to bear down on Hodges’ goal and he arrowed his shot into the corner of the net to reduce the arrears.

Nerves jangled momentarily – Darwen, who came back from 4-1 down to draw against Bootle earlier in the season, briefly threatened a second as Scott burst into the box but into Hodges. The danger subsided, though, and West regained control of the game with Jack Sergeant stopping the visitors’ attacks at source. Woods was denied by Whittingham after another telepathic connection with Bailey, but he did get the goal his performance deserved 12 minutes from time, bringing down Bailey’s cross from the left before burying his shot deep into the Darwen keeper’s netting.

West will face tougher tests before the season is over – three of the current top seven await in the next four games – but with six points and seven goals in the last two games, things are beginning to look a little brighter around Brookburn Road.

West: Hodges, Affleck, Coo, Slaven (O’Donnell 70), Bayunu (Eiselt 70), Potts, Steer, Sergeant, Bailey (Whyment 79), Shaw, Woods. Not used: Middleton, McKenzie.