Dudley were looking to get a result yesterday afternoon to kickstart their campaign following a challenging start to the season in the league. The Robins are currently 17th in the premier division with five points from 12 matches and have struggled at step five so far following an excellent title winning campaign last season in MFL Division One.
Darlaston Town were coming into yesterday’s match in a good run of form in the league and had picked up 11 points from their last six matches in the premier division. The Citizens are chasing the play offs this season and have looked good so far. Their main problem has been away from home with one win from six matches in the league which gave Dudley some hope of an upset yesterday.
The atmosphere prior to kick off at the Guardian Warehousing Arena was friendly and relaxed and the facilities on offer around the ground were excellent. There was a programme on offer which was informative to both Dudley Town supporters and more casual groundhoppers and added to the matchday experience.
Starting line ups
The starting line up for Dudley featured Sam Agius starting in goal and Alex Perry leading the team as the skipper from holding midfield. The formation looked like a 4-2-3-1 with Josh McKenzie leading the line up front and being supported by Connor Archer and Dan Danks on the wings.
There were two changes from the team that started against Uttoxeter last weekend with Yussif Adnan coming into the team and playing at right back.
The starting line up for Darlaston Town included Bradley Clarkson starting in goal and Alex Foreshaw leading the team as the skipper from central defence. The formation appeared to be a 4-2-3-1 with Aaron Bishop leading the line up front and being supported by Jack Downing and Rivel Mardenborough on the wings with James Rowland playing in the attacking midfield role.
There was only one change from the team that started against Stone Old Alleynians last weekend with Ben Priest coming into the team and playing in holding midfield alongside Ryan Winwood.
The opening 15 minutes of the match involved Dudley Town creating a good atmosphere and making the ground a tough place to go for the visitors. The intimate set up can help the atmosphere and was effective yesterday with the crowd invested in it and getting behind the Robins.
Darlaston had the first real chance when Aaron Bishop had a header at the back post well saved by Sam Agius in the Dudley goal in the 9th minute. Dudley gradually grew into the match as it went on with Darlaston having a decent amount of the ball in the first 15 minutes.
There was a crucial moment in the first half which gave the hosts the confidence to cause an upset and happened quite early in the match. The Robins managed to score from a free kick into the box with Josh McKenzie getting into a good position and finishing well to make it 1-0 in the 18th minute.
Darlaston managed to find an equaliser a few minutes later to get a foothold in the match. It involved a quality move down the right with Rivel Mardenborough playing an incisive ball to James Rowland who cut inside and played an excellent ball to Aaron Bishop who scored at the back post to make it 1-1 in the 20th minute.
Following a frantic five minutes of the match, it gradually started to settle down with Todd Sherwood doing well to get Dudley on the ball more from holding midfield and link up the play.
The rest of the first half was limited in terms of chances. Josh McKenzie had a half chance for Dudley in the 41st minute but shot over the bar from a good position. None the less, both defences were on top throughout the 45 minutes and there was not much to separate them.
The opening 15 minutes of the second half were crucial within the context of the match. There was a huge chance for Dudley substitute Jordan Davies who was one on one with the goalkeeper but had a shot saved in the 46th minute. James Rowland also had a shot that was well saved by Sam Agius in the Dudley goal a few minutes later in a lively start to the second half.
The visitors managed to take the lead in the 50th minute with Rivel Mardenborough going down the left and squaring the ball to Jack Downing who finished well into the bottom right corner. There was a bit of controversy as Dudley thought Jamie Beddall was fouled in the build-up, but the goal stood.
Darlaston were looking to see out the match and get through to the second round before a crucial moment changed the momentum of the match on the hour mark. Ryan Winwood was given a straight red card for a heavy challenge on Connor Armstrong and the visitors were reduced to ten men for the last half an hour.
Dudley equalised five minutes later with Connor Armstrong showing composure in the box and squaring the ball to Dan Danks who finished the chance well. The visitors did have some chances to respond with ten men. The best one came when Ben Podmore had a header that was cleared off the line by Todd Sherwood in the 75th minute from a corner.
Dudley Town shaded the second half and were in the ascendancy in the latter stages. The Robins were trying to find a late winner and Connor Armstrong was excellent in carrying the team forward and starting off attacks. Darlaston were looking to play on the counter in the latter stages and they offered a threat going forward when given the opportunity. The FT score finished 2-2 which set up a dramatic penalty shootout.
The story of the shootout started when Dan Danks missed a penalty and Darlaston managed to control it well until they missed a crucial penalty right at the end which allowed Dudley back into it. Dudley managed to regain the momentum in an epic penalty shootout to win 7-6 and get to the second round in front of an ecstatic home support.
This match was a FA Vase classic and had a bit of everything. Both teams showed a lot of effort and character and there had to be a loser unfortunately.
Darlaston can exit the FA Vase with pride as they gave it their all and narrowly lost a match that could have gone either way. The Citizens can now focus on challenging for the play offs and have a lot of big matches over the next few months at the Paycare Stadium.
The defence played well and looked organised at the back to contain the Robins throughout the 90 minutes. Ben Podmore was excellent in central defence and was in the right positions to win the ball back and stop promising Dudley attacks. He was also dominant in the air and helped the visitors settle into the match.
Josh Jones was reliably good at right back and looked solid defensively. He’s an underrated part of the Darlaston defence and plays good balls to start off attacks from the right.
Dudley got a huge result yesterday which could kickstart their season. The team showed a lot of character and effort to cause an upset and competed well with a quality Darlaston side. Jamie Beddall looked good at the back and was clearing the ball well and making key interceptions to stop Darlaston attacks. Todd Sherwood had an underrated game from holding midfield and controlled the play well.
Josh McKenzie was excellent up front and linked up the play well to start attacks and was a focal point. Connor Armstrong was brilliant as the number ten and played some incisive balls into the box which caused Darlaston a number of problems.
Despite the difficult start to the season, there’s genuine quality in the squad and the FA Vase could be a catalyst for giving the squad the momentum to stay up at the end of the season.
FT score: Dudley Town 2-2 Darlaston Town (Dudley Town win on penalties 7-6)
Man of the Match: Connor Armstrong (Dudley Town)
Match report written by Rhys Beardmore for the Midland Football League
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