With a pulsating WMRL Div. One League Cup 1st Round tie between these near neighbouring clubs, the game teetering in the balance for so long as supreme efforts by all competitors helped serve up a nail-biting treat for a healthy attendance.  Earlier in the season Darlaston had comfortably seen off Tipton in their home game, winning by 3-0 – on this occasion a far,far sterner test awaited them with Tipton earnestly seeking redemption and showing, to a man, vigour aplenty, their second-half performance, in particular, illustrating what they can be capable of.

Not, in any way, to detract from Darlaston for, if any club within the Division, is capable of defeating the rest then it is most certainly Darlaston. Tipton’s opening movements were soon countered in the 2nd minute, Darlaston earning a flag-kick, forced clear by home skipper, Sam Hesson, himself a former Darlaston player. Not to be denied, the visitors soon forced the issue again, Jarrod Grant’s left-footed drive across home keeper, Chris Thomas, so very near to an early breakthrough. Undeterred, Tipton responded with TJ Davies threatening the visitor’s goal on 5 mins., Sam Causton dispossessing him, thus calming any early nerves in the visitor’s back line.

Darlaston were twice repelled as they made fine inroads into the home defence, before the home club regained possession, Davies cleverly ‘throwing’ the visitor’s defence before slipping in Jamie Sadler who, in turn, found Scott Broadway on just 9 mins.,  the home forward firing narrowly wide from close in. Davies’s clever footwork was clearly causing Darlaston much concern but the visitors never-say-die attitude countered any looming threats towards their goal. On 12 mins Ryan Kingdom’s wickedly curling cross almost caught Tipton out, his worthy effort arcing only just shy of the home goalpost, a narrow escape for Tipton. Home skipper, Sam Hesson, a former Darlaston player to boot, soon got his club moving forwards again in the 16th min., Ryan McAllister’s smart interception easing any growing concerns by the visitors.

Back in the home goalmouth, a spell of robust action by the visitors, varying from wing to wing, had Tipton defending desperately, even more so when keeper, Chris Thomas, was injured when bravely defending a dangerous cross, several minutes thence elapsing before, gingerly, he was able to continue. Isaac Cooper’s  on-target effort for Darlaston was deflected clear, giving the home club some welcome breathing space before they were able to launch a rapid counter-attack, Ben Store’s quite stunning drive crashing against the visitor’s crossbar, all this following fine, eye-catching build-up play by he clever Davies and colleague, Scott Broadway. Soon afterwards the visitors countered admirably in this fully committed encounter, Cooper’s dangerous cross, however, headed well clear by Connor Scott on 25 mins.

Tipton’s Davies was next thwarted by visiting keeper, Liam Whittaker as the home club responded well. No quarter was being given by either club, both fully committed and both, too, serving up some fine soccer. A cracking header by Luke Charlton, following a splendid left wing cross looked a certainty to put Darlaston ahead until home keeper, Thomas, executed a fabulous save, this on 33 minutes. Just three mins. later the home club agonisingly went so near to opening the scoring, Hesson’s goalbound drive careering off the crossbar followed rapidly with two dangerous headers, firmly on target, but forced aside. Still enjoying a period of dominance Ben Store’s drive for goal put more pressure on the visitors and straightway afterwards Jamie Saidler came so near to puncturing Darlaston’s goal and giving his club the lead.

However, Darlaston are made of sterner stuff and simply could not be quelled for long, soon afterwards  came so very close to breaking the deadlock, Jamie Holder, in support of his club’s attack, just failing to force the ball through the massed legs of a crowded home goalmouth with keeper, Thomas earning his stripes in somehow saving in the very last second ! Surviving this scare Tipton hit back, young Davies showing the visiting mid-field a clean pair of heels before cutting in from the left flank before driving wide of the visitor’s post. Another scare befell the visitors quickly afterwards, Connor Scott, supporting the home attack, narrowly failed to score from a golden opportunity, visiting keeper, Liam Whittaker just able to deflect the ball clear.

Darlaston began the 2nd half very much on the offensive, urged on by a healthy bunch of their supporters, Jarrod Grant’s accurate drive at the home goal fisted clear by Thomas before the home club countered, Broadway’s cross in the 49th min. poorly defended but the home club were unable to take full advantage. Home skipper, Sam Hesson had clearly suffered a first half injury, failing to appear after the break, Sam Armstrong deputising. On 53 mins clever footwork by Jarrod Grant put Darlaston on the charge, a fine concerted rearguard action by the home defence just good enough to counter the growing threat. Darlaston continued to dictate terms at this stage, exhibiting fine skills in their attacking prowess, the home club’s dogged defending just allowing them to survive this most difficult period.

On 54 mins Davies took up the challenge once more for the home club, his vicious low drive quite superbly tipped aside at full stretch by visiting keeper, Whittaker, the subsequent flag-kick thereafter holding no terrors for Darlaston. Soon afterwards Ryan Jones launched a rocket-like drive at the home goal, surely a winner until home keeper Chris Thomas somehow pulled off a staggering save. Darlaston rattled the home bar just on the hour as the pressure and intensity of the encounter soared ever upwards.

Slowly Tipton regathered confidence to go forward again and on 64 mins. Broadway’s dangerous cross was only just too strong for fellow forward Davies with the opening goal so very close once more. Frantic end to end stuff, both sides scornful of defeat in this very local contest, Kieran Smith next to try his luck at the visitor’s goal, Whittaker capably denying him. Play quickly reverted to the Tipton penalty area, the home club fortunate to beat away goalbound strikes from Luke Charlton and Liam Taylor.

On 74 mins Darlaston broke through the home rearguard the opening goal surely beckoning strongly but, to Tipton’s thankful advantage, hurried shooting spurned the golden opportunity. Ross Harris came on for Tipton at the expense of Ben Store, these final ten minutes or so seeing the pressure ramped far higher, from red-hot to white-hot ! Both clubs were striving manfully to get their noses in front and, more importantly, keep them there. Darlaston saw goalbound strikes from Charlton and Isaac Cooper charged down  and driven clear before, on 87 mins. Tipton emerged as victors in this most absorbing encounter, Teejay Davies’s clever cross forced home from close range  by a jubilant Scott Broadway. 1-0.

Still time for the visitors to avenge this set-back, peppering the home goal to no avail, however, until the final whistle brought an end to the finest game seen on these grounds at Tipton Sports Academy for a very long time !.

John A. Cross

President, Tipton Town F.C.

Next Fixture   Sat 17th November 2018    Birmingham Saturday Challenge Vase Rnd.2    COVENTRY ALVIS (Away)  k.o. 3-00pm