Saturday, 21 September 2019

21/09/19 Review: Darlaston Town 1874 vs Bilston Town

Darlaston Town 3-0 Bilston Town (West Midlands (Regional) League)
The Paycare Ground

Sunny September Saturdays are made for a ride out to Darlaston, right? Well, for 'Pint of Football' they are and with a local derby on the agenda in this West Midlands League encounter I decided to use my free afternoon to take the short drive down the M6 to see what all the fuss was about at The Paycare Ground, home to Darlaston Town 1874. Formed (or should I say reformed?) in 2014, the phoenix club of the dissolved originals were allowed back into the West Mids League family and since then have been treated as a new club. Their opponents for the day, known as the Steelmen, also have a bit of history behind them and since 1894 they've been called everything from Bilston Town all the way through to Bilston Borough. With just three miles separating the two clubs on the Black Country Route, the sides started the day just a point apart and it therefore promised to be a tasty encounter. I decided that there was no better time to get down to see a game and so without further ado, let's see how it all panned out.

Not a cloud in the sky this afternoon- lovely!
As regular readers know, I always pluck a pre-match prediction out of the air and although I got the number of goals right, I was not quite correct with my 2-1 early doors guess. I arrived at The Paycare Ground a good fifteen minutes early and after parking up and accidentally walking through the gap between the trees into the ground I then backtracked into the car park and made my way over the proper entrance... I'm tight, but not tight enough to sneak into a ground at this level. After relinquishing a fiver for entry, I then made my way straight into the modern and well-presented clubhouse for a pre-match Coors so that I could get in the mood for the big derby. One thing that I've not got used to, despite living in Staffordshire for a third of my life now, is the hugely differing accent that belongs to the Black Country folk! Being originally from Yorkshire, I know that I can't really judge, but their language is a hard one for me to grasp and I even stumbled across a lad and dad couple arguing in the toilets whilst discussing their hopes for the game. The dad thought that his son was saying "hopefully we'll get three pints today" and was rejecting the notion of having that much to drink, when all that the lad was actually hoping for was a win! I tried to add to the confusion by asking them if they'd need more than three pints if they didn't manage three points, but I think my humour was lost so I quickly departed out to sunny pitchside.
Everyone outside... it's game time
My last new ground was two weeks at time of writing and although my trip to Butts Park in Coventry was something a little more glam than what I'd witness today, my main focus would be on whether the hosts today could do better than the disappointing United side a fortnight ago. With that, the sides started to emerge on to the field and after a minute's silence in the centre-circle and around the ground, we began. Darlaston began the game strongest with Romano Graham looking lively up front, but as is customary for a derby at this level the fouls count was rising at a much higher rate than that of the shots registered. Into the twentieth minute I overheard a fan say that Man City were already 5-0 up against Watford, which at the time I didn't believe, but I couldn't help but start to wish that a Sergio Aguero character would enter the field here to convert some of the half-chances that Darlo were creating. At the other end, Bilston created a rare chance of their own through Sam Melia, but there wasn't too much testing Liam Whittaker in the home goal. The black country answer to Bjorn Lodbrok stood tall and watched as his side largely took control of the first-half.

No goals for this lot to cheer about though, HT 0-0
Whilst the attendance was fairly decent from what I could see, there was a notable lack of absence in terms of atmosphere and there was only one Bilston boy who made up for this. Yes, fully kitted out in his bright orange attire, the lad who I believe was named Frankie, stood out as being one of the looniest but also undoubtedly passionate fans I've come across so far. He was vocal throughout, giving general tactically instructions out such as "mark him, marrrrrrk him" and of course "have a go" as his side got anywhere near the 18-yard box. You can't knock this sort of commitment, as I've seen present in "Gladiator Tony" at The Creek over at Bristol Manor Farm, but I also couldn't allow myself to spend too much near him. He was making me feel sweaty just by looking at him.
Yup, that's him
The highlight of the break, aside from a second pint, was listening to the crowd moaning that the raffle was a fix. It was one of those 'pick a team off the card and the winner is then revealed later' things and the winning team was Wolves. One fan shouted out "it's them every week!" whilst another simply labelled the raffle a fix. With the heat rising in the clubhouse to match the soaring temperatures outside, I headed back out to get ready to see whether Darlo could turn domination into goals as they looked to build on what they would no doubt have considered a good first 45. It wasn't until the hour mark, but the inevitable opener did come and it was from a tidy Daniel Bolzon finish. The striker raised an arm as he jumped in the air to celebrate, whilst the rest of the ground gave a relieved cheer. Darlaston 1-0 Bilston.

Let the Darlaston decimation begin
And with that, the floodgates opened and despite freshening things up with the introduction of a Coby Jones lookalike, Bilston would ultimately have little left in the tank to formulate a response to the opener. Leon Taylor had been impressive all afternoon and it would be the home captain who would grab the second as he made the most of a frail and tiring defence to slot home and double the lead fairly soon after the first from his strike partner. Darlaston 2-0 Bilston. A couple more subs came on for the visitors, but ultimately they were of a very poor standard and in particular their new right-back looked leaky in both offensive moves up the field and defensive plays at the back. Taylor found himself with space in the 75th minute and he chested the ball down, wriggled past Zack Stretton- who had a good game, in fairness- and then walked into the net with the ball between his legs for his second of the afternoon. Darlaston 3-0 Bilston. By this time Frankie had stripped down to an equally as bright orange shirt and for a moment I thought the old-timer was going to run on to try and change his side's fortunes, but instead the frustrated chap released the instruction "hit it with a coal shovel if you want next time!"

Some away fans had seen enough...
When you have the monstrous three mile trek back to Bilston, you couldn't help but sympathise with the away fans who began to leave as we approached stoppage time, but thankfully for them they didn't miss anything and the game drew to a close with an important three points and boost to the goal difference going to the hosts. For the oranges, it would be back to the drawing board for their new manager who has 13th place Dudley Sports visiting next Saturday. Darlo will travel to another very local side in the form of Black Country Rangers, who will start the day just two points above them in 6th.

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