DARLASTON Town's return to League football after a 12 month absence did not produce the fairy tale result the strong Darlaston following were hoping for as they lost 1-0 to Malvern Town Reserves.
With the Malvern Hills overlooking the impressive Langland Stadium the game kicked off in beautiful sunshine. The Darlaston players were fully aware of the expectations on their shoulders but nerves and tension were clearly on show in the opening exchanges. However Darlaston started to take a grip of the opening 20 minutes with skipper Ryan McAllister and Anthony Follows leading the way in midfield and with John Reeves and Sammy Giles getting the better of their markers, out on the flanks, it seemed it was only a matter of time before Mark Swann's men broke the deadlock. Chances fell to Reeves, Giles, Swann and John Charters but all went begging.
Despite Darlaston having the upper hand Malvern were impressive and Jack Cullity on the left wing gave the Blues defence a difficult time but on two separate occasions Martin Stanton and Callum Fowell denied the winger a clear shot on Chris Collins' goal.
As the half progressed Darlaston seemed to lose their flow and Malvern grew in confidence. The game was more evenly balanced as the half time whistle blew and there was always the thought in the back of your mind that we would pay a heavy price for our missed chances.
How right that turned out to be. Malvern were rejuvenated in the second period and played some nice attractive football with Cullity and his strike partner Dawson using their explosive pace to exploit the Darlaston back line on several occasions without being able to find the net . We still created problems for the Malvern defence but for some reason as the half progressed the visitors passing went awry and they repeatedly failed to find a team mate and the quality of crosses into the box was poor, easily being cleared by the Malvern central defenders.
With the points likely to be shared being a fair reflection of the game disaster struck with just 10 minutes remaining. Cullity split open the Darlo defence to set Henry Dawson clear and the Malvern centre forward broke Darlo's hearts beating Chris Collins with a 15 yard drive low to the keeper's left. Despite this late set back there were still opportunities for Darlaston to grab a deserved equaliser, substitute Sam Melia's 18 yard shot was easily saved by keeper Jones, while Ian Watkins headed over from six yards.
The effort, passion and will to win were all on show but at times the nerves and tension got the better of the players as they desperately tried to secure the opening day win they so desperately craved. This was a set back against a good side but they have chance to make amends when they visit Worcestershire again on Saturday, AFC Worcester Olympic, KO 3pm.