If there was ever a game of two halves then this match typified that statement.
Prestwich were by far the more dangerous in the first half despite having perhaps less than 50% possession but were very much under pressure for much of the second but could have come away with a win if one glorious second half chance had been taken. Overall though Darwen deserved the draw for the way they raised their game in the second half after trailing 2–0 at the break.
In an highly competitive game Darwen’s tactic of a high press did little in the first half to disrupt Prestwich’s passing game and composure on the ball. They always posed a threat but hardly troubled Prestwich keeper Mike Hudson during the first 45 minutes.
Whist having less of the ball the pace of Prestwich’s front line and midfield caused constant problems for the Darwen defence. Early on Tito Miguel got into the box and fired into the side netting from a narrow angle, shortly after he hit the post directly from a corner and several other efforts from the edge of the box went wide or over.
David Kuba Kuba playing only his second game for the club was creating from midfield throughout and when he went on a mazy run past 3 defenders he was eventually halted by a trip on the edge of the box. He proceeded to take the free kick and fired it past the wall and in off the near post to give Prestwich a 32nd minute lead.
Shortly after this a sweet Prestwich move saw Rafael Straszewski meet a squared pass on the volley bringing an excellent full stretch save from the Darwen keeper. A few minutes later he found himself on the right side of the box, took a pass, skipped past a defender but was unable to finish the resulting 1 on 1 and the ball was cleared.
Minutes later when a corner was played into the box the keeper collected the high ball but as he came down he injured himself and had to be replaced in goal. As the half was coming to an end Straszewski was sent clear, lobbed the ball expertly over the advancing keeper and followed it up to rifle in a second for Prestwich on 44 minutes, to complete the first half scoring. The Darwen defenders complaining that he was off side may have indeed been correct.
The second half saw Darwen intent on getting back into the game and their high press and intensity did start to upset Prestwich’s game. A nearly 20 minute half time break had done nothing to help as Prestwich were much slower off the mark than Darwen who came out with the bit between their teeth.
They caused the previously secure Prestwich defence no end of problems and if the second Prestwich goal had been unfortunate for them it was balanced by Darwen’s first . A break down the left wing looked clearly offside but play went on and when the ball was crossed into the box a bit of a scramble resulted in the ball being poked into the net for 1 – 2 in the 55th minute.
This spurred Darwen on and they put the Prestwich defence under massive pressure but they stood firm and survived a series of corners and efforts on goal.
At the other end Prestwich were feeding off scraps and only managed a couple of long range efforts to test the stand in keeper. Meanwhile Hudson in the Prestwich goal made an excellent save from a cross shot, palming it away for a corner.
Perhaps the best chance of the whole half came an about 80 minutes when Miguel nicked the ball from a Darwen player in the centre circle and raced in on goal with defenders chasing in his wake. He got to the edge of the box but chose the wrong option shooting straight at the keeper when it looked easier to score, he was however cleaned out by a late and desperate tackle a second later but strangely nothing was given as it was clearly a dangerous challenge.
Then came the ultimate sickener for Prestwich when following yet another corner the ball was cleared to the edge of the box straight to a Darwen player who produced one of the best volleyed goals you could hope to see at any level, firing an unstoppable rocket into the top corner.
On balance this 2 – 2 result was probably a fair one though I imagine Darwen will feel that they should have won it for their second half efforts especially, but equally Prestwich did deserve something for their battling second half show and their first half cutting edge and composed play.
Next up and the final game of this season is against Bolton Wyresdale FC at Hopwood Hall with a 2.00pm KO on Sat 22/05/21 when spectators are again welcome.