27th April 1999
Darwen 1 - 1 Warrington Town
Lacking the Pieman amongst their numbers, it seemed as though the barmy army of Town fans would have trouble making themselves heard across the undulating (to say the least) Darwen field. By the end of the game, however, the derision of the referee and his assistants by the army, the players and staff was just about all you could hear.
The main absence of note from the Town team was that of Terry Nestor. Would Town's midfield hold together without the experienced playmaker? Town started well, Damo and Tyrell linking nicely after just a few minutes of the game. Damo was through but was forced to shoot wide by the presence of a defender. Town's next chance came after a quarter of an hour. Paul Berry making good use of a free kick to run at the defence and cross for Tyrell, who shot narrowly wide at the far post. Darwen were nowhere and ten minutes later the onslaught continued as Joey Fenton released Damo who threaded a great ball to Neil Holden under pressure. Holden's shot looked goal-bound but took a deflection before spinning wide of the left hand upright. Tyrell obviously had his shooting boots on as he thundered a couple of drives straight at the Darwen 'keeper.
Damo breaks through but the attack is smothered by the Darwen goalie
During the furios action, Joey Fenton playing well at the back for Town had been clattered and was replaced by Ando, who immediately slipped into defence to cover the left full back position. The Town pressure continued and Ian Callaghan was awarded a free kick on the edge of the box for his efforts. The referee's undeniably short ten yards was paced out backwards to a point about level with the penalty spot - blatantly short of 10 yards from the middle of the edge of the box. It might have been a different story if the ref, oblivious to shouts from the Town fans five yards behind him, had known about the basic dimensions of the D on a football field - the shot caught a deflection off the wall before bouncing wide. The ref had also just spoken to the foul-mouthed Darwen no. 5 for the second time in the game (and went on to warn him several more times) but failed to produce a deserved red card.
The second half saw Town fighting on, and a ferocious shot from Holden on the left brought a spectacular save from the Darwen minder. Kevin Tyrell's header was cleared off the line a few minutes after the hour mark and Town's luck continued to evade them as Damo's shot was scrambled out by a defender after the keeper had spilled his initial drive. With about ten minutes to go, Paul Anderton came the closest yet with a stunning 25-yard bullet drive which was only narrowly diverted onto the crossbar by the diving keeper's outstreched fingers.
The breakthrough was made moments later. A free kick on the right hand side was played carefully into the path of an unmarked Berry run but he was tripped on the way to goal for a Town penalty. Damo duly despatched the spot kick before an acrobatic somersault in front of the screaming fans.
Damo powers home the spot kick with a vengeance
Town weren't given chance to sit back on their lead and some desparate defending gave Darwen a free kick on the edge of the area on about 98 minutes (why?!). After the scramble of the century, the ball was poked in. But the linesman's flag was up. The celebrations were cut short, and the Darwen players started appealing. The ref consulted his linesman who had remained as a statue with a raised flag throughout, only to allow the goal anyway. The abuse thrown at him as he walked in to his dressing room said it all.
Alan Hansen says: Shoakin'. Absalootly shooooooookin. Unbelievable.
This is the Warrington Guardian's report on the match:
WARRINGTON can feel aggrieved at the manner in which they saw victory snatched from them in an explosive finish to the game at Darwen on Tuesday.
The referee inexplicably added seven minutes of stoppage time to a half which had few hold-ups, enabling Darwen the opportunity to draw level in equally controversial fashion. With 95 minutes on the clock Steve Wilkes drove in an equaliser after a free kick by Dave Barnes had rebounded to him off the bar. Despite the linesman signalling Paul Corly off side, for standing on the goal line, the referee overturned his decision and awarded a goal, ruling that the striker was not interfering with play.
It was a sickening blow for Town and leaves them anxiously awaiting the results of the other leading promotion contenders in the North Western Trains League second division, before they complete their programme at Maghull a week on Saturday. Although missing two key players, defensive colossus Elfyn Edwards, who was ably replaced by outstanding Alan Blair, and midfield supremo Terry Nestor, Warrington should have made the points safe before the late drama after carving out a host of chances.
But home 'keeper Lee Purvis proved defiant, most notably when superbly turning behind fierce long range drives by Neil Holden and substitute Paul Anderton. They were further frustrated after Kevin Tyrrell had a header cleared off the line by defender Andy Bright. Winger Paul Berry, in inspired form with his marauding runs and quality crossing, then set Damien Whitehead free but his shot was parried by Purvis and saw his follow up effort diverted past a post by Neil Cordingley.
Whitehead enjoyed better fortune after 84 minutes, steering in a penalty, awarded when Berry had been tripped by Wilkes. He now needs to score a hat-trick at Maghull to equal the highest ever total attained by a player in the league, held by Jimmy Clarke of Bacup in 1989/90, with 54 goals to his name.
Town: Steriopolus, Tague, Fenton (Anderton 35mins); Cartledge, Blair, Berry, Tickle, Holden, Tyrrell, Whitehead, Callaghan. Subs not used: Bold, Jones