Birmingham FA Vase, Second Round
Darlaston Town (1874) 2 Alcester Town 2, 4-2 on penalties (att 36)
Darlaston's former ground was among my favourite venues. Sadly it seems the City Ground is unlikely to stage football again, but at least the revived club now have a ground of their own and are making good progress.
Their progress to the third round of the Birmingham FA Vase was trickier than it should have been. After an undistinguished opening 65 minutes the tie came to life when Darlaston were awarded a penalty, from which they took the lead.
The Alcester player who gave the spot kick away has been booked in the aftermath, and collected a red card five minutes later after unwisely continuing his complaints to the assistant referee who'd given the decision.
But ten-man Alcester, who play Midland League football one level lower than West Midlands Regional League Darlaston, took advantage of sloppy defending to get a surprising equaliser. It wasn't long before Darlaston were back in front, but in the final minute Alcester managed to level again.
I was expecting extra time but instead the game went straight to penalties, and Darlaston progressed after scoring four out of four while Alcester missed a couple.
Darlaston Town (1874) were formed following the demise of the original club, and are developing a decent venue, The Paycare Ground. It's a former company sports ground, with a railed off pitch adjacent to a building that contains a clubhouse and the changing rooms.
At present there's no cover for spectators, but that will change soon as a concrete base has already been laid ready for a stand. Long-term the club will need to enclose the playing area and erect floodlights to progress, but they seem to have the necessary enthusiasm.
It was great to visit a club at this level run by such keen and friendly people, and with proper supporters embracing the grassroots game (including one who was very much dressed for the part). I'd love to see a Darlaston side climbing the football pyramid, and I wish them well.