Lancaster City 4-3 AFC Darwen

Charlie Russell.
Charlie Russell.
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Lancaster City progressed through to the third round of the Lancashire FA Challenge Trophy after winning a seven-goal thriller with AFC Darwen on Tuesday night.

Danny Carlton scored his first goal for the club in the last minute of normal time to see the Dolly Blues through to the next round.

AFC Darwen took advantage of a poor start by the hosts going 1-0 up after just 15 minutes thanks to Bobby Langford’s perfectly-placed shot from 20 yards that just eluded the fingertips of Mike Hale.

The visitors’ cause wasn’t helped though when goalkeeper Anthony Windle was forced off with a head injury shortly after with outfield player Luke McKenna forced to go in goal.

This change between the sticks seemed to buoy Lancaster somewhat and they regrouped and grew stronger as the first half progressed and scored two goals in quick succession just before half-time.

Zach Clark nodded in from close range before Ryan Winder’s header from six yards ensured that Phil Brown could breathe a sigh of relief as the half-time whistle was blown.

The Dolly Blues couldn’t build on it after the break though and before long Darwen were back on level terms as substitute Paul Coote was given a free header which he gladly put away.

Lancaster were then denied what looked like a clear penalty when Terry Cummings was bundled over in the box and there was an increasingly ominous feeling at Giant Axe as Darwen looked dangerous on the attack.

And with just over 10 minutes to go, Darwen sent their small set of fans into dreamland as Nick Hepple scored with a low shot from 15 yards.

At 3-2 and with Darwen in the ascendency, it didn’t look good for the Dolly Blues.

That was until Charlie Russell pulled a goal straight out of the top drawer. He chested the ball with his back to goal and volleyed on the turn with the shot proving too much for McKenna as it ended up in the top corner.

Penalties were looming but with a minute remaining City got the crucial goal.

The game needed something special to settle it and it came from Cummings who picked up the ball just inside the Darwen half and drove past five players before putting Russell through on goal.

His shot was saved and the rebound fell kindly to one-time Wembley hero Carlton who stepped up to score his first goal for the club from five yards out.

Lancaster City: Hale, Gregory (Clark), Henry, Watson, Marshall (Capt), Street, Winder, Akrigg, Cummings, Russell, Clark (Carlton). Subs not used: Davis, Freeland, Mercer.

Booked: Russell.

AFC Darwen: Windle (Gibson), Banks, Hoctor, McKenna, Carson, Lonsdale (Capt), Gaul, Lynch, Hepple, Langford (Coote), Brearley. Subs not used: Wallace, Douglas.

Booked: Carson, Lynch.

Referee: Mark Doherty.

Attendance: 96.