Steeton 1

AFC Darwen 2

INJURIES, suspensions and absentees forced Steeton manager Roy Mason to reshuffle his team for Saturday’s visit by AFC Darwen, which also saw the promising introduction of three new players from Burnley’s Under-18s squad.

Starting all three new players in the 3-5-2 line-up could have been considered a bit of a gamble, but Steeton began brightly with new boy Jayden Major immediately impressing up front with his pace and close control.

In the fourth minute, and with their first attack of the game, Darwen took the lead.

Midfielder Alexander Heredia-Kaye was given too much room on the left and worked his way into the box to unleash a powerful shot that left debutant goalkeeper Harry Allen with no chance.

The home side responded well to the setback and produced some decent moves from deep that almost unlocked the Darwen defence.

James Grogan, in the centre of the park, started to see more of the ball and combined well with Toby Jeffrey and Bailey Coates on a couple of occasions to create chances. The best of these resulted in a curled effort by Major that went narrowly wide.

With 25 minutes gone, the visitors regained a foothold in the game and came close to doubling their lead.

Allen came to the rescue twice, diving at the feet of the striker to halt his progress before following it up with another save with his feet almost immediately.

The visitors second arrived from a set-piece in the 36th minute. A floated cross to the far post was nodded down to centre-half Samual Holt who swivelled and buried his shot. It was a decent move and finish but the home defence were caught flat-footed.

Steeton started the second half much like the first, enjoying more of the possession without really creating any clear-cut chances.

The back three of Ryan Canning, Udoka Chima and Elliot Scott looked more composed, with the experienced Canning impressing in only his second game for the club.

New signing Chima also promises to be an excellent addition to the squad. At 6ft 2ins he is a big presence and possesses good feet and reads the game well.

With time running out, Mason made a couple of changes to try and affect the outcome. Scott Stein replaced Coates in the centre and Tom Goodall came on for Hird, moving to right back in a switch of systems to 4-4-2.

The addition of Goodall had an immediate impact as the young right-back found space out wide to combine well with Jeffrey, whose cross was headed over by Clarkson.

The breakthrough eventually arrived in the 85th minute, Stein opening his Chevrons account with a blistering long-range shot that flew into the top-left corner of the goal.

The goal galvanized the home side and they pressed for the equaliser. Chima went close with a header and the Darwen skipper was lucky not to receive his marching orders after a high tackle on Goodall.

The lengthy injury meant seven minutes of extra time were played but despite a valiant effort the Chevrons were unable to find an equaliser.

Speaking after the game, Mason said: “Despite plenty of endeavour today, we really need more creativity in the final third.

"And again we’ve been caught out by defensive errors.

"We have to accept that injuries mean that this is going to be a tough period for us but I was pleased with the overall commitment and the performance of the three new lads.”