Squires Gate 3 AFC Darwen 0
Gate built on their league win away to leaders Runcorn Town with this deserved success in the first round of the FA Carlsberg Vase.
Both sides sit fourth-bottom of their respective NW Counties divisions but Gate were determined not to underestimate visitors from the lower level.
In a match of few chances, Jonathan Forbes continued his match-by-match improvement. He was strong on the right side of defence and was denied a goal by Darwen keeper Adam Chester’s block.
Forbes then shot just wide before slipping the ball through for striker Tom Bartlett to set up Andy Richards for the opener.
His 25-yard strike into the top corner after 33 minutes was a carbon copy of Richards’ winner last week.
Gate played with the wind in the first half but had difficulty finding their strikers as the ball picked up speed and ran out of play.
Denied a penalty claim for a challenge on Ben Fishwick, Gate ended the first half in control as Tom Benfield and Dave McCann kept Darwen at bay.
Richards shot just wide but still the visitors pushed for an equaliser, counting themselves unlucky when the ball was cleared off the line by assistant manager McCann.
Most of the attacking was focused on the right, but when the ball was switched left Bartlett set up the second goal.
He slipped the ball to Scott Harries, who raced through to beat the advancing keeper to double the lead in the 80th minute.
Any thoughts that the game had been put to bed never entered Darwen’s head as they gave Gate keeper Neil Beesley and his defenders work to do.
The win was sealed in the 89th minute, when Harries cut in from the left at pace and worried the defence into a rash tackle, enabling player manager Russ McKenna to lash the penalty into the net.
McKenna said: “Darwen are a hard side to beat but everyone played their part and ‘Tiny’ (Beesley) played well. The midfield was full of energy as were the widemen.
“Darwen played hard and were unlucky with a couple of chances. McCann’s clearance off the line was a big moment and it was good to finish with a clean sheet.”
Gate: Beesley, Forbes, Thomas, McCann, Benfield, Farrow, Richards, Fishwick, Bartlet, Bennett, Harries; subs : McKendrick, Shelmerdine,McKenna, Taylor.