DARWEN boss Steve Wilkes today admitted his side are now chasing second place after they failed to close the gap on leaders Curzon Ashton in this bad-tempered clash at The Anchor.

The Anchormen desperately needed a victory to keep their slim title hopes alive.

But it took a second half equaliser from Mark Bennett to rescue a point which leaves them 12 adrift of high-flying Curzon with just two games in hand.

"I think we are fighting for second place now with Nelson and Woodley," admitted Wilkes.

"Curzon have only got six games left and if they win four of them then I think they are home and dry.

"But, hopefully, we can hang in there and still go up as runners up."

With so much at stake in the FNWTL Second Division promotion race, tempers repeatedly boiled over in a chaotic second half which was marred by an 18-man brawl.

Then further fighting broke out in the tunnel after the final whistle as the match officials lost all control.

There had been no hint of the trouble to follow in an entertaining first half which the visitors shaded.

Keeper Lee Purvis was forced into a couple of early saves before Curzon swept in front on 32 minutes.

Nigel Evans burst down the right before whipping over a pinpoint centre for Chris Simms to head home at the far post.

But as the home side gradually got to grips with the heavy conditions, their best chance fell to Matt Atkinson who blazed wildly over from six yards.

The equaliser arrived two minutes after the break when Steve Lynch crossed from the right, keeper Tommy Allan saved Bennett's initial effort, but he pounced to slot home the rebound.

The expected onslaught in the last half hour never materialised, however, as the game repeatedly boiled over.

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