Darwen 3 Accrington Stanley 2

A SENSATIONAL last minute volley from John Whittaker slayed Stanley and put Darwen into the semi finals of the Lancashire ATS Trophy for the first time in over 20 years.

Player-boss Steve Wilkes was ecstatic after his side battled back from being 2-0 down inside the opening five minutes to dump more misery on the UniBond League strugglers.

"It was like being at Wembley in our dressing room after the game. The atmosphere was absolutely fantastic," beamed Wilkes.

"I haven't slept because I've been buzzing that much."

Backed by a vociferous home support, the Anchormen fully deserved their moment of glory after proving more than a match for Wayne Harrison's relegation-haunted side.

But they found themselves a goal down inside three minutes when Paul Daughtry swung over a free kick from the left and Paul Heavey flicked a header past Lee Purvis. Stanley then looked to be cruising as Heavey bagged his second two minutes later after a clever lay-off from Daughtry.

But Darwen dug deep and Whittaker hauled them back into the tie on 16 minutes, heading home Neil Durkin's cushioned nod back from Paul Curley's free kick.

And Curley put them level 10 minutes later, pouncing in the six yard box after Whittaker's cross caused confusion in the Stanley area.

The Reds stepped up a gear in the second half but they were rocked on 75 minutes when Les Thompson was carried off after a long delay with a suspected broken leg following a challenge with Andy Bright.

Billy O'Callaghan and Daughtry both fired over from inviting positions before Whittaker stole their thunder in spectacular style in the dying seconds.

Steve Lynch flicked on Durkin's free kick and Whittaker unleashed a fierce 25 yard volley which flashed into the roof of the net to trigger the celebrations.

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