AFC Darwen were seconds away from pulling off a major upset in the North West Counties League First Division on Monday night – but still managed to do East Lancashire neighbours Nelson a favour at the same time.

The Salmoners were on the road at second-placed Atherton Collieries, who were looking to close the gap on the Admirals - who are top of the table – to eight points.

But Kenny Langford’s men stunned the Alder House faithful when the manager’s son Bobby finished off a sweet move to put Darwen 1-0 ahead.

Stand-in keeper Danny Fradd was a virtual spectator during the first-half as the locals continued to dominate and just before the break Adam Douglas doubled the lead to put the locals firmly in the box seat.

Langford went close to a third goal midway through the second half only to be denied by the Atherton keeper but it looked as though they would pull off a shock result as the game ticked into injury time.

However, there was heartache to come for Darwen.

Firstly Paul Atherton poked home for Collieries and then with the last kick of the game in the sixth minute of added time, a free-kick deflected off a group of Salmoners and left Fradd wrong-footed as the ball rolled into the net.

Meanwhile, Darwen and Blackburn College have teamed up to create a Football School of Excellence.

The centre will operate from September and will provide professional coaching and player development and will also offer students the experience of turning out in matches on a semi-professional ground.

The Centre of Excellence team will compete in the the English Colleges’ FA and League cups and players will also get the chance to progress into Darwen’s adult teams.

Former Preston, Accrington Stanley and Clitheroe man and current Darwen coach Andrew Smith will be the head coach of the centre and trials will take place at the WEC Anchor Ground on Wednesday, April 16, betweem 1pm and 3pm.

To book a place on the trial day, contact Matthew Hinchley on 01254 292408.

Darwen return to North West Counties League First Division action on Saturday when they welcome Eccleshall to the WEC Anchor Ground on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Darwen’s two-legged North West Counties League First Division Trophy semi-final will take place next month.

The Salmoners will host Formby on Wednesday, March 5, before making the trip to Merseyside for the second leg on March 26.