Saturday, March 11, 2006

FROM villain to hero in a week, Mark Danks used his feet in more productive terms to put the boot into poor Barrow.

Instead of kicking out at opponents, a crime committed by the superbly-skilled yet tempramental striker against Redditch last Monday, Danks channelled his aggression in the right direction.

Through a contentious first-half penalty and delightful counter-attack run and finish, he kept Worcester City's play-off challenge in full swing.

Not everybody was happy with Danks, though. Almost everyone connected to the Bluebirds -- manager, players and vociferous support -- accused the 22-year-old of play-acting and conning the referee too many times.

So much so, that frustrated Barrow skipper Graham Anthony took matters into his own hands, elbowing Danks flush in the face in stoppage-time. Smeared with blood, he required six stitches to his lip after the game.

Anthony deserved his marching orders, but referee John Hay and his officials completely missed the off-the-ball assault.

Danks was the innocent party on this occasion, but following his acrimonious midweek sending-off, it was obvious Barrow were on a mission to wind-up the fractious forward.

But the Cumbrians were second-best containing Danks, who took his tally to nine goals in 11 appearances. Moreover, they could not handle Adam Webster.

Danks takes the plaudits for his match-winning brace -- leaving fans wondering how much the former Forest Green Rovers man will be missed during his three-match ban -- but Webster was simply untouchable.

Webster beautifully teed up his partner for City's second goal and fulfilled the target-man role to perfection, dictating play in Barrow territory while linking up skilfully with City's assertive three-man midfield.

And another dominant performance in defence -- with Chris Smith outstanding -- ensured the visitors were always in command.

"I thought Webby and Danksy were fantastic," said City boss Andy Preece. "Both of them played through injuries too, which is credit to them.

"It shows how much hunger they have got and desire to play. I'm delighted with both their performances."

But for a flurry of excellent saves by goalkeeper Simon Bishop, the visitors would have been out of sight by half-time.

City orchestrated several fine moves, the first on eight minutes when Nick Colley's trickery from the right flank opened up a chance for new-boy Adam Burley, although his header carried too little power to beat Bishop.

Worcester pressed again and were unlucky three times, first when George Clegg's volleyed 'goal' was disallowed for a nudge on Steve Ridley.

Then Bishop reacted brilliantly to steer away two powerful low shots from Danks.

Seven minutes before the interval, a controversial penalty presented City the lead. After Bishop denied unmarked Danks, Ridley was adjudged to have hacked down Clegg.

The decision was given by referees' assistant Gary Halliwell and not the centrally-placed Hay, prompting furious Barrow protests. From the spot, Danks scored despite Bishop getting both hands to his low effort.

Clearly aggrieved, pumped-up Bluebirds pressed ahead for an immediate second-half leveller, but McDonnell kept out Gavin Knight twice and Nick Rogan's piledriver with a terrific reflex save.

Worcester were always in control, however, and they took the steam out of the game by doubling their advantage.

Calm and showing great poise on the touchline, Webster sent Danks clear of chasing defenders James Cotterill and Stuart Howson.

There was no panicking from twinkle-toed Danks, who neatly side-stepped Bishop before slotting home.

City: McDonnell, Warner, Burley, Smith, Thompson, Lyttle, Clegg (Walker 65), Colley, Danks (Hyde 90), Webster (Preece 82), Warmer. Subs not used: Khan, Hines.

Attendance: 932.