Darlington 0 – 1 Northwich Victoria
Just got round to writing this, which is probably for the best, my head is a lot calmer tonight then 24 hours ago.
Before the game I expected Northwich to be a solid side, and that is exactly what they were. In Jim Gannon they probably have the best, or at least most experienced manager in the league and he did a job on his opposite number Martin Gray yesterday.
An early fluke goal from a corner proved to be the only one of the match, however, we never in truth looked like scoring and it was a very hard watch for the majority of the 1100+ crowd.
Without being disrespectful, I didn’t think Northwich were anything special, but I’m sure they won’t have been impressed with us either. They had the better chances in the second half, with us pushing forward, the Quakers only really threatening with a few shots from outside the area.
Our tactics continue to frustrate the majority of the Heritage Park crowd and yesterday will have been the tip of the iceberg for many. With the backlash coming on twitter and the forum straight after full time, myself included. The surface was not great and when we did try to pass the ball we were far from our best, however, it was clear Northwich were a team with height. Yet we continued to play into their hands and play the ball in the air.
This is my major concern, we still have tough games to play, including a potential playoff scenario and we have struggled in nearly all of the big games we have had in the last two years, Spennymoor games aside. Hopefully Gray and the players learn from the game, as there is still everything to play for.
Gray can’t take all the blame for yesterday though, too many players had off days and I can’t in particularly think of anyone having a good game. Jameson probably should have done better with the goal, the midfield as a whole struggled to create and despite his effort as always, Dowson looked tired. For me on Saturday with Alan White back, if everyone is fit and available, I would be tempted to go back to the defence which was so good on our unbeaten run. Brown, Hunter, White and Watson. It then gives us the chance to play Mitchell on the wing, his best position.
As for Nathan Cartman, I don’t really know how fans can be critical from yesterday, he was on the pitch for less than half an hour and was made to feed on scraps. From watching him I think his movement is good and I’m sticking with he needs time. The next two games on paper are ones where he could gain some confidence and I would start him in both. The pressure of playing week in week out for Darlo is something he will not have witnessed at Harrogate, but I still think anyone who scores 30 goals in a season before February cannot be a bad player.
While the expectations of some of the fans are that we should be rolling over all teams at this level and anything less than victories every week is unacceptable, it has to be remembered where we are. It is never going to be possible and all the squad are part time players, who work just like the rest of us. For this level our club is incredibly professional, thanks to the work of the large number of people behind the scenes, as well as those on the pitch and the managing team. Sometimes we need to remember where we are – part time, in the eighth tire of English football.
It is a worrying time that we have lost form, however, we have to look forward. The maximum number of points that Salford, Spennymoor and ourselves can all gain is the same, which could mean those big wins early in the season may play a crucial role in the goal difference column. As said above, no game is easy in this league, as we have found out recently, but the next two games with strugglers Prescot Cables and New Mills, give us a chance to get back to winning ways. If we win both we will be top again and the picture looks very different.
Hopefully next Saturday everyone stays behind the team, we play like we know we are capable of and pick up the three points we need. A team does not become a bad one in one spell of poor form.