Monthly Archives: April 2015

Darlo youngsters show that the future is bright

Darlington 3 v 1 New Mills

Martin Gray chose to rest the majority of his first team squad for the Quakers final league fixture of the season ahead of the crunch play-off tie with Spennymoor Town on Wednesday.

Winger Nelson Mota gave Darlo an early lead, before the visitors equalised minutes later.

Second half goals from striker Matty Pennal and substitute Lewis Walton made sure the Quakers would reach 90 point’s for the third season in a row.

Gray only used four of his senior players, Mark Bell, Mota and Ian Watson started, with Pete Jameson on the bench. Also in the team were Pennal and Matthew Lovegreen, who both have had first team experience this season.

Second bottom New Mills only named one substitute and had a midfielder in goal with none of their regular goalkeepers available.

The youngsters showed hunger from the word go, on a afternoon which could have so easily been a drab affair.

Mota has been a substitute in the majority of games over recent months, however, he opened the scoring with a solo effort. Playing on the right wing , he ran at the full-back, cut inside and hit a great strike in off the near post.

Unfortunately for Darlington the lead lasted less than ten minutes when Brandon Windsor was able to hold off Lovegreen and bury his finish past Bell in to the roof of the net.

Ryu Williamson nearly regained the lead for Darlo when he got in behind the defence, following good work from Watson, but the post denied the youngster what would have been a deserved goal.

The Quakers regained the lead early in the second half, again after great work from Watson. He raced down the touchline before crossing for Pennal to head into the net.

Pennal then nearly grabbed his second, as he hit the post with a well hit shot from outside the box.

Watson and Mota were subbed as the side looked towards Wednesday and it was sub Walton who scored the goal of the game, as the young side sealed a memorable win. The ball broke nicely for him on the edge of area and he smashed it in to the net, giving the stand in keeper no chance.

Gray watched from the stands and he must have been impressed with those on the pitch. The future of the club is in safe hands if these are the players who hopefully can break in to the first team in the next few years.

With talk of a reserve team for next season, it appears the players will have a great platform to develop and get competitive game time for the club.

Attention turns back to the serious matter of Spennymoor on Wednesday. Everyone in the club knows the heartache that play-offs can cause. However, at some point we will break our run of failure in play-offs, hopefully it is this week.

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Darlo despair as title falls from grasp

Lancaster City 0 -0 Darlington

Report

Darlington need some major help if they are to lift the league trophy and secure automatic promotion after being held to a draw this afternoon at Lancaster. Darlo must now win their two remaining games and hope league leaders Salford City fail to beat Ossett Town next Saturday.

Alan White and David Dowson both missed glorious chances in the first half for the Quakers.

The second half saw Tom Portas and Terry Galbraith go close, with Galbraith also having a goal ruled out in the dying seconds for offside.

Goalkeeper Peter Jameson was sent off in stoppage time for fouling a Lancaster player as Darlo piled players forward.

Martin Gray chose to bring David Dowson into the side, replacing the league’s top goal scorer Nathan Cartman. Galbraith kept his place at left back ahead of Ian Watson.

It was the hosts who started the better with Darlington struggling to get going. Twice they wasted good opportunities to open the scoring, one of which brought a good save out of Jameson.

Despite this it was Darlo who managed to create the best two openings in the first period. First White rose highest from a corner, but he couldn’t get over the ball, as his header went over the top from just a few yards out. Minutes later Dowson got in behind the defence, however, despite having only the keeper to beat he put his effort wide of the target.

Steven Thompson was next to go close at the start of the second half, as he turned and shot inside the area, but it was straight at the keeper.

The best chance of the game though fell to Tom Portos, after he was played in by substitute Liam Hatch. He was able to control the ball, however, with the goal at his mercy he failed to make a good connection with the ball and the goalkeeper was able to make the save.

Lancaster were as expected a solid team, they threatened at times on the break especially as the game wore on with the Quakers pushing forward. Jameson remained for large parts untested, but twice he was helpless as Lancaster narrowly missed the target.

Galbraith struck a great shot from the edge of the box, but he once again found the goalkeeper on top form as he tipped it round the post.

White, as always, caused problems at corners and he nearly scored late on when he again headed over the top.

With everyone forward Lancaster were always going to have space at the other end and as the game ticked over into injury time one of these led to Jameson being sent off. A Lancaster forward got in behind the Quakers and Jameson fouled him just outside the box. There was no debating the matter and the young keeper was shown a straight red, which may see him miss potential playoff games, depending on when league officials choose to start the ban. With all the subs made Gary Brown went in goal and was able to parry away the resulting free-kick.

Deep into stoppage time Darlington thought they had snatched it when Galbraith smashed home a shot from five yards out. However, to the dismay of the large Quakers following on the terracing behind the goal, it was chalked off for offside.

Salford City were able to hold on for a 2-1 win away to Burscough, which means they are now five points clear at the top going into the final week. We travel to Warrington Town on Tuesday knowing a win will take the title race to the final day of the season. We would then need to win at home to New Mills and see Salford drop points at home to Ossett Town. Unlikely, but stranger things have happened in football.

If we finish second we will head into the playoffs once again. The semi-final would be at home to our local rivals Spennymoor Town.

My Ramblings

That was a hard one to take, so close yet so far. Devastated is the only word to describe it.  Today I didn’t think we were at our best, but we more than did enough to win the game. Unfortunately our finishing let us down.

I am not normally one to complain about the officials win, lose or draw, and despite their being no major decisions that the referee got wrong, this was another example of the poor standard of officials at this level.

The ground today ,the fantastically named Giant Axe!, was one if not my favourite that I have been to in the division this season. The terracing behind the goal held a large number with a lot of seating as well, very impressed.  Without sounding bitter towards Lancaster they may have taken a point before the kick-off, but the time wasting and at one point attempting to keep the ball in the corner shows a lack of ambition from a side sat in the top ten in the table.  That said they will claim they had chances, which they did, although the majority came in the last 20 minutes with Darlo going all-out attack. Wonder how some of the players would celebrate a promotion if they get that excited at a 0-0 draw!

If we do finish second the title will not have been lost today, but in the period a couple of months ago when we lost four games out of six, including defeats at mid-table sides Clitheroe and Kendal Town.

Whatever happens over the next 14 days, it should not be forgotten how far the club has come in such a short space of time. Not many clubs in the country have seen the highs and lows that everyone associated with Darlo has over the last decade.

Approximately 500 fans travelled today, which is fantastic and more than most teams get at this level for home games. The title is not yet over and we pick ourselves up and go again on Tuesday.  If we finish 2nd we are still only two wins away from promotion.

For now though let’s win at Warrington against Shaun Reid and his mob, taking the title race to the last day of the season in the process.

As much as I hate football right now we would have it no other way.

Darlo survive the wind to beat Mossley

Darlington 3 v 1 Mossley

Darlington overcame playoff chasing Mossley at Heritage Park to remain in control of their own destiny in the race for promotion.

An Adam Mitchell double in the first quarter of an hour put the Quakers in control on a blustery afternoon where the wind caused as many problems as the visitors.

Striker Graeme Armstrong made it three before half time after following up his own shot.

Mossley pulled one back in the second half from the penalty spot, but Darlington were good value for the three points.

Martin Gray made one change to his starting line-up as Terry Galbraith returned to the side, with Ian Watson dropping to the bench.

Heritage Park is known for being open to the elements and once again the wind put paid to either side attempting to play much football.

Darlo had the wind behind them in the first half and were able to make the most of the conditions, as they stormed into a three goal lead in the opening 35 minutes.

The game was just three minutes old when Mitchell opened the scoring. Mossley failed to clear a Gary Brown cross, allowing Mitchell to fire past the goalkeeper from close range.

It was 2-0 following a great counter attack by the hosts. Mitchell won the ball in the middle of the park, gave it wide to Tom Portas, who played it back to Mitchell to finish first time.

It could have been 3-0 when the league’s top scorer Nathan Cartman failed to connect to a ball at the back post after the keeper had missed a cross.

At the other end Mossley failed to threaten the Darlo goal, but had two big penalty shouts, which thankfully the referee waved away.

Armstrong had an effective afternoon in tough conditions and was alive to react when his initial shot was saved by the goalkeeper. He smashed home the rebound with the visitors appealing for a handball against the striker.

With confidence flowing, Armstrong nearly scored a cracker from outside the box which the goalkeeper did well to tip over.

The second half was always going to be tough for Darlington with the elements and it proved to be.

Mossley put a lot of balls into the box and caused Pete Jameson  problems throughout the half.

They pulled a goal back from the penalty spot after Stephen Thompson fouled a Mossley player after a corner.

However, despite the territory which Mossley enjoyed, the Quakers had chances of their own to kill the game off, with Cartman twice coming close.

Jameson saved brilliantly from a close range header in the final stages of the game to keep the two goal cushion for Darlo.

With the wind today was never going to be an easy afternoon, but it was all about the getting the points and we did.

Salford City beat Clitheroe 2-1, so it stays the same at the top, but with one game fewer to play.

Salford remain three points clear and have two games left. Darlington have three to play and a better goal difference, so three wins will guarantee the title and promotion.

The final week sees us play Warrington Town and New Mills. However, first is next Saturday, when we travel to Lancaster City.

Three to go

Cartman the late hero at Scarborough

Scarborough Athletic 1 v 2 Darlington

“What a waste of money” was the chant sung by Scarborough fans towards Darlington striker Nathan Cartman. Five minutes later the man signed in January to fire the Quakers to promotion showed his worth, as he scored the crucial winner which could prove the difference in the title race.

Substitute Liam Hatch had opened the scoring in the second half, as he fired in off the post.

Scarborough levelled minutes later through Ryan Blott after an error by goalkeeper Peter Jameson.

However, Cartman scored instinctively with just over ten minutes to go to snatch victory for Darlington, who will win the championship and promotion if they win their final four league games.

Martin Gray made just one change to his starting line-up with Ian Watson coming into the side at the expense of Terry Galbraith, who was not in the squad. David Dowson was fit enough for the bench after being withdrawn on Saturday due to injury.

Darlo started the brighter and twice could have opened the scoring in the early minutes. Cartman found himself in behind the defence, however, he was denied by the goalkeeper. Alan White nearly scored from the resulting corner, but once again Athletic’s goalkeeper Joe Cracknell saved.

After this though the Seadogs dominated most of the first half with Darlington not playing at the same level as they have in their recent victories over Northwich Victoria and Droylsden. Scarborough looked dangerous down the wings, however, poor finishing kept the score level.

Towards the end of the first half both teams had major gripes with referee Neil Guest. First Darlington appeared to have won a penalty when Cartman was taken out in the box, but to the surprise of all Guest booked the striker for diving.

Minutes later Scarborough appeared to have taken the lead from a corner. Fortunately for Darlo, though, the linesman was flagging for a push on keeper Jameson and the goal was chalked off.

The second half performance was much better from Darlington, as both Dowson and Hatch came off the bench as the side went three up-front.

It was veteran Hatch who expertly finished mid-way through the half to open the scoring. He raced away from the last defender, before striking the ball early with his left foot into the corner of the net thanks to the aid of the post.

Darlington’s defence has been leaky in recent weeks and they were only able to hold onto their lead for a matter of minutes. A high ball into the box was dropped by Jameson and headed home, despite protests for another foul on the goalkeeper.

The game threatened to get out of control in the second half with neither side being particularly happy with the referee, who struggled in front of the large, noisy Bank Holiday crowd.

Darlington were then given a dubious corner, which appeared to have been a goal-kick and they were able to take full advantage. The ball was knocked down and Cartman smashed home the ball on the turn, much to the delight of the travelling contingent behind the goal.

The Quakers endured over seven minutes of stoppage time, but late on never looked in real danger as the late chances fell Darlo’s way.

As the game moved towards five o’clock the whistle was blown for what could prove to be one of the most crucial victories in Darlington’s recent history. The game was a potentially very tricky day and without playing at their best, they were able to take home the three points.

Unfortunately for the Quakers Salford City were able to win their match at Radcliffe Borough 2-0. Despite remaining three points behind the league leaders, Darlington have a crucial game in hand and with the much superior goal difference, know if they win their final four games promotion will be sealed.

Every week you hear about the officials in this league, however today was as bad a display as I’ve seen this campaign. Neither side will have been happy with his performance.

The day, though, will belong to Cartman. He has come under scrutiny since his move from Harrogate RA, with fans expecting goals from the word go from the league’s top scorer. However his goal today was a touch of class which rescued the Quakers from a difficult match. The scenes on and off the pitch at full-time showed how much it meant to all concerned.

Four to go. Bring on Mossley next weekend.

Scarborough Team  – Cracknell, Plummer, Robson, Wilkinson, Lisles, Clayton, Murray, Davidson, Blott, Bradshaw, Metcalfe

Darlington Team – Jameson, Brown, Watson, White, Hunter(Hatch), Portas, Thompson, Scott, Armstrong(Dowson), Cartman, Mitchell