Monthly Archives: February 2016

Knee jerk reactions on Liam Hardy

Darlington recently acquired the services of Liam Hardy from Buxton and he has faced the tough task living up to the expectations from some at Heritage Park.

Three starts and a substitute appearance in, not three full games worth of playing time and without a goal some fans already are turning their back on him.

His substitution a week ago against Ashton United when he was replaced by fan favourite Nathan Cartman was greeted by some jeers and ironic cheers from the crowd.

Cartman himself knows how tough it is for Hardy. Just 12 months ago he was in the exact same position. Having joined as the Evo-Stik North top scorer from Harrogate RA he was signed with the expectations of firing us to promotion and ultimately he did do. However, when he first signed he struggled to fire, or least as much as people expected, and he came in for a lot of criticism.

Martin Gray stuck with him and he has become one of the fans favourite. He scored a dramatic winner at Scarborough before scoring the decisive first goal in the play-off final against Bamber Bridge.

It is somewhat ironic that it is Cartman who has been dropped recently for Hardy. While fans are annoyed that Carts has not been starting, this doesn’t mean Hardy won’t be a success. He is a proven goal scorer at this level, he has shown that this season, scoring in both games for Buxton against the Quakers. He will come good, we have two games a week for the rest of the season and we have the luxury of four strikers who have all been successful at this level.

To a lesser extent the same situation occurred with Lee Gaskell and I was guilty for one. For me it wasn’t how he was playing, but that he was keeping Graeme Armstrong out of the team who like done Cartman had done little wrong. Gaskell has more than proved any doubts I had wrong.

Over the last three/four years they have been cases where strikers with big reputations  have come in and it hasn’t worked out, such as Nathan Fisher and Andy Johnson, but both especially Fisher was given chances.

Like Cartman last year, I’m sure Hardy will come good, he isn’t one of the league’s top scorers for no reason.


Salford City v Darlington Preview

On Saturday, weather permitting, the highly anticipated Evo-Stik Premier Division clash between Salford City and Darlington will take place.

After a well-documented rivalry between the two sides in the 2014/15 season, this will be the sides first meeting of this campaign. The two sides went head-to-head for the Evo-Stik First Division One North title last season, with Salford ultimately coming out on top. We appeared to be heading for the title only for draws at Lancaster and Warrington in the final weeks of the season to see the Ammies lift the trophy. However, fortunately for us, play-off victories over Spennymoor Town and Bamber Bridge at Heritage Park saw the side join Salford in the Premier Division.

This season the two have once again both been involved in the promotion shake-up, with both currently sitting in the play-off places. Darlington are just two points behind Salford with three games in hand. Both sides have hopes of back-to-back promotions, but with Blyth Spartans, the current title favourites, both may have to settle for the play-offs.

Last year Salford got the better of Darlington in both meetings, including the controversial meeting at Moor Lane in January 2015. The game was hotly disputed both on and off the pitch. However, the game this season carries less significance. Martin Gray and his players have been playing down the importance of the game, stating it is just another fixture and the circumstances are completely different to 13 months ago. At that point it was clearly a two horse race, this year the game will neither make or break either teams campaigns.

It surely must be in Martin Gray’s mind that he owes the Salford managerial duo one. In their five meetings, firstly when they were at Ramsbottom United and then at Salford, Gray has yet to see his side score a goal, never mind win. One of the key factors in the match will surely be the discipline of not only Gray’s players, but also of himself, which sometimes during the previous meetings has been a problem. This season minus a couple of blips from Alan White, we have been quite well disciplined on the whole.

We go into the game in great form having won our last four league games and we can take heart from Salford having struggled at home at times this season.  However, Salford have such a talented squad and have shown many times this season what they are capable of.

We have had an interesting week with the departure of fan favourite David Dowson, and the league’s top scorer Liam Hardy arriving at the club. It will only be a matter of time whether this move proves to be a good one. However, one thing is for sure you won’t hear many bad words said about Dows from any of the Darlington fans.

Personally I can’t see Hardy coming straight into the team, with Nathan Cartman and Lee Gaskell both playing so well. It does bring into question Graeme Armstrong’s future at the club, which is something I never thought I would say at the start of the season.

The background to the game has also had its controversies over the ticket allocation, which has seen ourselves receive 250 tickets. To be honest, I’m not surprised this has been done, the only thing I would wonder about is why there was no segregation put in place. However, what’s done is done and hopefully it doesn’t overshadow what should be a great game.

My heart says we are playing that well at the moment that we could easily go there and win. However, we were in the same situation last season when we met. Either way, as I said earlier it won’t make or break our season, but in the words of Kevin Keegan, “I would love it if we beat them.”