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.