Category Archives: Football

Darlo – Newcastle U23’s a few thoughts

 

After a night back at the Arena there were many positives to takes despite defeat to Newcastle’s youngsters.

Like last year it was a weird experience being back at the white elephant, but still, all considered I think we had a good turnout.

As a whole, we looked effective going forward and were unlucky to only score once, but on the other hand, our defending was poor to say the least.

Starting at the back Pete Jameson needs a big pre-season if he is to start the campaign as number one ahead of Adam Bartlett. For Pete, it was a mixed bag, where he showed his best and his worst. The majority of the first half he struggled, which was highlighted by the penalty incident, when his poor kick was then compiled by another mistake. However, he did also show his strong points, shot stopping. Firstly the penalty save followed by some fantastic stops in the second half including a 1v1. For me, Bartlett will start on 5th of August, but I don’t think PJ’s Darlo career is finished yet.

The rest of the defence also looked poor in the first half, with Galbraith, playing out of position, Hunter and new signing Dom Collins all struggling.

As our main signing so far this summer Collins comes with expectations on his shoulder. Monday was the first time I have seen him play, but he didn’t look impressive. It is only 45 minutes and I’m sure he will improve and at the moment we need him to.

Ferguson got forward well particularly in the second half, showing the quality he has to play much higher up the leagues.

New signing James Caton was played wide rather than in the central position he occupied against Aycliffe. However, he still showed some great touches and was unlucky not to score early on. He looks like a fantastic option to have up front and is something different to what we already have.

Speaking of options up front, step forward Harvey Saunders. He was a star at the end of last season and the second half showed once again his potential. Some fantastic touches, always looking dangerous, hopefully, he will get opportunities this season.

The game clarified what I and most other Darlofans know. In midfield and attack, I have little concerns. Wearmouth and when he is fit Portas will be like two new signings, as will Saunders if he keeps improving. However, what may hold us back could be the same as last season, letting goals in.

Hopefully, come the first game we have a defence that inspires confidence, which we will need against Salford City.

Next up we travel to former landlord’s Bishop Auckland, where it will be a good chance for those who need to impress to do so.

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Darlo 1-0 Bradford PA analysis – did victory paper over the cracks?

On Wednesday night we ground out a vital 1-0 win over Bradford Park Avenue to move us up to fifth. However, did the late goal from young Harvey Saunders hide what had been a very poor performance?

Disappointing display all round

For the majority of the match, we looked second best against a Bradford PA side who have only just moved away from the relegation zone in recent weeks.

Recently we have played three central midfielders in Falkingham, Syers and Turnbull, while this gives us a more solid base it lacks creativity and it often leaves us relying on Thompson to create something out of nothing.

If we played through midfield this formation makes sense, but too often we bypass them all and go long to Beck.

Bradford were happy to let our defenders have the ball even up to the half way line, knowing that our only option would be a long punt into the box. Beck has done fantastic for us this season, but this formation is leaving him too isolated.

As the game went on the only way I could see us scoring was a hopeful ball or a set piece just falling to us right in the box. Fortunately, Thommo provided the spark and Saunders was there to pick up the pieces after Beck had been unlucky not to grab the winner himself.

Thompson is so often that player who makes something happen, as he has done over the last five seasons, but Josh Gillies was brought in to the club last summer to do the same. After a great start for us, he has gone missing since the turn of the year. Yes, he hasn’t been starting as much, but on Wednesday he was given a chance and looked disinterested from the outset.

Regardless of which division we end up in next season, I expect quite a large overhaul in the summer with many of the squad being moved on, Gillies is a prime candidate at the moment not to be here in August.

At the other end of the pitch, despite keeping a clean sheet we looked vulnerable against a side that for the majority of the game set up with their eyes only on earning a point. Twice we nearly had a repeat of the Gainsborough’s second goal on Saturday with a breakdown in communications at the back.

My final negative not just from last night, but in general since we started to slip after October is that it isn’t an easy watch at the moment. While we are winning, fans will be happy regardless of how we play, but for those fans who come to watch the odd game, they won’t be entertained regardless of the result. I’m sure this won’t bother Martin Gray though.
On the plus side

However, despite all of my comments above, there are still a lot of positives. We are now fifth, level on points with third-placed Halifax and fourth placed Salford. I’d of taken this at the start of the season and for our first year at this level being where we are is a great achievement.

With six games left, we have a great chance of finishing in the play-offs. Yes, we have some tough matches, including trips to Fylde and Salford, but we have a chance.

Despite my earlier gripes about our defence, we have now kept three clean sheets in four games, our best run of the season. Adam Bartlett looked shaky at times on Wednesday, but made a great save and gathered a dangerous cross late on.

Without doubt one of the true highlights of the season is seeing Saunders emergence and the future looks very bright for him. His hunger, determination and raw pace all will endure him to the fans, he could play a crucial part in the run in.

Next up is Fylde in what is a huge game on Saturday with Kidderminster also meeting Halifax. If we wanted a time to play Fylde it is now, but with Kiddy suddenly breathing down their necks for the title they may come back to life. Regardless of other results a point would be good and would us up well for the final run in.

 

 

Darlington 1-1 AFC Fylde Analysis

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Coming back from Heritage Park yesterday more than anything else I was proud. Not just of yesterday’s performance, but of what the club has achieved as a whole.

In what could prove to be our final league game at Heritage Park it will have been a time to reflect for many people of where we have come in the last four and a bit seasons.

Every comment seen on our forum, twitter and facebook, from our fans has been positive about yesterday. When we played that first game at Bishop Auckland, most of us will not have known what to expect, but how many would have seen us second in the National North in November 2016.

As for the game itself, what else can be said, a great performance all-round from those in Black and White. We appeared to have the fairytale ending at Heritage Park, only for the linesman’s flag to take a little shine off the day. If that had counted and we had won, it would have been no more than we would have deserved.

Considering the budget and the players that AFC Fylde have at their disposal, you would not have been able to tell which side was the full-time outfit.

For the first twenty minutes we were the better side, without creating much, before the visitors showed why they are top of the table. A couple of players stood out for Fylde, the youngest in midfield and then the obvious Danny Rowe. For a 10/15 spell in the first half he looked dangerous twisting and turning our defenders inside out and his finish was of the quality which wouldn’t go out of place much higher up the football pyramid.

However, what I was most surprised about yesterday, was apart from this spell we kept him and his teammates very quiet, with Rowe rarely getting a sight of goal in the second half. This was from a defence that included Terry Galbraith having to play CB and Jordan Watson, who is yet to have a full run in the team starting at LB.

Liam Marrs had his best game in a Quakers shirt at RB and Josh Gillies once again showed his quality. How it took till nearly full-time for Fylde’s RB to get booked I’m not sure, as especially during the second half, fouling Gillies seemed to be his only way of stopping the winger.

David Syers, who came in for his first start, could have had 3/4 in another match, but finishing wise it was just not his day.

The amount of great set pieces and crosses into the box it appeared just a matter of time until we went ahead, alas it was not to be.

It has to give us hope though that others will be able to take points off AFC Fylde, as well as ourselves in the return game.

My final point on yesterday was the crowd, 2001, a virtual capacity crowd. Our attendances this season have been a great improvement from last year and yesterday was a fitting way to leave Bishop Auckland, if it proves to be the final game.

The next month or so will be an exciting time for all involved in the club and it is guaranteed that the first game whichever one it is at Blackwell Meadows is bound to be a fantastic occasion. It seems like after the last two years though it is destined to be Salford City.

You never know anyway, the FA Trophy draw is tomorrow and if we get drawn at home we will have at least one more game in our temporary home.

Billingham Synthonia 0 -5 Darlington

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The Quakers made it three wins out of three in pre-season, as they won comfortably away at Northern League side Billingham Synthonia.

An early goal from Gary Brown was followed up by second half goals from Lewis Nightingale, Lee Gaskell, Adam Mitchell and Liam Hardy.

Darlington started with a strong line-up which included new signing Liam Marrs at right-back. Former captain Brown headed the opener in the early minutes of what proved to be a tight first half.

At the back the Quakers looked solid with three of the regular back four from last season starting. However,Terry Galbraith was brought off during the first period, as a precaution, with Jordan Watson replacing him at left-back.

Following his return from injury at the end of last season Amar Purewal also was given a run out, but he wasted the best chance to double the advantage. Captain Kevin Burgess had a good game throughout and his header crashed against the bar at the end of the first 45.

Half-time saw a string of changes with Nightingale and Harrison Scott among those to enter the fray.

Billingham nearly levelled when Brown had to clear off the line twice in a few seconds, as the Darlington defence was left exposed.

However, the lead was extended when Nightingale struck from outside the area and the Synthonia goalkeeper failed to get down to the shot.

The Quakers then scored three goals in the final stages to add some gloss to the score-line. First Lee Gaskell turned his defender inside out, before curling the ball into the corner.

Mitchell then intercepted a loose pass  to race clear and score.

Yet, the goal of the night came in the final seconds as a brilliant whipped cross from Nightingale was headed home by Hardy.

Overall a very good night’s work for Darlo, Nightingale and Marrs both looked impressive. Next up is the test of the big north east two as we face Newcastle and Sunderland 11’s at the Arena in the next seven days.

Darlo team – Jameson(Mclaren), Marrs(H.Scott), Burgess, Brown(Lovegreen), Galbraith(Watson), Thompson(Nightingale), Mitchell, Turnbull(Portas), L.Scott(Nowakowski), Cartman(Gaskell), Purewal(Hardy)

Spennymoor into playoff final after victory in the snow

Spennymoor Town 3 v 1 Burscough

The Brewers are one victory away from a place in the  Evo-Stik Premier division next season after coming from behind to beat Burscough at the Brewery Field.

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With Darlington, having secured promotion last week I couldn’t resist some Tuesday night playoff action, as local neighbours Spennymoor looked to go one step closer to promotion.

The Brewers were behind early, but strikes from Craig Gott, Shane Henry and Gavin Cogdon turned the game in the hosts favour.

The weather was awful from the word go and it was the visitors Burscough, who had finished fifth in the table, who started the brighter and took the lead in the first few minutes. After the hosts failed to clear, Liam Caddick smashed the ball home from close range.

Spennymoor struggled to get a hold of the game early on and Burscough continued to look dangerous on the break. The hosts failed to trouble the visiting goalkeeper, but had two half shouts for penalties turned away.

Despite this Spennymoor managed to level right on the stroke of half-time. Former Quaker Gott stepped up and struck a free-kick into the bottom corner of the net, which the goalkeeper will feel he should have done better with.

The goal was great timing for the Brewers and they scored again almost immediately at the start of the second half to take control.

Liam Henderson had caused problems already for the visiting defenders and when the goalkeeper didn’t full deal with his cross, Henry was there to tap home at the far post.

Having come from behind, Spennymoor showed their quality, as they took control of the game and started to dominate.

The game was all but sealed when substitute Cogdon fired home on the half volley showing his fantastic technical ability.

Cogdon continued to trouble late on with Burscough tiring and James Risbrough should have wrapped the game up from close range.

However, at the other end Dan Lowson was rarely troubled with only a late save from a free-kick to keep him busy during the second half.

Spennymoor were able to run down the club to seal a 3-1 win and a place in the playoff final.

On Saturday they will be at home again, against either Northwich Victoria or Glossop North End, knowing one more win will secure a second promotion in three years.

Spennymoor team – Lowson, Griffiths, Mason, Gott, Tait, Watson, Stephenson, Henry, Henderson, Fisher, Anderson

 

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.”