Saturday, 8 April 2017

Getting My Kicks Just Off the A66

Hopperational details
Date & Venue
Saturday 8 April 2016 at Blackwell Meadows
Darlington 3 Tamworth 2
National League North (Step 2)
Ground 601. I am here because it is the school holidays and this is the only one of my four Step 2 priority grounds hosting a game today.  I wouldn't be allowed out in term-time*.  Nice warm dry weather and plenty of sleep the night before meant that I could cope with a long road trip, the first for quite a while. This leaves me with Fylde (again), Poole Town and Bromsgrove Sporting (Worcester's landlords) to re-complete "The 160".  *moderately satirical/topical reference
Pre-match preparation
A quick look at the table suggests that Darlington’s season is still alive and they are only just outside the playoff places.  Tamworth are upper-middling respectable, still with a mathematical chance of playoffs themselves.  Other social networky stuff this week concerns Darlington dropping the “1883” from the name again from next season, thus officially reconnecting with a history, plus some negative coverage of minority fan behaviour at Fylde last week.  Tamworth comment suggests that this would be a must-win match to keep faint promotion hope alive.  All of this encouraged me to make the four-hour drive from Hertfordshire in the company of Danny Baker and then Fighting Talk on Radio 5 Live.  I had time for a stroll around the very pleasant old-school town centre before sauntering up to the ground.  I never got to Feethams, but I did go to the ill-fated Williamsons Motors Stadium in 2005.  The club has technically re-formed under fan ownership since then.
This match in one sentence
Darlington dominated more than the score suggested and credit to Tamworth for making them work hard for the win.
So what?
Chorley’s draw at Nuneaton allows Darlington to leap-frog into 5th place on goal difference.  Tamworth remain mathematically in contention in 9th place but they would probably have to win everything from now on, and hope.
The drama unfolds
The early lead for Darlington came from a glancing header by Terry Galbraith from a long throw-in from the left touchline.  1-0 after 6 mins

However, Tamworth were presented with an equalising chance.  A keeper clearance fell short and gave Dan Newton a chance to out-muscle his marker to create a one-on-one.  He got the shot away just before the second defender arrived for an impressive finish, captured below.  1-1 after 14 min

The rest of the half was keenly contested.  Darlington made the visiting keeper work harder than his counterpart.  It became a bit fractious and a few meaty tackles flew in.  Darlington forced a good save from Dan Jezeph after the ref had played advantage.  Just before half-time, Darlington dummied a long throw but played it short, and the move ended with the ball falling to Stephen Thompson who fired a cracking dipping shot from right to left to regain the lead.  2-1 after 41 mins

Tamworth made a double substitution at half-time, but Darlington started the second half strongly and their fans, pretty quiet earlier on, found their voice.  Again, Jezeph was busy.  He had no chance with the splendid third goal.  Darlington broke swiftly after Tamworth pressure – a tackle was ridden, a pass was flicked on, and a cool finish was applied.  I can’t put names to all the actions as I was at the other end, but it was a great goal for Nathan Cartman.  3-1 after 53 mins

Tamworth kept themselves in the game with a scruffy close-range goal from a corner, initially credited to Ross Dyer but Tamworth Twitter says Brendan Fox. 3-2 after 67 mins

The last 20 minutes, like the match as a whole to be fair, was very enjoyable for the passing neutral.  Home keeper Adam Bartlett was called upon to tip a shot over as Tamworth sent plenty of players forward.  Darlington never looked completely secure as both sides had half-chances, including a ping of the woodwork for Thompson, but they held on for an important win.  Final score 3-2
Ground Pix

Match Pix
Darlo in black-and-white hoops, Tamworth in red.

Goalkeeper Top Colour Stats
Purple beats Yellow but no clean sheets.  Full table to follow again before the end of the season, but I will say that it made no difference to the rank order which is now based on 98 matches.
What Next?
No idea, so follow @GrahamYapp on Twitter for details!

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