Saturday, 19 April 2014

Ton up for Town but RA leave with a point

By Ricky Butler at the Calvert Stadium

Highlights of this match can be viewed here

A FIRST half header from Grant Hickman on Good Friday was only enough to bring Town a point from their final home match of the season.

In front of a season's best crowd of 223, visitors Darlington RA led with a wonder-strike from Adam Sakr inside 90 seconds. But Peter Mulcaster's side hit back as Hickman rose to head home a Gav Parkin corner seven minutes later, Town's 100th goal of the season in all competitions, and that was the way it finished.

Mulcaster, however, was disappointed that his team could not produce a better performance for the bumper Easter crowd. He said: "I was a bit disappointed we didn't put on a better show with the great support we had today but I think at the end a draw was a fair result. I thought they had more play than us but we had quite a few chances in the last 20 minutes.

"Grant hasn't scored for a while so it was an important goal for us. We huffed and puffed at times and got the ball down and played very few times, and I thought [RA] played well I've got to say. But you've got to put your chances away, that's what it's all about."

The Town boss made two changes from the side that had won 2-0 at Willington the previous week. Dale Elgie was absent so Andrew Porritt returned in midfield, while Colin Anderson was back in attack looking for his 20th goal of the season. Darren Kokes dropped down to the bench.

On a day when a selection of the Town fans completed a 20-mile sponsored walk from the RA's Brinkburn Road ground to the Calvert Stadium, raising over £1,000 for the club, the team got off to the worst possible start, conceding inside two minutes.

The ball sat up nicely for former Willington striker Sakr, 25 yards out, but it still took some finishing, and finish it he did with a superb dipping volley that gave Ryan Hodgson no chance.

Sakr came close to a second soon after with a shot that flew wide, but that was the cue for Town to finally settle.

They were level after eight minutes with what was their first meaningful attack. The Ramsbottom brothers, two of several players playing against former colleagues, combined as Andy's cross from the right found Aaron who's effort was deflected wide for a corner.

In a combination that had worked so well for Town earlier in the season but had not bore fruit since November, Parkin's delivery found the head of Hickman who planted the ball into the top left-hand corner of the net - the big defender's 8th goal of the season.

Town perhaps had the better of it until the break as Parkin headed narrowly wide before Anderson somehow failed to covert a cross from Aaron Ramsbottom. Meanwhile at the other end, Hodgson had to be alert to keep out an effort from the dangerous Sakr.

Town had to reorganise early in the second half when first James Howlett and then Parkin limped off and the RA enjoyed far more possession, trying to utilise the pace of Sakr and strike-partner Mark Sims. But it was Mulcaster's men that carved out the better opportunities.

Aaron Ramsbottom would have loved to have scored against his former club and he came close on the hour - firing across the face of the goal after a mix up in the RA defence.

Ramsbottom then created the best chance of all with a cross from the left that found the head of Anderson and substitute Christian Holliday nodded against the base of the post from close range. Anderson himself was then denied by Matt Calvert in the RA goal.

Martin Butterworth, another looking to shine against his former club, thought he had won it when he chipped Calvert six minutes from time, but his celebrations were cut short by the assistant's offside flag; it looked a tight call.

So in the end this local derby finished with honours even and the point was enough to move Town into the top six on goal difference ahead of Norton and Stockton, who they meet in a final day shoot-out next Saturday.

"Realistically a draw would be enough," said Mulcaster. "But the team to watch now are Whickham. They have a couple of games in hand and could draw level with us, but if we win [next week] that will be enough."

With just one defeat from their last six matches, Town can certainly travel to Norton in good spirits as they look to finish the season in style.

TOWN - Hodgson - A fairly quiet night but once again demonstrated assured handling and produced a couple of good saves. 8/10

Ramsbottom (An) - Got forward well at times and was calm and assured at the back. The RA must be gutted to have lost him. 8/10

Howlett - Was having a very steady game until he was forced off in the second half with a nasty facial injury. Not the way he would have wanted his first match against his former club to end. 7/10

Hickman - Ended his five month goal drought in style although it was has been his work at the other end that has been capturing all the headlines. Another faultless display. Man of the match. 9/10

Butterworth - Unlucky to see his late effort ruled out for offside and another saved in the closing stages. Looked up for it against his former club. 8/10

Parkin - Limped off with an ankle injury just after the break and it will be a race against time for him to be fit for the last match. Superb delivery for the goal and almost scored himself with a rare header. 7/10

McLachlan - Unable to add to his recent goal-scoring exploits but once again worked hard down the right. 7/10

Porritt - Back in the side after missing the match at Willington and produced another all-action midfield display. 8/10

Anderson - Not his night in front of goal and was kept quiet by the RA back line, although one piece of magic almost won it at the end. 7/10

Ramsbottom (Aa) - No one wanted a goal more than him and he came close on several occasions. A constant threat. 8/10

Gunnell - Unable to really get into the game although he put in a good shift for the team before being replaced in the second half. 7/10

SUBS - Hemingway - Replaced the injured Howlett and slotted in seamlessly at the back. 7/10

Perry - Came on in a deep laying midfield role after Parkin's departure and added a calmness to proceedings. 7/10

Holliday - Came close to grabbing a late winner with a header that hit the post but was not really on long enough to make an impression. 7/10

UNUSED - Kokes, Colman, Stevens.

DARLINGTON RA - Calvert, Read, Muir, Whensley, Mitchell, Grainger, New, Webster, Sims, Sakr, Hanratty. SUBS - Johnson, Morrow, Upton, Dow, Allison.

REFEREE - M. Bunting.


No comments:

Post a Comment