Darlington was once a traditional stronghold of the railway
industry, and the Bucks were derailed by the Quakers, Gavin Cowan’s side
tasting defeat for the first time this season.
The Bucks boss lamented his side’s lack of attitude and
application on what was a bad day at the office, pinpointing that one factor as
the difference between the two sides. The defeat was compounded by an injury to
goalkeeper Max Bramley, who had to leave the field at half-time. Bramley was replaced
by Andy Wycherley, and it was in keeping with the overall tone of the day that
Wycherley conceded a late penalty, allowing the Quakers to add a real gloss to
The Bucks had named an unchanged side from their previous
home win over Ashton United, Cowan placing his trust in his side to extend
their unbeaten run and although the Bucks looked a little off the pace in the
early stages, they did still create a few half-chances; James McQuilkin saw a
low shot finger-tipped wide by Jonathan Maddison, whilst a better connection on
a header from a corner would have seen captain Shane Sutton put the Bucks
The Quakers were seeking a first home win of their own to
ease the pressure on manager Tommy Wright, and were snapping into the physical challenges,
geeing up their supporters in the process. McQuilkin had penalty appeals for a
handball turned down mid-way through the half, whilst Max Bramley had to drop
on the ball in the six-yard box to deny the home side in a six-yard box scramble.
Although Darlo were busier, the game remained even, and the Bucks’
Andre Brown had his head in his hands when his effort from a left-wing cross bounced
up and over the bar, the forward not connecting as he’d have wanted.
However, on 35 minutes the home side hit the front.
Right-back Luke Trotman picked the ball up on the right and ran at Henry Cowans
and Ross White before finding former Buck Steven Thompson. He darted goalwards
and then slipped the ball to Jordan Nicholson, whose neat turn on the edge of the
box gave him the space to beat Bramley low to his left.
A second goal almost came just before the break, when
Bramley’s poor kick was returned with interest, the keeper having to save from
Nicholson; however, in that passage of play he sustained the injury that was to
force him from the field.
Wycherley took over the gloves, and within a minute of the
restart was almost beaten by left-back Ben O’Hanlon on the left. The former Wolves
player and Telford loan signing got behind the defence but couldn’t punish his
home-town side, hitting the side netting instead of squaring the ball.
Darlington kept the tempo up and the Bucks just couldn’t
match it. Dave Syers went close, whilst Harvey Saunders hooked an O’Hanlon
cross into Wycherley’s grateful grasp. The Bucks were being restricted to
efforts from outside the box, and Cowan introduced winger Adam Dawson from the
bench to try and unpick the Quakers defence. Just as he did so Saunders smacked
a header against the crossbar, ringing alarm bells.
The Bucks were playing a higher line, taking more risks in
their attempts to find a way back, and Syers hit the inside of the post with a
shot that lacked power, another let-off. Matthew Barnes-Homer came on for
McQuilkin, but on 79 minutes Saunders made the game safe. A defensive header
came straight back at the Bucks, and was flicked over them pushing out for
Saunders to run onto the ball and beat Wycherley, lifting the ball over him.
The goal was deserved as a reflection of the game, and on 89
minutes the Quakers hammered it home. Nicholson got between Dom Smith and Wycherley,
trying to see the ball to safety, and the keeper’s rash decision to stick out a
leg felled the midfielder. Thompson smashed the spot-kick home, and gave the
Bucks a long and unhappy bus journey home to contemplate.
Darlington: Maddison, Trotman, O’Hanlon, Elliott (Lycett
90+1), J.Burn (Morrison 90+1), Hughes, Nicholson, Wheatley (Glover 81),
Saunders, Syers, Thompson.
Substitutes: A.Burn, Henshall.
Scorer: Nicholson (35), Saunders (79), Thompson (89 penalty)