Campbell spot on as Darlington are beaten

HEATED MOMENT: Darlington’s Darren Richardson is shown the red card in their clash against West Auckland on Saturday

HEATED MOMENT: Darlington’s Darren Richardson is shown the red card in their clash against West Auckland on Saturday

First published in Sport The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Sports Editor

It was probably how John Campbell dreamt it on Friday night.

Faced with an injury-time penalty to win the game against Darlington, the club that he left a year ago, he kept his cool to give West Auckland a win at the end of the most dramatic of matches.

A red card, two penalties and chances galore during a cracking game played out against a tense backdrop created by West's casual approach to ticket prices.

Their decision to double admission turned it into a grudge match that most Darlington supporters shunned.

Their boycott meant an attendance of 502 - around a thousand less than could've been expected.

But West's jubilant supporters had few complaints.

There were no medals on offer and no trophy presentation either, but there were triumphant scenes as West players and fans alike savoured victory in their "cup final", which is how West boss Peter Dixon had described the game beforehand.

"John Campbell told me before the game that he thought he would score a last-minute winner, and he was proved right," said Dixon.

"A week is a long time in football. We lost 2-1 at Newton Aycliffe last Saturday, and I offered my resignation to Stuart Alderson and he refused it.

"We then won 7-0 at Norton in midweek, and capped the week with the win over Darlington.

"The spirit shown by the players was unbelievable, and they kept going right to the end."

Darlington manager Martin Gray said: "We always expected that kind of game, that's just the way they are.

"I read their manager's comments about it being their cup final, we're going to face that mentality many a time this season."

Gray asked his players to ignore off-the-field issues and remain focused, orders that were followed during a first half that his side shaded but were unable to take one of a number of chances.

Stephen Thompson and David Dowson both hit the woodwork, Adam Nicholls should have done better than to volley wide and Joe Tait missed at close-range.

It was the first time this season Darlington had missed so many scoring opportunities.

West had chances too though. Campbell should have done better than to hit the side-netting when he intercepted Craig Turns' poor clearance, but the keeper made amends with a double save to stop Elliot Gardner and Stuart Banks.

'More of the same' would have been Gray's half-time team-talk.

But then Darren Richardson smashed into Banks with a two-footed lunge. Unnecessary, ugly and flashing a red card was referee's easiest decision of the day.

Gray was dumbfounded. "It was a red card because it was a reckless challenge," he said. "There's no room in football for that.

"It disappointed me because we had really emphasised how subtle we had to be bearing in mind the build-up to the game.

"The players stayed focused up until then, and for all of the game really. But if someone makes a reckless challenge it's one thing that as a manager you've got very little control over."

Richardson's red came 11 minutes into the second half, but it was not long before Quakers took the lead with Thompson netting from the spot after a wrongly-awarded penalty.

West defender Daryll Hall cleanly nicked the ball off Leon Scott, but perhaps referee Keith Lawson was atoning for his failure to award a spot-kick when Hall crudely brought down Thompson.

The goal and the red card changed the dynamic of the game. Amid a maelstrom of heavy challenges from both sides, West appeared to thrive on the animosity and they looked good for an equaliser.

Campbell saw a dipping free-kick punched away by Turns who was also equal to a long-range effort by former Quaker Phil Gray, but the leveller came from Banks after Quakers failed to clear a corner.

The ball pinged around the penalty area before Banks shot past Turns, restoring parity with 15 minutes to go.

Ten-man Darlington did not settle for a point, however, instead engaging in something akin to a frenetic school yard game of next-goal-winner.

Chris Emms saw Mark Bell make the save of the day, low to his left to keep out a drive from the Quakers substitute.

It proved vital because well beyond the indicated four minutes of injury time, Lawson pointed to the spot when Dan Smith shoved Gardner and Campbell made no mistake.

Dixon said: "I didn't think the first one was a penalty, and I couldn't see the second one properly, but maybe if the second one wasn't a penalty, then the referee was justifying the first one."

Quakers' lead on Spennymoor is now down to four points, but Gray said: "I don't see this as a blip. It was just one of those days when we didn't take our chances.

"We've lost, but I'm really pleased about the conduct and dignity that my team and staff showed today.

"My team are top of the league, we've done fantastically well all season so I'm still really proud of them."

Goals: Thompson pen (63, 0-1); Banks (75, 1-1), Campbell (90, 2-1)

Bookings: Pattison (62, dissent), Gibson (90, foul)

Sending off: Richardson (56, foul)

Referee: Keith Lawson (Grimsby) 6

Attendance: 502

Entertainment: *****

West Auckland (4-4-2): Bell 8; Pattinson 7, Hall 7, PAXTON 8, Gray 6; Banks 7, Gardner 8, Gibson 6, Rundle 6; Moffat 6, Campbell 7. Subs (not used): Garthwaite, Mullin, Hindmarch, Coad, Hubbard.

Darlington (4-4-2): Turns 7; Clough 6 (Emms 70, 6); Brown 8, TAIT 8, Richardson 5; Nicholls 6 (Smith 58, 5), Scott 7, Gott 8, Amar Purewal 6 (Keltie 60, 6); Dowson 6, Thompson 7. Subs (not used): Norton (gk), Reay

Man of the match

JOE Tait - Imperious in defence where he was first to almost everything

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