Darlington’s penultimate pre-season friendly ended in a 1-0 defeat at Whitby Town this afternoon.
A stunning first-half free-kick by Craig Farrell was the only difference between what was a close but generally underwhelming contest.
There was not enough in the way of goalscoring chances to entertain 377 spectators at the Turnbull Ground, where Darlington edged proceedings until Farrell’s 27th minute set-piece strike.
Awarded 25 yards from goal after Jordan Robinson had felled Lee Mason, Farrell blasted his effort into the top corner, leaving goalkeeper Adam McHugh no chance.
McHugh, a former Forest Green keeper, played as an emergency as both usual keepers Mark Bell and Peter Jameson were unavailable and the stand-in’s involvement was largely peripheral.
Within two minutes of the goal Amar Purewal missed an opportunity to level, seeing a close-range tap-in blocked on the line by left-back Mark Robinson following a neat exchange of passes between David Dowson, Stephen Thompson and Adam Mitchell.
Mitchell was his usual lively self and before the break Whitby keeper Shane Bland twice saved efforts from the former Sunderland youngster.
The sun gave way to a chilly wind and grey skies at half-time, and there was precious little to warm the fans as neither side made inroads during the opening stages of the second half until Dowson blasted over when under pressure after a Purewal knock-down.
The strike duo were joined up front by Nathan Fisher for a spell as manager Martin Gray made a handful of substitutions.
The first change of the half saw Alan White replace Liam Hatch, who was again selected to play at centre-back where he did out look out of place.
Gray admitted after the game that he has yet to decide where best to use summer signing Hatch, either in defence or attack, while he also has decisions to make elsewhere in the team.
With Jack Walker still on holiday, Gary Brown was again selected at right-back, where he was engaged a handful of physical confrontations with the opposition today, particularly Matthew Brown and Ross Gardener.
Darlington finished the game strongly, but as had been the case throughout the afternoon, Shane Bland did not have a save to make.
It could have been 2-0 when Whitby striker Steven Snaith was created an opening with a fine touch, bringing a raking pass out of the sky with a adroit touch. But the forward’s attempted chip was poor, the ball rolling across the penalty area, and the chance was gone.
Leon Scott made a welcome return for the final 13 minutes, playing his first football since the studs-up knee-high by Ramsbottom United left-back Owen Roberts brought his play-off semi-final to an abrupt end in May.
Scott has not required an operation to overcome injury, but has required a period of physiotherapy over the past three months.
He almost crowned his return with a goal, his first touch seeing a shot go over the crossbar.
Quakers’ campaign begins a fortnight today at home to Warrington and they play their final friendly against Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park on Tuesday.
However, Gray will consider arranging a game for Saturday, August 9 depending on the performance against Bishops.
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Burgess, Bullock, Robinson, Brown (Banks 66), McTiernan (Taylor 66), Gardener (Waters 81), Mason (Dalton 59), Snaith (Bath 81), Farrell (Chamberlain 77). Sub (not used): Williams
Darlington: McHugh, Brown (Fisher 61), Hunter, Hatch, Galbraith, Mitchell, Portas, Robinson, Thompson (Hopson 61), Purewal, Dowson (Scott 77). Subs (not used): Provett (gk), Lovegreen