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Penney still has play-offs in sight despite derby disaster
9:40am Monday 26th March 2007 in Sport
DEFIANT Quakers boss Dave Penney remains confident his side can still reach the play-offs, despite seeing Hartlepool United win at Darlington for the first time in ten years.
In front of a crowd of 10,121 - the biggest for a league derby between the two clubs for 50 years - two Eifion Williams goals and a stooping Andy Monkhouse header ten minutes from time secured Pools their biggest ever win at Darlington.
A win for Quakers would have seen them leapfrog seventh-placed Wycombe Wanderers, but instead they remain two points behind Wycombe who play their game in hand tomorrow night.
Shrewsbury Town are also just a point behind Darlington with three games in hand. However, with Wycombe visiting the Arena next month, Penney remains optimistic.
"We can't afford to lose anymore games," he admitted.
"We were hoping to get a result and get into the top seven but it wasn't meant to be. We'll just keep going and hopefully start another run.
"If we play like we did in the first half for the rest of the season we will win games. Seven games left and it's far from over. We'll keep going.
"It's a learning curve for me and I think we lost some discipline towards the end with some of the younger players. Wycombe still have to come here so we're still in with a shout."
Not only was yesterday's League Two clash the first time Pools had visited the 96.6TFM Darlington Arena, it also represented the first time either side had scored three away from home in a derby since 1995 when Darlington won an FA Cup tie 4-2.
The 3-0 scoreline was also the biggest winning margin for a visiting side since 1987 when Quakers won 5-2 at Victoria Park.
But, despite a promising first half, once Williams put Pools 2-0 there appeared little chance of Quakers protecting what was a 13-match unbeaten run.
A frustrated Penney accepted their opponents deserved the three points, even if things could have been different had goalkeeper Dimi Konstantpoulos not made a stunning save from Tim Ryan's free-kick ten minutes in.
"We were beaten by a better team," said the honest Darlington boss. "We gave as good as we got in the first half. But we knew the second goal would decide the game and they got it through Williams.
"It was a fantastic goal and we couldn't do much about it.
"You can see why they are where they are. It's our jobs on Monday to pick them up and get them ready for Barnet.
"They were nearly in the Championship not so long ago and you can see why they are unbeaten in 22. It would be nice to play them in League One next season."
Having setting a new club record 22 consecutive unbeaten matches, Hartlepool boss Danny Wilson spoke of his pride.
Pools' comprehensive victory reaffirmed their status at the top of League Two, while it also put a dent in the Quakers' hopes of climbing into the play-offs.
"We have done ourselves and Hartlepool proud by the way we have played," said Wilson.
"We have been disciplined in everything we have done. The fans were impeccable and it's been absolutely fantastic.
"The first objective has been achieved, and that is that we have guaranteed a play-off place. We are there to be caught. We are not sitting around waiting for the title and we want to win the remaining games to make sure."