Patched-up Quakers show some real fighting spirit

The Northern Echo: ON TARGET: Robin Hulbert celebrates his goal at The Northern Echo Darlington Arena last night ON TARGET: Robin Hulbert celebrates his goal at The Northern Echo Darlington Arena last night

AN almost second-string Darlington side kept the club’s play-off hopes alive last night with a magnificent win that came against all the odds.

Due to a combination of injury, suspension and the impact of administration, they were without almost an entire team, meaning four teenagers were included in the squad.

That included 16-year-old Corey Barnes, a Sunderlandborn youth team player who made an impressive debut in midfield.

But it was Robin Hulbert, a fringe player most of the season, who grabbed the winner to give Darlington their first victory since going into administration and being docked ten points last week.

Manager Dave Penney was delighted, saying: “It was a great performance when you consider how many players we had missing.

“Because of the injuries, we knew it was going to be backs against the wall. We lost Franz Burgmeier and Neil Austin to injury on Saturday and Steve Foster played, even though he maybe shouldn’t have done because of injury.

“When you put out a side like that you are hoping they can gel, that they can play together.

They did that and I thought we were excellent.”

Darlington made the perfect start with Hulbert scoring after only five minutes.

Following a move up the right and a precise low delivery by Danny Carlton, he neatly finished at the far post and to celebrate the delighted midfielder raced towards the Darlington fans in the South Stand.

Quakers’ more vocal section had been moved from their usual position behind the goal due to the West Stand’s closure as a cost-cutting measure.

But they soon almost had another goal to cheer as Darlington’s commanding start continued.

Following Jason Kennedy’s ball over the top, Carlton just failed to make a clean connection.

As well as getting forward to help Carlton, who was Darlington’s lone striker in a 4-5-1 formation, Hulbert’s brief included assisting midfield team-mate Barnes.

One of the star performers in the youth team, Barnes demonstrated that he was not afraid to stamp his authority on the game with a crunching tackle on veteran Magpies striker Delroy Facey.

County hardly posed a threat during the first half with Darlington’s only cause for concern being Andy Oakes’ poor clearances – Kevin Pilkington in the opposite goal also suffered similar problems.

The keepers were not helped by a swirling wind which held the ball in the air on a bitterly cold and wet night at The Northern Echo Darlington Arena.

The conditions hardly helped the crowd size too as only 2,450 were in attendance - the third lowest league gate of the season - despite an appeal for support during the club's hour of need.

A long-range Carlton shot earned a corner from which the recalled David Poole struck a post direct from the set-piece and Kennedy then had a curling effort saved.

Darlington had been dominant throughout most of the half and came close to ending it with a second, but Pilkington punched away a 25-yard David Poole blast.

Poole was playing due to Burgmeier’s injury, one of ten on the unavailable list which included the injured Austin, Pawel Abbott, Liam Hatch, Rob Purdie and Gregg Blundell.

Suspended were Alan White and Ricky Ravenhill while the loans of Dean Gerken and Carl Tremarco have expired.

After the break Darlington kept County at bay, although Oakes would have been relived to see Jonathan Forte’s long-range effort fly inches over the bar.

It proved to be one of few efforts for either side during the second period as Darlington were not able to match their standards of the first half.

On-loan striker Carlton had one of the few opportunities but was was unable to strike the ball cleanly following a Foster flick at a Tim Ryan free-kick.

Left-winger Josh Gray entered the fray, replacing Adam Griffin, and his determination to keep the ball earned Phil Picken a booking as well as huge applause from the impressed Quakers fans.

Gray was soon join on the field by Main, meaning Darlington had three youth team products on the pitch, a proud moment for Craig Liddle and Neil Maddison who are in charge of the club's youth set-up.

As the final whistle approached Barnes left the field to a standing ovation, closely followed by the entire team at full-time as fans showed their appreciation to a patched-up team that kept the play-offs dream alive.

Match Facts

Goal: Hulbert (1-0, 5mins)
Bookings
: Hulbert (5mins, unsporting behaviour); Tann (43, foul); Valentine (45, foul), Kennedy (50, foul); Edwards (77, foul), Picken (83, foul)
Referee
: Clive Oliver (Ashington) 7
Attendance
: 2,450
DARLINGTON
(4-5-1): Oakes 6; Valentine 6, Miller 7, FOSTER 8, Ryan 8; Poole 7, Kennedy 6, Barnes 7 (Fortune 90), Hulbert 7 (Main 83), Griffin 7 (Gray 72); Carlton 8. Subs (not used): Kazimierczak, Fortune, Groves
NOTTS COUNTY
(4-4-2): Pilkington 4; Picken 5, Edwards 5, Tann 4, Clapham 5; Forte 5, Noland 5 (Butcher 45mins), Thompson 6, Weston 6; Forrester 5 (Canham 78), Facey 6. Subs (not used): Strachan, Fairclough, Wedderburn
MAN OF THE MATCH
: Steve Foster – The captain led by example.

Comments (8)

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11:31pm Tue 3 Mar 09

Reesey 45 says...

Proud of the desire and committment to win displayed by the team sent out by Penney! They thoroughly deserved their standing ovation at the end of the game.Also full credit and appreciation to those bar staff and stewards who turned up tonight, allowing us to enjoy the game!
Proud of the desire and committment to win displayed by the team sent out by Penney! They thoroughly deserved their standing ovation at the end of the game.Also full credit and appreciation to those bar staff and stewards who turned up tonight, allowing us to enjoy the game! Reesey 45

11:31pm Tue 3 Mar 09

mrcoops1984 says...

I think it's fair to say, the players tonight should be proud of themselves. They worked tirelessly throughout and I could not pick out a poor performer. The youngsters were particularly pleasing and were really keen, although the pitch didn't help too much.

We just need to work hard on Saturday now against Macclesfield and we'll be back on track for a play off spot as a few results went our way tonight.

It's still a shame the attendance didn't get any better but as most of of supporters are saying the ticket prices NEED to be reduced. For some, you can pay £18 to see Darlington or £23 to see Middlesbrough. Unfortunately, people aren't opting for Darlington.

However, I must say I still really enjoyed the game and the atmosphere was great - particularly towards the opposition fans.

"PING PONG CHAMPION, PING PONG CHAMPION!!"

I think it's fair to say, the players tonight should be proud of themselves. They worked tirelessly throughout and I could not pick out a poor performer. The youngsters were particularly pleasing and were really keen, although the pitch didn't help too much. We just need to work hard on Saturday now against Macclesfield and we'll be back on track for a play off spot as a few results went our way tonight. It's still a shame the attendance didn't get any better but as most of of supporters are saying the ticket prices NEED to be reduced. For some, you can pay £18 to see Darlington or £23 to see Middlesbrough. Unfortunately, people aren't opting for Darlington. However, I must say I still really enjoyed the game and the atmosphere was great - particularly towards the opposition fans. "PING PONG CHAMPION, PING PONG CHAMPION!!" mrcoops1984

9:07am Wed 4 Mar 09

Tony Daniels says...

I turned up in the pouring rain and saw the team sheet and expected the worst. What I saw was one of the most impressive performances of determination and effort by a makeshift side. Those guys bust a gut for Darlington Football Club last night.

I've been very critical of Hulbert all season, but last night the guy was transformed. Easily his best performance. And what about those youngsters, the club and supporters can be very proud of them.

Sadly the survival news doesn't look good though. I heard that a number of staff and been given redundancy notices. Does this mean the end will come sooner than we expected. I hope not, the players deserve better. The poor turn out was a great disappointment. OK, it was a foul night to walk to the ground, but 2400 was not encouraging. If we get through to Saturday we can only hope for double or triple that number. The club needs every penny to survive. Will someone please come along and save the club, the team deserve it on last nights gutsy performance.
I turned up in the pouring rain and saw the team sheet and expected the worst. What I saw was one of the most impressive performances of determination and effort by a makeshift side. Those guys bust a gut for Darlington Football Club last night. I've been very critical of Hulbert all season, but last night the guy was transformed. Easily his best performance. And what about those youngsters, the club and supporters can be very proud of them. Sadly the survival news doesn't look good though. I heard that a number of staff and been given redundancy notices. Does this mean the end will come sooner than we expected. I hope not, the players deserve better. The poor turn out was a great disappointment. OK, it was a foul night to walk to the ground, but 2400 was not encouraging. If we get through to Saturday we can only hope for double or triple that number. The club needs every penny to survive. Will someone please come along and save the club, the team deserve it on last nights gutsy performance. Tony Daniels

9:56am Wed 4 Mar 09

stevenb76 says...

I have to agree with all the coments so far, a great performance considering all the youngsters and fringe players. Like Tony said Hulbert (and Valentine for that matter) havent had the best of seasons but yesterday no one put a foot wrong....hopefully they can keep that momentum for Saturday!

As for the clubs survival, fingers crossed, but I dont think attendances will increase. All the Ex-fans and people who don't attend ALL say its too expensive. If we can get over 12,000 for a Hartlepool derby the potential supporters are there but something has to be done to entice them and then it has to be ADVERTISED to them.....maybe it'll be too little too late though?!....I'll probably get a barrage of comments now saying it wont work, but the reality is nobody knows if it will work or not until something is attempted! In the mean time all we can do is try to persuade people to cough up the cash.

Anyway lets hope something happens, good result, good atmosphere (Maybe not for one away fan in particualar)!!!!

Oh yeah also surely they cant be saving much by having the TV switched off???? Even if it only displayed game time!!
I have to agree with all the coments so far, a great performance considering all the youngsters and fringe players. Like Tony said Hulbert (and Valentine for that matter) havent had the best of seasons but yesterday no one put a foot wrong....hopefully they can keep that momentum for Saturday! As for the clubs survival, fingers crossed, but I dont think attendances will increase. All the Ex-fans and people who don't attend ALL say its too expensive. If we can get over 12,000 for a Hartlepool derby the potential supporters are there but something has to be done to entice them and then it has to be ADVERTISED to them.....maybe it'll be too little too late though?!....I'll probably get a barrage of comments now saying it wont work, but the reality is nobody knows if it will work or not until something is attempted! In the mean time all we can do is try to persuade people to cough up the cash. Anyway lets hope something happens, good result, good atmosphere (Maybe not for one away fan in particualar)!!!! Oh yeah also surely they cant be saving much by having the TV switched off???? Even if it only displayed game time!! stevenb76

1:38pm Wed 4 Mar 09

Chad696 says...

stevenb, if what I hear is right - the guy who gets paid per game to set up & operate the big screen was an unnecessary expense. Surely you have a watch or phone, with the time on? If not, there were a couple of thousand people their that did, so just ask.
stevenb, if what I hear is right - the guy who gets paid per game to set up & operate the big screen was an unnecessary expense. Surely you have a watch or phone, with the time on? If not, there were a couple of thousand people their that did, so just ask. Chad696

3:59pm Wed 4 Mar 09

mrcoops1984 says...

Yeah Ste - you did ask me for the time a couple of times. Why you need a big screen when you have me right beside you???
Yeah Ste - you did ask me for the time a couple of times. Why you need a big screen when you have me right beside you??? mrcoops1984

4:35pm Wed 4 Mar 09

stevenb76 says...

lol I dont cooper thats why I never asked for it to be switched back on....I asked how much money they would be saving by having it switched off, Chad696 misread my post!!!!

Plus Chad ,I would have thought the biggest waste of money would be having about 40 Stewards surrounding about 40 away fans!!
lol I dont cooper thats why I never asked for it to be switched back on....I asked how much money they would be saving by having it switched off, Chad696 misread my post!!!! Plus Chad ,I would have thought the biggest waste of money would be having about 40 Stewards surrounding about 40 away fans!! stevenb76

4:49pm Wed 4 Mar 09

mrcoops1984 says...

Yeah but you have to remember, one of their fans was half the size of their stand....
Yeah but you have to remember, one of their fans was half the size of their stand.... mrcoops1984

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