Darlington 0 Hereford United 1
DARLINGTON’S mini-revival came to a halt with a narrow defeat to Hereford United in Simon Davey’s first home game as manager.
He began his Quakers career with Saturday’s impressive 2-1 win at Burton Albion, a victory that came seven days after taking three points at Shrewsbury Town.
But back on home soil yesterday, Marc Pugh’s second half goal was enough to defeat Davey’s side in a drab affair.
In truth neither side did enough to claim victory with creative football sparse and clear scoring chances rare.
“It would have been nice to get a home win in our first home game,” said Davey who stuck with the same wide that won at Burton. “There wasn’t much between the sides, we gave everything but there were a few tired legs in the team.
“You’d think players could cope with two games in three days. I can’t fault their effort but there’s a lot of work to be done, I knew that when I got the job, but it’s still disappointing that we’ve lost.”
Although confirmation of relegation awaits – it could happen at the weekend if Quakers lose to Accrington and Cheltenham beat Bury – Davey intends to build momentum to take into the Blue Square Premier by recording victories during the closing weeks of the League Two campaign.
Having won their previous two games, the former Barnsley boss explained he chose to give the same players an opportunity to make it three in a row.
But Darlington appeared leggy and lacked a cutting edge. They struggled to test Hereford keeper Adam Bartlet, though in the early stages Josh Gray fired narrowly wide and right-back Paul Arnison came close.
His rasping drive flew narrowly over the bar after Richard Rose’s weak header had dropped kindly on the edge of the penalty area.
Had that gone in it would have been a goal of remarkable quality, in contrast to his fluke strike in the previous home game against Aldershot Town which was the defender’s first strike for seven years.
That was about as close to a goal as Davey’s side got in a first period the visitors edged in terms of chances.
Kenny Lunt curled wide of the far post for Hereford, and Quakers’ keeper Shane Redmond made a good low save to stop a Jake Jervis effort following a short pass from Pugh.
That was Redmond’s only save of the first half, though he was almost beaten by bulky frontman Mathieu Manset five minutes before the break.
Lewis Young’s forward pass was latched on to by Manset whose blasted effort from a narrow angle hit Redmond’s side-netting.
Just 40 seconds after the restart Manset made a nuisance of himself again, evading Ian Miller’s challenge and delivering a cross to Jervis whose shot was instinctively deflected over the bar by Redmond with his knee.
Bartlett was called into action for the first time on 51 minutes, tipping Gray’s strike on to the post after the young winger had played a one-two on the edge of the penalty area with striker Tadhg Purcell, who then saw a header land on the roof of the net.
Manset was unfortunate to fire wide with a spectacular overhead kick on 71 minutes, but soon after Pugh grabbed the winner.
From inside the penalty area the left-winger fired low across Redmond after taking the ball past Alan White to give Hereford their second win this season over Quakers.
Youth team striker Michael Smith was introduced as a substitute in the closing stages, becoming the 52nd player used this season, as Quakers sought an equaliser.
They pushed in the last ten minutes but Gray being twice off target was as close to goal as they came.
“We didn’t threaten enough,” added Davey. “Josh came inside and had a few shots and we had a few half chances but for my liking we didn’t create enough.
“The strikers didn’t have enough shots on goal and the wide players didn’t get enough crosses in.
“We should have had a bit more quality in the last ten minutes, we should have got the ball into areas that can hurt teams.
“There’s lots of things to work on – I wouldn’t be here in the first place if there wasn’t – but it was disappointing that we didn’t create, especially in a home game.”
■ Davey confirmed yesterday that veteran striker Noel Whelan has left the club.
Goal: Pugh (74, 0-1)
Booking: Jervis (20, foul)
Referee: Paul Tierney (Wigan) 8
Redmond 5; Arnison 6, White 6, Miller 6, Milne 5; Moore 5 (M Smith 77), G SMITH 6 (Groves 89), Dempsey 5 (Convery 89), Gray 6; Purcell 5, Main 6. Subs (not used): Liversedge (gk), Byrne, Madden, Deane
HEREFORD UNITED (4-4-2):
Bartlett 6; Green 5, Rose 6, Jones 6, Valentine 6; Young 5 (Gwyne 68, 5), McQuilken 5 (Done 68), Lunt 5, Pugh 7; Jervis 5, MANSET 7 (Constantine 87).
Subs (not used): Adamson, Preston, McCallum, King
MAN OF THE MATCH
MATHIEU Manset – Quakers couldn’t get to grips with the burly striker.