Darlington 3 Tamworth 2
ON A night when Darlington’s talented teenagers took on Arsenal’s stars of the future, one of the graduates of Quakers’ youth team fired the club into the second round of the FA Trophy.
Curtis Main’s first two goals of the season helped give Darlington victory as they overcame a stubborn Tamworth at The Northern Echo Arena.
Quakers made hard work of overcoming their Blue Square Bet Premier rivals who had a man sent off just before the break but twice equalised before Aman Verma grabbed the winner after being teed up by Main.
Main, now 18, made his Darlington debut aged 15 in 2008 and while he was playing a starring role in the first-team last night, Quakers’ youth side put in a valiant display before losing 6-1 at Arsenal.
Arsene Wenger was among the spectators at the FA Youth Cup tie, held at Barnet, as Craig Liddle’s youngsters bowed out at the third round stage.
Rob Ramshaw equalised on 18 minutes before the Gunners went on the rampage with most of the goals coming before the break which was in contrast to last night’s match at the Arena.
In front of a sparse crowd of 432, the lowest in the club’s history, little of note occurred during an uneventful first 45 minutes in which the only chance fell to Tamworth’s Kyle Perry who headed wide from close to goal.
His night got much worse soon after as he was shown a red card having elbowed Danny Hone when challenging for a high ball.
That gave Quakers the entire second half to ease their way into the second round, and within two minutes of the restart had gone ahead with Main tapping in.
But ten minutes later tenman Tamworth were back in it after Darlington struggled to clear a corner.
Alex Rodman was allowed to curl home a shot from the corner of the penalty area, beating keeper Sam Russell at the near post.
In contrast to a dismal first half, the second period was much livelier with both team showing more attacking intent and soon Main scored again, this time planting a header beyond Atkins.
With Chris Senior sidelined for around two months due to medial knee ligament damage sustained in training, Main’s goals will do his first-team chances no harm at all.
Though Main owed much to winger Chris Moore’s whose lovely ball in from the right created the goal which put Darlington back in the driving seat.
Until Tamworth again drew level. This time substitutes Seb Lake-Gaskin and Jake Sheridan combining for the latter to drive home from the edge of the area, giving the 14 travelling Tamworth fans something to cheer.
Back to all-square and seemingly set for a replay next week, until Verma popped up to score his first goal for the club 11 minutes from time.
The midfielder, on loan from Leicester, collected Main’s pass on the edge of the penalty area and with only the keeper to beat calmly fired beyond Atkins to give Darlington a second round home tie with Bath on January 15.
Manager Mark Cooper was pleased with his side’s performance, saying: “It’s always difficult to play against ten men as we know from our game at Bath and as Crawley know from when we got a point against them after Aaron was sent off.
“We wanted to work the ball and pass it. I think we did that tonight, probably as much as we have all season. That probably doesn’t please some supporters who want to see us whack it 60 yards forward.
“If I’d paid to get in to see that I’d have been happy.
There were five goals, we won 3-2 and played some decent stuff.
“The only bad points were the goals we conceded.
“We made it a nervy last few minutes through sloppy defending.”
Goals: Main (47, 1-0); Rodman (58, 1- 1); Main (67, 2-1); Sheridan (70, 2-2); Verma (79, 3-2)
Sendings-off: Perry (42, violent conduct)
Referee: Andy Madley (Ossett) 7
DARLINGTON (4-4-2): Russell 7; Moore 7, Miller 7, Hone 6, Brown 6, Bridge-Wilkinson 7, Brough 6, Verma 7, Gillespie 5 (Wright 66, 6); Louis 6 (G Smith 83), MAIN 8 (J Gray 90). Subs (not used): Chandler, Austin
TAMWORTH (4-5-1): Atkins 5; Tait 6, Marshall 5, Mitchell 5 (Bojang 82), Barrow 7; Rodman 7, Oakes 5 (Sheridan 52, 7), McKenzie 5 (Lake-Gaskin 52, 6), Wilkinson 5, Thomas 5; Perry 4. Subs (not used): Lyttle, Connor
MAN OF THE MATCH CURTIS Main – two goals and an assist for the teenager