DARLINGTON started the season in dramatic fashion, scoring an 96th minute penalty to draw 2-2 at Altrincham.

Terry Galbraith’s spot-kick had been the third goal scored after the 81st minute after Kevin Burgess had equalised to make it 1-1.

The hosts then looked like they had snatched the points by going 2-1 ahead.

But Darlington showed their resolve to keep going and deep into injury time Burgess was fouled, Galbraith keeping his cool to score – and later still Tom Portas was tripped in the penalty area but the referee did not point to the spot.

The point made it a good start for newly-promoted Darlington, against a team relegated from the National League last season, after what had been a largely even contest.

Darlington had been enjoying a spell of pressure, via three corners and with Gary Brown’s long throws, when Altrincham take a 14th minute lead.

A cross from the left was met with a glancing header by James Lawrie, looping over the stranded Peter Jameson.

It was a smart piece of skill by Lawrie, leaving Jameson arching back towards the line a fruitless attempt to claw the ball away.

Jameson saved Brown’s blushes when he seized on a sliced attempted clearance before striker Sean Miller could pounce, but despite being a goal behind it was a game with little between the teams.

New signing Josh Gillies was tidy on the ball, using his quick feet to attempt to create an opening. He played just behind Nathan Cartman and Amar Purewal, with Phil Turnbull sitting deep in midfield.

The service to Cartman and Purewal was lacking, but Darlington played some good stuff at times, without testing the Alty keeper.

A Gillies free-kick bounced wide of the post from 20 yards, awarded after Leon Scott was tripped while bursting forward, and Adam Mitchell was unfortunate with a shot at the end of a lovely passing move.

His effort was tipped wide after a period of sustained passing, a fine move with Scott, Turnbull and Gillies central to it.

The second half began brightly for Darlington with Gillies almost scoring.

After a sharp turn and shot, he ran at the defence and unleashed a shot which flew over the bar, but not by much. The chance had come from nowhere, and offered a glimpse of the player’s talent.

Jameson had to display his own ability when leaping to his left to keep out a Lawrie free-kick after a Brown foul.

Gray made a double change, sending on Liam Hardy and Tom Portas, and soon Mitchell had a shot from distance which went over.

With Quakers pressing, Altrincham had the occasional counter attack. Miller had fired wide on the break after a loose Hardy pass was intercepted and the hosts went on the attack.

The final Quakers change saw Adam Nowakowski replace Mitchell, which meant new boy Lewis Nightingale must wait for his debut, and went up front alongside Hardy.

But poor marking by Darlington gave Altrincham a chance at a corner, the unmarked Sam Heathcote volleying over the bar, and it should have been 2-0 when Lawrie dragged a free shot at goal wide after an Alty attack which began with Galbraith giving the ball away.

Darlington had been living dangerously, but with just less than ten minutes to go Burgess powered home a bullet header.

He was a danger at set-pieces throughout last season and on the first day of this campaign he was at it again, meeting Galbaith’s near-post corner to head home.

But Darlington could not hang on and with only two minutes to go they were trailing 2-1.

The penalty was conceded by Jameson after a corner, the goalkeeper tripping an opponent when trying to claim a loose ball, and Jake Moult blasted home from the spot.

It appeared to be a cruel end to the match for Quakers, yet there was still time for more drama.

Burgess was tripped, the result of which saw him hobble out of the ground with a swollen ankle, and Galbraith fired home the penalty to the delight of around 500 travelling fans.

And they might have had even more to cheer when Portas was bundled over in the box with almost 100 minutes on the clock, but referee Anthony Tankard decided against another spot-kick.

Nonetheless, it made for a riveting close to the encounter, Quakers’ first in the National League North.

Goals: Lawrie (14, 1-0); Burgess (81, 1-1); Moult pen (89, 2-1); Galbraith pen (96, 2-2)

Bookings: Scott (32, dissent), Brown (53, foul)

Referee: Anthony Tankard

Attendance: 1,506

Altrincham: Dawber; Heathcote, Hannigan, Cyrus, Patterson; Lawrie, Moult, Goodall, Lynch; Miller (Richman 65), Reeves (Hobson 56). Subs (not used): Preston, Garner, Menagh

Darlington: Jameson; Marrs, Brown, Burgess, Galbraith; Mitchell (Nowakowski 71), Scott, Turnbull; Gillies; Cartman (Portas 58), Purewal (Hardy 58). Subs (not used): Bell, Nightingale