THERE’S been some terrific Darlington versus Spennymoor Town games, the latest instalment not being one of them and it will instead be remembered for the wrong reasons.

There was a fracas among fans after the match, both clubs had to publish strongly-worded statements on Saturday evening, the visiting club were mocked on the PA system and the police had to speak to Moors’ Jamie Chandler about his conduct.

The game itself? All a bit tame and largely forgettable. Neither side did enough to warrant a win and a draw would have been a fair result.

After Darlington had been the better side before the break when Stephen Thompson opened the scoring with a penalty, two Spennymoor set-pieces were the difference at Blackwell Meadows, including a screamer by top scorer Glen Taylor to equalise and then Stephen Brogan sealed a 2-1 victory that bolsters Moors’ promotions hopes.

In recent times these clubs were promotion rivals, Quakers usually having the upper hand, unbeaten in seven league games plus a play-off match, but Moors were always going to have their day at some point and are now able to rejoice in overcoming their neighbours.

Moors manager Jason Ainsley admitted, however, his team had been poor for half of the game.

“In the first half we were nowhere near, second best all over the park, and I read the riot act at half-time,” he said.

“It didn’t feel like a derby in the first half, it felt flat, we weren’t at the races and couldn’t string two passes together.

“Ironically we have probably played better in our last four or five games against Darlington and come away with draws or defeats, yet now we’ve come away with a win with two goals worthy of winning any football match.”

His is an experienced team, one that will very likely finish in a play-off position, whereas Wright’s side is a work in progress.

He has a handful of loan players to supplement the best of what’s left after a damaging first half of the season, but there is encouragement to be found.

Results and performances have improved since Christmas, and the manager can take solace from largely negating fourth-in-the-table Moors, who have scored the division’s joint-highest number of goals.

He said: “Neither team outdid the other one. Two teams came up against each other and nullified each other’s threats really well.

“Everyone had a good game. Defensively they did what was asked of them, we shut out Spennymoor, a good attacking team that has scored the most goals in the league and let in two free-kicks.

“That shows progression, but we need to get back on the bike now.

“There was only one team in it in the first half. We had total control without necessarily carving out opportunity after opportunity.”

The opportunity Darlington took was a penalty on 17 minutes. Thompson, who also put Darlington ahead when the teams drew 2-2 at the Brewery Field in August, scored after he had been fouled by James Curtis.

It came just seconds after a cracking old-school challenge in midfield between Joe Wheatley and Shane Henry, a proper non-league 50-50 of the sort that would be followed by a lengthy stoppage had it taken place in the Premier League.

It was Quakers who looked more alert, the passing was sharper, with Thompson and Luke Trotman combining well.

A harmless Andrew Johnson effort over the bar was about as good as it got for the visitors, until half-time when some tactical tinkering altered the game in Spennymoor’s favour.

Ainsley explained: “Credit to Paul Midgley and Tommy Miller. At half-time we talked about the shape, we explained what jobs they needed to do out of possession and they carried it off to a tee in the second half.”

The equaliser eight minutes after the restart saw Chandler make his first contribution of note, going to ground after Tom Elliott’s challenge, hoodwinking referee Sam Barrott into awarding a free-kick.

“Chandler bought that,” said Wright. “That’s an experienced player who knows he’s got himself in a pickle and conned the referee.

“Had he lost the ball there and had we counter-attacked things might’ve been different.”

But what a free-kick it was. Taken short to Taylor, he rifled home from around 30 yards, the ball whistling past Jonny Maddison to make it 1-1 with his 21st goal of the season.

All good rivalries need a villain, and ex-Quaker Chandler fitted the bill.

He marked the moment with an offensive hand gesture towards Quakers supporters, who once adored him, but no longer hold him in high esteem.

Brogan’s winner, on 67 minutes, came after Terry Galbraith fouled marauding right-back Callum Williams, Ainsley describing it as an “absolute wonder goal”, which is kind on Maddison.

At 1-1 the goalkeeper had made a very good save, low down to stop a Taylor header, but Brogan’s free-kick was preventable.

Wright admitted: “It was a floated shot and it wasn’t in the top corner, so you’re always going to ask could the goalie have done more? But we win, lose and draw as a team, and we move on now.”

Again it was Chandler’s cue for an offensive gesture, different from the first one but no less provocative and not one that can be described in a family newspaper.

His actions were caught on camera, both by The Northern Echo and by Darlington’s own cameraman, and he will be lucky to avoid punishment either from the police, the FA or his own club, who cannot condone his behaviour and an apology is surely forthcoming.

Such actions are unacceptable in any circumstances, let alone from someone with Chandler’s connection to Quakers.

Perhaps he needs reminding that during the time of Darlington's administration in 2012 he was on the team bus to Barrow and among the beneficiaries when Craig Liddle divvied up cash that sympathetic supporters had raised, around £8,000, to give to players whose wages had not been paid.

Yet here he was making offensive gestures to those very same set of supporters.

Heat of the moment? Yes. Provoked? Absolutely.

Man of the match at Wembley in 2011, in 2016 Chandler turned down the chance to return to Quakers to sign for Spennymoor, so he was targeted by frustrated fans as is par for the course in football. It happens.

Instead, Chandler, nearly 30 and a coach in Sunderland’s academy, showed no class and brought shame on himself and his club.

There is no moral high ground to be found here. Not for the first time this season there were off-the-field issues at Blackwell.

A Spennymoor statement read: "There is no place in football for the extent of abuse that our officials, management, players and supporters experienced from a minority of Darlington supporters."

Moors also said there was an incident in the car park with a visiting supporter sustaining a “minor” injury.

Darlington officials must now reflect on the folly of enforcing segregation during a game that ended in acrimony, yet then allowing supporters of both sides to leave the venue at the same time.

No sole official or player can be blamed for any fracas, the fans involved in the car park incident are responsible.

Footballers, however, goading already irate supporters can only succeed in heightening animosity, and for that Chandler takes a share of the responsibility.

He had the last laugh, of course, as Spennymoor celebrated victory with something of a throwback to Darlington’s Northern League days, when clubs were ecstatic if they got one over on Quakers.

This was a big victory for Moors, and the last word went to the man on the PA system who, in a sarcastic and perhaps crass nod to the exuberant nature of their celebrations, said: “Congratulations to Spennymoor Town on winning your cup final.”