DARLINGTON drew 0-0 with Southport, a tedious encounter being almost entirely devoid of entertainment and marred by two players being taken to hospital.

Quakers’ Sam Muggleton was stretchered off after suffering a knee injury at the end of the first half, and an ambulance was required.

Terry Galbraith suffered concussion early in the second 45 minutes, and he joined Muggleton in the ambulance. 

Galbraith had collided with team-mate Jonny Maddison, while Muggleton came off second best after a challenge with Southport’s Marcus Wood.

Darlington’s left-back, who only joined on loan a week ago from Chesterfield, remained on the Blackwell Meadows pitch for around ten minutes before medical staff were able to remove him from the field of play.

Immediately after the challenge players from each team signalled for medical attention, with physiotherapists from both Darlington and Southport attending to Muggleton as well as members of the St John Ambulance. 

A statement released on Sunday by Quakers read: “Sam has sustained two injuries – a partial fracture of his femur, and knee ligament damage caused by a dislocation. He will be having a further scan on Monday to assess the extent of the damage.”

Referee Aaron Bannister had encouraged strong tackling by taking a lenient approach to a number of first-half challenges, including in the moments preceding Muggleton’s injury.

Southport’s David Morgan escaped unpunished for a poor challenge on Romal Palmer, one of several bizarre Bannister decisions and led to him being strongly criticised by Darlington supporters who had little else to focus on given the lack of entertainment on offer.

It was a game of few clear opportunities, though Southport’s Dion Charles was off-target early on with a couple of early chances, while Quakers striker Simon Ainge twice headed wide, the first when on the end of a long Muggleton throw and the second from a Galbraith corner.

Set-pieces posed the greatest chance of a goal and Southport’s Jason Gilchrist should have done better than to shoot wide after a throw into Quakers’ penalty area.

Bannister made an error when Southport goalkeeper Daniel Hanford got a hand to high ball across the penalty area, touching it away and out for a throw, yet bafflingly the referee awarded a throw-in to the visitors. 

Palmer fired wide early in the second half, and then Southport had very strong penalty appeals when Charles’ cross was diverted by Luke Trotman’s hand. Typical of his afternoon, however, Bannister spotted no infringement.

The hapless official then, somehow, failed to spot Southport’s Liam Edwards hauling Harvey Saunders to the floor inside the centre-circle by grabbing his shirt.

Saunders had been sent on as a sub, manager Tommy Wright having named an unchanged starting XI, when Galbraith had to be substituted, leading to Ainge dropping into defence.

Each team had occasional glimpses of goal, and Palmer saw goalkeeper Hanford tip over a free-kick while at the other end Will Smith blocked from Morgan Homson-Smith and Maddison made his only save by denying Jack Sampson at close-range.

Southport, who last week scored five against leaders Chorley, were generally made to look blunt by Quakers, but they spurned the best chance came in injury time, Jordan Archer off-target with only Maddison to beat.

It was Darlington's fourth clean sheet in six league games, so they can take heart from that and will hope for another one on Wednesday at home to Brackley. 

Attendance: 1,462

Referee: Aaron Bannister

Darlington (3-4-1-2): Maddison; Smith, Hughes, Galbraith (Saunders 57); Trotman, Elliott, Palmer, Muggleton (O’Hanlon 46); Nicholson (Kneeshaw 75); Ainge, Thompson. Subs not used: Hall, Wheatley

Southport (4-4-2): Hanford; Platt, Astles, Edwards, Parry; Green (Homson-Smith 72), Morgan, Wood, Charles; Sampson, Gilchrist (Archer 76). Subs not used: Richards, Lacey, Tibbetts