Darlington 1 Northampton Town 2

DARLINGTON’S first game on home soil for over seven weeks ended in defeat to Northampton Town, but the performance was a huge improvement on the weekend defeat at Crewe.

On Saturday they were 3-0 down at the break, but last night they led at half-time thanks to Tadgh Purcell’s second goal for the club.

But a combination of two second half goals from the Cobblers and controversial refereeing saw Quakers slump to another defeat.

Unlike Saturday’s showing, Darlington started brightly and thought they had opened the scoring on 15 minutes.

Simon Madden struck a thunderous effort from longrange that keeper Chris Dunn tipped on to the post.

He quickly grabbed hold of the loose ball but it appeared to have crossed the line first.

The assistant referee, who was well positioned, ruled it had not.

As well as Madden, Quakers handed a debut to goalkeeper Shane Redmond.

The 20-year-old signed yesterday, on loan from Nottingham Forest, and became the 48th player used by Darlington this season.

There were only three players in the starting line-up from the last home game against Bradford.

Redmond was clattered by Adebayo Akinfenwa at a corner early on and the striker with the build of a boxer had the aggressive approach to match. But referee Carl Boyeson showed leniency by keeping his cards in his pocket.

Akinfenwa’s strike-partner Billy McKay was narrowly wide with a rising left-footed effort from the edge of the area but Quakers took the lead just before the half hour.

Jeff Smith, playing on the right-wing, floated a wonderful cross to the far post where Purcell was on hand to tap home.

It was little more than Darlington deserved, though it was the Cobblers who had most of the chances.

Not long before the break McKay lashed an effort wide after latching on to a throughball down the middle.

Ten minutes after the restart, however, the same player levelled for the Cobblers, taking advantage of Darlington losing concentration at a free-kick.

He rounded Redmond and made it 1-1, leaving Curtis Main regretting his fluffed shot at goal just three minutes earlier.

On 69 minutes Darlington found themselves behind.

Ryan Gilligan’s tidy volley at the post, from McKay’s rightwing cross, went through Redmond but it was harsh on Quakers.

They did not deserve to be a goal down, though Smith almost immediately levelled when he saw a powerful drive tipped over by Dunn.

Noel Whelan’s comeback from injury lasted just two minutes. Sent on as a 79th minute sub, he was withdrawn 120 seconds later with what was believed to be a recurrence of his hamstring injury.

Darlington continued to push in the closing stages but they were hardly helped by Boyeson and his two assistants.

Northampton’s Abdul Osman clearly held back Gareth Waite in the visitors’ penalty area, and the same player then stopped Waite’s shot with his hand. But Boyeson incredibly waved play on.

Boyeson had littered the match with a string of bizarre decisions, including missing a handball in the first half.

Darlington manager Steve Staunton was literally hopping mad, especially when Waite appeared to have been elbowed in the first half and the same player also had to have his shirt replaced after his had been torn apart.

A determined effort in the final minutes resulted in Purcell having a fierce effort parried by the keeper and cleared before Diop could reach it, and from the resulting corner John Johnson, on loan from Middlesbrough, almost scored an own goal.

Goals: Purcell (29, 1-0); McKay (55, 1-1), Gilligan (70, 1-2)
: None
: Carl Boyeson (Hull) 4
: 1,694
: ✰✰✰

DARLINGTON (4-4-2): Redmond 7; Madden 7, White 7, Miller 7, Giddings 6; J Smith 7, Dempsey 6 (Whelan 79, Gray 81)), WAITE 7, Purcell 7; Diop 6, Main 5 (Deane 69). Subs (not used): Liversedge (gk), Arnison, McGready, Gray, G Smith

NORTHAMPTON (4-4-2): Dunn 7; Johnson 7, Hinton 6, Beckwith 6, Gilbert 6 (Rodgers 75); Guttridge 7 (Thornton 75), Osman 5, Gilligan 7, Holt 6; Akinfenwa 4 (Herbert 65), McKAY 7. Subs (not used): Lumley, Curtis, O’Flynn, Wilkinson

BILLY McKay - Scored one goal and set-up the other