Darlington 0 Wrexham 1

DIFFICULT to score against but blunt in front of goal – that’s been the way of it for Darlington this season and it is a formula which has succeeded in grinding out a series of low-scoring wins and draws.

That no team in the top ten of the Blue Square Premier has scored fewer goals than Quakers, yet only one other side has conceded less, just about sums up Mark Cooper’s team.

Another point, thanks to a seventh clean sheet in 13 games, looked as good as secured until late on Saturday when Wrexham’s late goal sealed a smash-and-grab victory.

Nat Knight-Percival’s 87th minute goal meant Quakers suffered only their second defeat of the season, which pushes them down to ninth, and they could consider themselves unfortunate.

Darlington didn’t deserve to win as neither team were worth any more than a point after a lacklusture afternoon as Wrexham carried out the sort of display Quakers have been putting in.

Their strong defence, led by centre-back pairing Marvin Andrews and Frank Sinclair, dealt with Quakers’ aimless punts up field and in the final ten minutes pushed for goal which culminated in the late strike.

The result left Cooper critical of his side’s attacking efforts.

His team created little in the way of scoring chances and the manager admitted to wanting to bring in another striker before tomorrow’s trip to Rushden & Diamonds The player, Cooper said, would be on loan from a Football League club who has previously scored goals in the Conference.

He said: “We’ve already brought one player in but I don’t really want to bring loads in because it can take time for them to adjust.

“But we need a spark at the top end of the pitch, that’s plain and simple to see. We’re not doing enough to create chances.

“We start getting the desperate, then the crowd get at them and then they start whacking long balls up – which looks terrible and it’s not something I ask them to do.

“We’ve got to get back to the drawing board to make sure we get a positive result on Tuesday.”

Yet for all of Darlington’s struggles in front of goal, Saturday’s outcome would surely have been much different were it not for a stunningly poor decision by referee Darren Handley. He failed to award a penalty on 15 minutes despite new striker Daniel Powell being bundled to the ground by Sinclair.

The burly veteran had been dispossessed by Powell who attempted to run at goal but was stopped in his tracks by Sinclair’s bear hug.

The outcome should clearly have been a penalty and a red card, yet Handley played on.

It was an astonishing decision, though Darlington were guilty of two of their own before the break.

Powell looked set to score when all that was required was a simple pass from Liam Hatch. The pass came but it was behind the on-loan forward who soon after was in a position to be put throughone- on-one but Gary Smith delayed his pass and chance was gone.

After the break Darlington showed little urgency and gave the visitors defence little do, other than heading practice, and in the final ten minutes the Red Dragons got closer to goal until they scored.

Both Dean Keates and Jamie Tolley went close with 16-yard efforts, before Curtis Obeng right-wing cross met Knight-Percival who headed past Sam Russell.

Having suffered only a second defeat in 13 games it is hardly crisis time, but Cooper is aware changes to his team are needed. He said: “In the second half we didn’t do enough. We started the first half well and there was one big decision which changed the game.

“I try not to talk about referees and their decisions but I have to when it’s that blatant.

It’s a red card and a penalty.

He rugby tackled him.

“I used to get really annoyed by the refs. I try not to get to too annoyed about them because that’s the just what the standard is at this level.

“It was not the reason we lost but it was game changing as it was 0-0. But for the next 75 minutes we weren’t good enough and we’ve got to do something about it.

“We’ve not looked like we’re going to lose games, but we’ve also not looked like we’re going to win. You can only keep giving players so many chances.”


Goal: 0-1: Knight-Percival (87, towering header after meeting Obeng’s rightwing cross)

Bookings: Obeng (24, encroachment), Sinclair (48, handball); Mangan (72, foul)

Referee: Darren Handley (Lancashire) – not awarding Darlington a first half penalty was a glaring error during what was otherwise a decent display 5

Attendance: 1,690

Entertainment: ✰


6 Russell: Came for plenty of crosses and could not be faulted for the goal;

6 Miller: Used at right-back in first game since recovering from injury but replaced with a knee problem at the break

7 HONE: Another dominant display. Kept Gareth Taylor’s input to a minimum

7 Austin: That he kept his place despite Miller being fit to return says how well he has done of late

6 Brown: The goal came as he was unable to cut out the cross which came from his flank;

5 Terry: Like the rest of midfield, was unable to open up Wrexham

5 McReady: Recalled to make only his second start of the season but was only a peripheral figure

5 G Smith: Perhaps his worst game of the season, capped by wasting an opportunity to put Powell in on goal;

6 Senior: Did not get a sniff of goal

5 Hatch: Substituted for the fourth time in last seven games – a stat that shows how frustrated Cooper is with the striker

7 Powell: Has pace to burn and came close to goal on a handful of occasions


Clarke (for Miller 46): Replaced Miller at right-back and did a reasonable job, but will be replaced by Arnison tomorrow 6

Chandler (for G Smith 64): Lively performance as he tried to get Darlington firing 6

M Smith (for Hatch 79)

(not used): Lowson (gk), Main

WREXHAM (4-4-2): Maxwell 6; Obeng 7, Andrews 7, Sinclair 6, Ashton 6; Knight-Percival 7,

BLACKBURN 7, Keates 7, Tolley 5; Taylor 5, Mangan 5 (Hunt 90). Subs: Brown, Smith, Cieslewicz, Gall


CHRIS Blackburn – the anchorman in midfield stopped Darlington from playing.