Darlington have another obstacle to overcome now - but their latest setback need not prove terminal

The Advertiser Series: ON THE ROCKS: Darlington captain Gary Brown leaves the field after last night’s 2-0 defeat to Ramsbottom United ON THE ROCKS: Darlington captain Gary Brown leaves the field after last night’s 2-0 defeat to Ramsbottom United

IT'S quite some drop to go from Wembley to Whitley Bay in the space of two seasons. So having survived it reasonably unscathed, it has to be hoped that Darlington can put up with having to face the likes of Warrington for another 12 months with similar stoicism.

This wasn't part of the recovery plan, with last night's 2-0 defeat to Ramsbottom having consigned the Quakers to a second successive season in the First Division of the Evo-Stik League, but having become past masters at shrugging off disappointment and setbacks, the club's supporters will surely not throw in the towel now.

After all, they've already overcome the heartbreak of being demoted five divisions, not to mention the negative impact of being uprooted from their home-town to ground-share 13 miles away. If you can come through that, another obstacle on the road to recovery need not prove terminal.

Speak to fans who have been regular attendees at Heritage Park, and they will extol the merits of the non-league game, not to mention the satisfaction that can be drawn from watching a team comprised largely of young players, winning more often that not. That will still be there next season, and there should also be the added bonus of a return to Darlington as the football club moves into Blackwell Meadows to become lodgers with the rugby side.

Yet the momentum that has sustained the club to this point is not infinite, and as former fans of the likes of Scarborough and Maidstone can attest, it is not a given that previously successful teams bounce back when they are asked to rebuild from scratch.

Last year's Northern League title represented the first rung on the ladder back to the Football League, but four-fifths of the job is still to be completed. And every step is generally more difficult than the last.

For most of the season, Darlington have looked more than capable of claiming one of the two promotion places on offer, but when their fate was in the balance last night, they were unable to see off a Ramsbottom side who finished ten points below them in the table.

Their job was hardly helped by a truly wretched refereeing performance from Kevin Mulraine, who bottled what should have been a straightforward decision in the very first minute when Ramsbottom full-back Owen Roberts hurled himself into a reckless challenge that resulted in Leon Scott leaving the ground on a stretcher.

Regardless of the fact that only 16 seconds had passed, it had to be a straight red card. Mulraine only issued a yellow, and immediately saw his authority disappear.

Yet for all that Darlington can justifiably claim to have been let down by the official, they were also out-muscled too often by a set of opponents whose rugged, committed approach proved decisive.

Darlington played the better football when they had possession, but if you're going to get out of a league like this, at times you have to be brutal. And Ramsbottom did brutal rather more effectively than their opponents.

Perhaps that is something for Martin Gray to reflect on as he looks to rebuild for next season, but as he comes to terms with an increasingly fractious night that ultimately saw him consigned to the stands as his fury boiled over, he can still take some satisfaction from what has been achieved in the last two seasons.

In the likes of Stephen Thompson, whose 49th-minute dismissal for diving effectively killed off any hope of a second-half revival last night, and David Dowson, whose low first-half strike was probably Quakers' best hope of a goal, Darlington boast two of the best players operating at this level of the game.

The hope, despite last night's defeat, is that they will not be playing in the First Division of the Evo-Stik League for much longer. The ambition of a return to former glories continues to burn brightly. And let's be honest, it wouldn't be Darlington if things went smoothly to plan.

Comments (6)

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8:46am Thu 1 May 14

FirTreeFC says...

Really ashamed of the mindless few at the end of the game, took my two kids with me and they didn't enquire about he beautiful game or wht we played poorly; just why was there fighting at the end. I hope MG explains his tactics and actions last night to the northern echo as being sent to the stand again is not what i expct of him!
Really ashamed of the mindless few at the end of the game, took my two kids with me and they didn't enquire about he beautiful game or wht we played poorly; just why was there fighting at the end. I hope MG explains his tactics and actions last night to the northern echo as being sent to the stand again is not what i expct of him! FirTreeFC
  • Score: 6

9:47am Thu 1 May 14

ted forster says...

I posted yesterday morning I had a bad feeling and thought it may be a long drive home.
How right that turned out to be, but not for the reason I expected.
Being a Darlo fan for 60+ years I am well versed in the art of disappointments, but while our tactics were wrong last night and we looked poor as a team, with little or no creativity, what really galls is that we come away feeling so let down by officials.
I used to mark refs performances in 3 leagues up to the Southern league premier division as it was pre Conf' North and South, and while I try to be neutral towards them I have to say the performance of last nights ref was the worst I have ever witnessed. It does not matter if a reckless tackle is in the first or last minute, it deserves and demands a straight red card, and as someone who bemoans the loss of tackling from our game, even Norman Hunter would have expected to walk for that challenge on Scott. That challenge set the tone, and long before half time I had given up hope of anything going our way for the night.
One just hopes that there was an assessor present, and the appropriate action taken against the official.
Sorry to say, but likewise, Martin Gray should be dealt with VERY harshly for, once again, being shown a red card. To often Martin!!! You are meant to lead by example, and your behaviour was far from the kind of example to set. NO excuse how upset you were.
I posted yesterday morning I had a bad feeling and thought it may be a long drive home. How right that turned out to be, but not for the reason I expected. Being a Darlo fan for 60+ years I am well versed in the art of disappointments, but while our tactics were wrong last night and we looked poor as a team, with little or no creativity, what really galls is that we come away feeling so let down by officials. I used to mark refs performances in 3 leagues up to the Southern league premier division as it was pre Conf' North and South, and while I try to be neutral towards them I have to say the performance of last nights ref was the worst I have ever witnessed. It does not matter if a reckless tackle is in the first or last minute, it deserves and demands a straight red card, and as someone who bemoans the loss of tackling from our game, even Norman Hunter would have expected to walk for that challenge on Scott. That challenge set the tone, and long before half time I had given up hope of anything going our way for the night. One just hopes that there was an assessor present, and the appropriate action taken against the official. Sorry to say, but likewise, Martin Gray should be dealt with VERY harshly for, once again, being shown a red card. To often Martin!!! You are meant to lead by example, and your behaviour was far from the kind of example to set. NO excuse how upset you were. ted forster
  • Score: 8

10:26am Thu 1 May 14

AlbertoL says...

Last night is the past, new season i MB is the future.
Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts
Last night is the past, new season i MB is the future. Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts AlbertoL
  • Score: 3

12:38pm Thu 1 May 14

Lionel1 says...

David Hodgson's your man...
David Hodgson's your man... Lionel1
  • Score: -4

2:10pm Thu 1 May 14

behonest says...

I pretty much agree with Ted Forster. Given we finished second, had home advantage, big crowd, better players (on paper); we were favourites and you'd have thought we'd have come out really fired up and going for it. I thought we came out looking like startled rabbits, Ramsbottom looked the more comfortable from the off, and, putting aside the dodgy ref's decision early on, I don't think at half-time anyone could say Ramsbottom did not deserve to be ahead.

Thompson was just as effective in the second 45 minutes as he was in the first. Given he was sent off when he was, this is not a compliment! He can't seem to do it on the big occasions against the bigger teams.

MG has known for weeks we were in the play-offs, so the mental as well as the physical preparation of the players for the big games is down to him. I don't think he did the job at all well for last night. However, given that MG started from scratch two years ago, and we've finished champions and then runners-up since, I think it's too early to talk about replacing him. Hopefully he'll also learn from this and improve as a manager and improve Darlo as a team next season.

Given the suggested recent investment in Salford it may well be that we'll be in a similar position next year, so he needs to get it right.

Come on Darlo!
I pretty much agree with Ted Forster. Given we finished second, had home advantage, big crowd, better players (on paper); we were favourites and you'd have thought we'd have come out really fired up and going for it. I thought we came out looking like startled rabbits, Ramsbottom looked the more comfortable from the off, and, putting aside the dodgy ref's decision early on, I don't think at half-time anyone could say Ramsbottom did not deserve to be ahead. Thompson was just as effective in the second 45 minutes as he was in the first. Given he was sent off when he was, this is not a compliment! He can't seem to do it on the big occasions against the bigger teams. MG has known for weeks we were in the play-offs, so the mental as well as the physical preparation of the players for the big games is down to him. I don't think he did the job at all well for last night. However, given that MG started from scratch two years ago, and we've finished champions and then runners-up since, I think it's too early to talk about replacing him. Hopefully he'll also learn from this and improve as a manager and improve Darlo as a team next season. Given the suggested recent investment in Salford it may well be that we'll be in a similar position next year, so he needs to get it right. Come on Darlo! behonest
  • Score: 0

1:39am Sun 4 May 14

snudge says...

rubbish team why DRFC want to get mixed up with them heave or ton stowe only knows!!!
rubbish team why DRFC want to get mixed up with them heave or ton stowe only knows!!! snudge
  • Score: 0

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