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Spennymoor dump weakened Darlington out of cup
Final Score: Darlington 0 Spennymoor 2
THE first meeting of the Ebac Northern League's top two sides saw under-strength Darlington suffer defeat, but last night's League Cup tie with Spennymoor Town proved to be something of a mismatch.
It's no secret that Quakers boss Martin Gray views cup competitions this season as a distant second in comparison to the league in his priorities, something he demonstrated by making nine changes.
Two 16-year-olds - Sam Read and David Mitchell - were involved and new centre-back Carl Jones made his debut.
In comparison, Moors fielded a strong side and their class told. Wearing a purple kit, they enjoyed a 90-minute purple patch in which top-of-the-table Quakers only fleetingly showed glimpses of their league form.
They were deservedly beaten 2-0 with a goal in each half, Andrew Stephenson and Steven Richardson putting Spennymoor into the third round.
The scoreline would have been greater were it not for Quakers keeper Jack Norton.
He was among the nine changes and early on made a smart save with his feet, blocking from Richardson after the striker had cut inside from the left.
Michael Rae hit the bar with a header before Richardson fired a shot high over the bar as the visitors took control from the off.
Darlington had new loan striker JJ Hooper in attack, the 19-year-old arrival from Newcastle, but they struggled to reach the visitors' penalty area such was Moors' control.
Jason Ainsley's side took the lead on 29 minutes. After an Anthony Peacock pass, Stephenson's rocket from 20 yards gave Norton no chance.
It was soon almost 2-0, Joseph Walton off-target with a header when he met Rae's cross, yet Darlington had the best chance of the half when Shaun Reay was one-on-one with keeper Robert Dean, but he shot too close to the keeper.
Shortly after the restart, Reay and Hooper combined to give the latter a chance and although he beat Dean, the ball rebounded off the post.
Darlington improved marginally after the break, venturing into opposition territory more frequently, but with little threat while Spennymoor twice came close to scoring spectacular efforts.
Walton hit the side-netting from near halfway after collecting an under-hit Norton kick, while Rae saw Norton save a sweetly-hit volley when he met a right-wing corner.
In the closing stages Richardson was twice narrowly wide with shots, but he finally found the net in injury time, a tap-in after the ball was pulled back from the byline by sub Mark Davison to make the scoreline a reflection of the play.