Darlington 4 Billingham Synthonia 1

First published in Sport

FREE-SCORING Darlington reached the 70-goal mark for the season with a comfortable win over Billingham Synthonia.

Stephen Thompson got the landmark goal at the end of a win that was rarely in doubt from the moment that Craig Gott put Quakers ahead after only six minutes at Heritage Park.

Even though Martin Gray’s men soon conceded an equaliser, through Amar Purewal they retook the lead midway through the first half from which point there was only going to be one winner.

“We started the game really well,” said Gray, who saw his team win 2-1 at Celtic Nation at the weekend. “It was really encouraging that we got on the front foot early on.

“You’ve got to go on the front foot and impose yourself on the game. You’ve got to start by being positive and winning your personal battles and that’s what we did tonight.

It’s what we demand all of the time.

“We’ve won the game 4-1, but it could have been eight with the chances we had.”

The tone was set with an explosive start. Inside the first minute Purewal burst through and won a corner, from which Gary Brown had a shot saved by Josh Moody and then centre-back Andrew Foster cleared from close to the goalline as David Dowson was waiting to pounce following good work by Thompson.

Like in Saturday’s win at Celtic Nation, Quakers carved open the opposition defence so it was no surprise when they struck early, Gott putting Darlington 1-0 up after six minutes.

Quick footwork by Chris Emms took him past a defender and good awareness saw him play in fellow former Synner Gott to rifle home his first goal since moving from the Teessiders earlier this season.

But, thanks to slack defending, the visitors soon levelled.

A throw-in on the left into the penalty area was collected by striker Andrew Jennings who turned and fired past Jack Norton.

The goal means Darlington have now conceded in 12 successive games, and Gray admitted: “I was disappointed with the cheap goal that we conceded, that’s not good enough.

“But the players retained their belief. We stayed disciplined and I think Synners ran out of ideas.”

Keeper Norton was recalled as Craig Turns was delayed due to work commitments, but it was the keeper at the other end that was the centre of attention when Darlington retook the lead.

Under pressure from Dowson, Josh Moody gave the ball to Purewal and from 30 yards, with the keeper stranded, the winger floated the ball into a empty net for his 11th goal of the season.

There were no more goals before the break, but it was end to end stuff with both teams committed to getting forward and creating chances.

Norton reacted quickly when a Nathen Wilson shot was deflected while Darlington’s Joe Tait hit the post with a header and then Moody tipped a shot around the post from the centre-back.

Jennings saw a shot deflected over at beginning of second half, but Quakers then wasted a glorious opportunity for 3-1.

After exchanging passes with Dowson, Emms lined up a shot but, with his weaker left foot, dragged the effort wide.

Emms, though, had a hand when Darlington eventually added a third goal on the hour.

After Thompson pulled the ball back to the edge of the area, Emms’ low drive rebounded off the post and David Abel was unable to avoid the ball as it ricocheted off him and into the net.

It was hard luck on Abel, but Darlington deserved to extend their advantage, though there the game lost some zip at 3-1.

Darlington looked comfortable and while the Teessiders ran out of ideas, though Synners sub Daniel Johnson was just wide with a shot from 20 yards.

Flame-haired Johnson was the scorer of a cross-cum-shot when Quakers won 4-1 at Central Avenue last month, and that scoreline was repeated thanks to a sloppy pass by Abel.

It was intercepted by Thompson who can always be relied upon to find the net and doing so sealed a 4-1 win which restores Quakers’ seven-point lead at the top of the Ebac Northern League.

On Saturday, Dowson and Thompson got on the scoresheet, though they were both among players who squandered chances during a onesided first half in which Quakers carved open Celtic.

But it was the hosts who led at the break, thanks to Michael Reed’s near post header on 13 minutes, and he almost did the same again when meeting a left-wing cross just before half-time, but in between it was Darlington who peppered Ryan Smith’s goal.

On Saturday they are at Team Northumbria.

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