West Auckland Town 1 Darlington 1
Darlington and West Auckland must replay on Wednesday evening after drawing today’s FA Cup tie 1-1 at the Seagrave Stadium.
Quakers were playing their first FA Cup tie since November 11, and they would have won it had they not missed a handful of chances against their Northern League hosts.
Graeme Armstrong had an off day, three times spurring opportunities to get on the scoresheet in the preliminary round tie, while Stephen Thompson hit the post.
New manager Anth Smith took charge of West for the first time and he saw his team go ahead after only ten minutes.
A nice turn and finish in the penalty area by Dennis Knight put West 1-0 up, though Darlington manager Martin Gray was disappointed with his side’s defending.
From the remainder of the half, however, West rarely threatened with Darlington seeing plenty of the opposition penalty area as they sought an equaliser.
Right-back Gary Brown broke the offside trap after a corner and pulled the ball back for David Dowson whose shot was saved by Dan Lowson.
Then came a dreadful miss by Armstrong. Adam Mitchell had rounded the keeper, after Lowson had raced out of his penalty area, and put a goal on a plate for the striker, but Armstrong allowed his weakly hit shot to be cleared on the line by right-back Neil Pattinson.
Thompson was on the periphery of proceedings most of the afternoon, but he hit the post midway through the first half. He forced his way into the penalty area after collecting the ball in a central position after a Darlington throw, but his powerful shot cannoned back off the upright.
Frustrated by the play-maker’s lack of involvement, Gray switched Thompson from the left to a central position behind the strikers, Armstrong and Dowson.
Gray’s tactical switch was heard by everyone in the main stand as he watched the game while sat among supporters due to serving a six-match touchline ban earned at the end of last season.
Armstrong, scorer of two goals in the win at Spennymoor Town in the second game of the season, missed his second golden chance just before the break. Mitchell chipped the ball to the far post, but the former Whitby Town forward’s free header was wide.
The equaliser Quakers’ play merited came on 49 minutes, Adam Mitchell netting with a cool finish. He scored after Dowson’s shot had rebounded off the post during an attack started with Terry Galbraith’s precise long pass.
And a chance for Darlington to go ahead within a couple of minutes went begging when Armstrong met Brown’s dipping cross from the right, but the header was poor, the ball glancing off the top of his head and going wide.
Thereafter the match was more equal. On a poor pitch, play was scrappy and neither team will have been satisfied with their performance.
And Darlington did not look like scoring once Dowson and Armstrong were replaced by substitutes Liam Hatch and Nathan Fisher on 65 minutes.
Hatch’s impact was minimal while Fisher spent most of his time on the pitch tangling with centre-back Adam Wilkinson.
It was West who finished the half stronger and only a goal-line clearance by captain Brown kept Quakers in the tie. He stopped Darlington-born Pattinson from scoring with a shot from the edge of the penalty area. Former Darlington striker Ian Ward was involved in the build-up, beating Leon Scott to the ball and after the narrow escape Gray was furious, leaping to the front of the stand and barking orders at one of his players.
In over six minutes of injury time there were some nervy moments for Darlington as West forced two corners, though neither set-piece came to anything so the sides will meet again on Wednesday at Heritage Park (7.30pm).
* Admission on Wednesday is £6 and £3.
Goals: Knight (10, 1-0); A Mitchell (49, 1-1)
Bookings: Vipond (42, foul)
Referee: Rebecca Welch (Washington)
West Auckland (4-3-1-2): Lowson; Pattinson, Wilkinson, Hall, Galpin; Vipond, Francis, Knight (Byrne 85); Briggs (Gibson 90); Richardson, Ward. Subs (not used): Ayers, Garthwaite
Darlington (4-3-3): Jameson; Brown, White, Hunter, Galbraith; Scott, Portas, A Mitchell; Dowson (Fisher 65), Armstrong (Hatch 65), Thompson. Subs: Bell (gk), Robinson, Reed, Purewal