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Another defeat for Darlington
Kidderminster Harriers 3 Darlington 1 With eight matches to go Darlington are now six points from safety after losing 3-1 at Kidderminster Harriers today.
Craig Liddle’s side took the lead at Aggborough as they started the game brightly, but they were unable to hang on with the play-off hopefuls hitting back to extend Quakers’ winless run to 13 matches.
With second-top Wrexham due to visit The Northern Echo Arena on Tuesday and time running out to save the club’s Conference status, the outlook is looking bleak.
But the game started much more positively for Quakers who forced two chances before taking the lead.
Kris Taylor was playing in midfield and early on he dragged an effort wide from 20 yards at the end of a Darlington counter attack, and soon after Ryan Bowman fired wide at an acute angle when he perhaps should have tried passing to the centrally-placed Drewe Broughton.
Darlington opened the scoring in the 17th minute, Bowman heading home from close-range after set-piece routine.
Aaron Brown’s long throw was flicked on by Drewe Broughton for Bowman to flick past keeper Tony Breeden.
But the lead lasted only nine minutes. Quakers were unable to deal with a corner, conceded when Jordan Pickford tipped the ball wide, and Dave Hankin was able to place a 16-yard effort into the corner.
Thereafter in the half it was the hosts that enjoyed the majority of the play with Pickford making a handful of saves.
He stopped a shot at the near post when Marvin Johnson had charged down Kidderminster’s left, beating Neil Wainwright while Quakers’ keeper also saved a header from Johnson.
Wainwight was playing at right-back as one of several positional changes. Haydn Hollis made his debut at centre-back after arriving on loan and that allowed Taylor to return to his usual midfield position while Paul Arnison was used in a central midfield position.
Soon after the restart Darlington came very close to retaking the lead, indeed some of the 105 travelling supporters momentarily believe the ball had gone between the posts when Hollis hit the side-netting after meeting Taylor’s corner with a low header.
But it was the play-off chasing Harriers who scored the next goal, making it 2-1 through Anthony Malbon.
Veteran striker Steve Guinan, who had a loan spell with Darlington in 1995-96, held the ball up by peeling away from Hollis and then slipping in Malbon who picked his spot to beat Pickford.
For Malbon the goal atoned for a dreadful first-half miss when he completely missed a free header at goal when Pickford was out of position.
Although Darlington trailed by only a goal for the bulk of the second half, they rarely appeared capable of forcing an equaliser.
Kidderminster keeper Breedon had little to do as his defence comfortably dealt with Quakers’ blunt attacks.
Craig Liddle made a change that saw Adam Rundle sent on and the winger was lively, making a handful of penetrating runs.
The best saw him beat left-back Mickey Demetriou and reach the byline from where he chipped over a cross that Broughton should have done much better with. Instead the tall striker header over from eight yards.
And Bowman did likewise 60 seconds later when he leapt above a clutch of players to meet Arnison’s free-kick.
Those two chances were about as exciting as it got for the remainder of a drab half lacking in energy or flair. Darlington looked beaten while Kidderminster hardly played like a team with play-off aspirations.
Yet they added a third in the 89th minute though, typical of the game, it owed more to an individual mistake than it did a piece of quality football.
Pickford’s poor clearance fell straight to Kidderminster’s James Vincent and he played in substitute Ryan Rowe, who had been on the field less than a minute, to fire a deflected shot past the keeper.
It was a deeply disappointing way to finish a performance that was occasionally encouraging, but ultimately Darlington came up short.
Goals: Bowman (17, 0-1); Hankin (26, 1-1); Malbon (54, 2-1); Rowe (89, 3-1)
Bookings: Keltie (5, foul); Byrne (77, foul); Vincent (80, foul); Wainwright (84, foul)
Referee: Jez Simpson (Lancaster)
Kidderminster Harriers (4-3-3): Breeden; Vaughan, Jones, Marshall, Demetriou; Hankin (Wright 90), Storer, Byrne; Malbon (Vincent 80), Guinan (Rowe 88), Johnson. Subs (not used): Lyness (gk), Williams
Darlington (4-4-2): Pickford; Wainwright, Hollis, Johnson; Brown, Arnison, Keltie, McReady (Ramshaw 86), Taylor (Rundle 67); Broughton, Bowman (Lambert 89). Subs (not used): Nixon (gk), Ferguson