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Darlington in seventh heaven
Billingham Town 1 Darlington 7
A scintillating second-half performance saw Darlington sweep Billingham Town aside this afternoon.
They were 1-0 up at the break, but went goal crazy in the second half, plundering a further six goals to record a 7-1 that maintains their six-point lead at the top of the table.
Frustrated Billingham boss Carl Jarrett held a 25-minute inquest with his players in the changing room afterwards as he believed too many of his players’ heads dropped during the second half, but his team put in a good showing for the first 45 minutes.
Although the scoreline indicates a dominant Darlington display, the sides were well matched for the bulk of the first half during which the hosts had chances to take the lead.
A minor skirmish on the terraces just as the game was due to begin had delayed kick-off by ten minutes, and the interruption appeared to affect Quakers.
Within the first 30 seconds Billingham striker Jamie Owens burst through and hit the wrong side of the side-netting and he was later off target with another opportunity.
It took Darlington until midway through the half to get into their stride with Stephen Thompson on the end of two opportunities.
He uncharacteristically shot wide when played in by Chris Emms while he gave keeper Danny Molyneux an easy save when connecting with an Adam Nicholls left-wing cross.
The breakthrough came three minutes before half-time. Emms, playing against one of his former clubs, whipped a free-kick over the wall to make it 1-0 and Darlington breathed a sigh of relief.
Billingham had proven tough to break down, but the floodgates opened after the break.
Darlington looked like scoring every time they attacked. Leon Scott ran through midfield to score from the edge of the penalty area on 51 minutes, and then Thompson netted from the spot.
He became Quakers’ third different penalty scorer this season, scoring after Amar Purewal was felled by Richard Gaston.
Quakers were coasting at 3-0, but their propensity to hand other teams a goal struck again. Right-back Stephen Harrison headed into Glen Butterworth’s path and the Town midfielder blasted home to make it 3-1 on 71 minutes.
Within 60 seconds, however, an unmarked Shaun Reay tapped in at the far post, following a pass from Scott, to make it 4-1 and the same player took the score to 5-1 soon after.
This time Emms worked his magic in the 18-yard box and as Billingham failed to clear, substitute Reay was on hand to tap the loose ball home for his 11th goal of the season.
Billingham, to their credit, showed signs of a fight. Nicky Martin and Jamie Owens both hit woodwork, but Darlington swiftly broke with Adam Nicholls netting the sixth goal.
He rounded the keeper on 78 minutes and then added his second of the game after slaloming through the Billingham defence to make it 7-1.
Darren Richardson, on as an early substitute for the injured Dan Smith, came close to making it 8-1. The overlapping left-back hit the wrong side of the side-netting after being played in by Reay.
The missed chance mattered little. The 7-1 is Quakers’ biggest win of the season, the first time they have scored seven in a match since 1993-94 and their eighth victory in successive games.
They are next in action at home to South Shields on Wednesday while Billingham Town play Newcastle Benfield next Saturday.
Goals: Emms (42, 0-1), Scott (51, 0-2); Thompson pen (66, 0-3); Butterworth (71, 1-3); Reay (72, 1-4); Reay (75, 1-5); Nicholls (78, 1-6); Nicholls (83, 1-7)
Booking: Gaston (89, foul)
Referee: Barry Gordon
Billingham Town: Molyneux, O’Brien (Thomas 84), Gamble, Perry, Gaston, Cossavella, Norman (MacDonald 40), Butterworth, Selby (Dunwell 64), Martin. Subs (not used): Clark, Hodgson
Darlington (4-4-2): Norton; Harrison, Brown, Tait, Smith (Richardson 9); Emms, Scott (Clough 76), Gott, Nicholls; Amar Purewal (Reay 67), Thompson. Subs (not used): Morris (gk), Johnson