5:35pm Saturday 28th December 2013
By Craig Stoddart
Darlington 2 Salford City 2
A dramatic last ten minutes saw Darlington salvage a point from a game in which they were 2-0 behind at home to Salford City.
Goals by Stephen Thompson and David Dowson rescued Quakers and they could have won it were it not for a series of save by Daniel Fradd.
The mid-table visitors were first to settle though, scoring on 32 minutes when Terry Galbraith fluffed a clearance and in nipped Matthew Purcell to drive home.
Despite the wake-up call, Darlington lacked tempo and looked flat against a team that had only 14 fit players and had a game on Boxing Day when Quakers were not in action.
Despite Martin Gray's strong words at the break, his team were not much better after the restart and Stuart Cook made it 2-0 with a beauty from the edge of the box.
It was only in the the final 20 minutes that Darlington showed some fight, perhaps too much for the referee's liking as he showed a red card to a player from each team, both for violent conduct.
Quakers' Leon Scott reacted badly to being fouled by Otis Gorman and hit out at the Salford sub, who had been the pitch for only two minutes, and he retaliated so was also sent to the dressing room by Paul Stalker.
The flare-up, which included assistant manager Brian Atkinson being sent from the dug-out, sparked Quakers into life and they mounted a comeback as they laid siege to Salford's goal.
Fradd made plenty of saves, the highlight being a finger-tip stop to divert a Thompson thunderbolt which bounced on the line and away after whacking the underside of the crossbar.
He couldn't stop Thompson's goal on 82 minutes however, a blast from outside the penalty area for his 17th goal of the season.
Nathan Fisher, who started ahead of the rested Dowson, should have scored when he beat the keeper, but there was not enough power on the shot and a defender cleared. In the melee that followed, Thompson blasted over.
Amar Purewal hit bar and after a Thompson corner, the ball was back-heeled over bar by Dowson, who had come on as a sub when Gray switched to 3-4-3.
In the closing stages centre-back defender Alan White was sent up front during Darlington's relenting pressure. The pressure looked to have told when a Salford defender handled in the penalty area, but Stalker, somehow, played on.
There was little the referee, however, could do to stop Dowson's dramatic equaliser, the sub bundling the ball home at close-range after an attack up the left-wing.
The goal sparked jubilant scenes among the 1,514 crowd, Quakers' biggest of the season.
In six minutes of injury time Quakers still pushed forward for a winner. Thompson had a low effort saved and then Fradd displayed admirable agility to react quickly when dealing with Purewal's close-range header.
Goals: Purcell (32, 0-1), Cook (56, 0-2); Thompson (82, 1-2), Dowson (90, 2-2)
Booking: Edghill (83, time wasting)
Sendings-off: Gorman (75, violent conduct); Scott (75, violent conduct)
Referee: Paul Stalker (Teesside)
Darlington (4-4-2): Bell; Harrison (Dowson 61), Hunter, White, Galbraith; Robinson, Scott, Hopson; Thompson; Fisher, Purewal. Subs (not used): Jameson (gk), Mitchell, Coatsworth, Davis
Salford City: Fradd, Smith, Tandy, Edghill, Walters, Gaskin, Cook, Purcell (Messer 82), Ahmadi (Gorman 73), Battersby (Humphreys 37), Brown. Subs (not used): none
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