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  • "For me this has to be viewed as two points lost, and hopefully we can recover before the trip to Kendal. We will have to wait until the end of the season to see how costly all these dropped home points against mid table opposition prove to be. What worries me is not how well the visiting teams play, it is how badly Darlo play, we just seem to fall to pieces in front of large crowds at Heritage Park. This is not the way to win back the missing fans, to Heritage Park, we need to show these fence sitters what our team can do. People like myself who were at the brilliant win at Warrington and all the other away games, know what our team is capable of. So come on lads lets start performing at Heritage Park and lets give all of the doubting Thomas's no excuse for not coming to home games at Heritage Park . Having said that I was convinced on Saturday that we were denied a goal by a very poor set of officials, and having watched the highlights I am still convinced the ball was over the line. The linesman could not keep up with play on the Sainsburys side of the pitch in the first half and he was no where near when he changed sides in the second half when the incident happened. The unpunished foul on Alan White which occurred directly in front of the other linesman was absolutely diabolical. I feel sorry for Brian Atkinson and Leon Scott, having to accept punishment from this set of officials. Thankfully the combination of Steven Thompson and David Dowson with their late goals got us a point."
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Late fightback by below-par Quakers

CLOSE CONTROL: Stephen Thompson, scorer of the Quakers' first goal, dribbles away from Richard Smith

CLOSE CONTROL: Stephen Thompson, scorer of the Quakers' first goal, dribbles away from Richard Smith

First published in Football
Last updated
Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Sports Editor

One point gained or two points dropped?

That was the question Darlington were asking themselves after a 2-2 draw with Salford City in which a spirited fightback in the closing stages was needed after what had been a deeply disappointing display.

On the back of six successive wins, Quakers were well-fancied to make it seven in a row.

Their injury-ravaged opposition were down to their last 14 players, were 11th in the table and gave a debut to a goalkeeper who had not met his team-mates until Saturday.

Darlington, who made two changes, were nothing like the team that won 7-0 a week ago at Burscough and their fightback was partly instigated by a red card for either side on 75 minutes, Leon Scott becoming Quakers' only dismissal of 2013.

Stephen Thompson and David Dowson got the late goals, but they will only know the true cost of failing to win come the end of the season.

Martin Gray sought to keep the performance in perspective.

He said: "We've won six and drawn one. Let's be honest about things. We've taken 19 points out of 21, we've dominated teams for the majority of games recently. We've had an hour here when we didn't and we got punished.

"We've got to give the lads some credit for the last half an hour. Even in the first half their keeper made some great blocks."

Gray served the second game of a two-match ban, understood to be a punishment for an exchange with the referee following the Ramsbottom home game in November.

The ban meant he stood in the main stand at Heritage Park, from where he saw his team put in an underwhelming performance. Quakers had had a free week whereas Salford played on Boxing Day, but it was the visitors who settled first and deserved to take the lead. The goal came on 32 minutes after Terry Galbraith miscued a clearance and in nipped Matthew Purcell to ram home.

Although Salford pressed Quakers and won the midfield, where Philip Edghill was excellent, Gray's men did occasionally threaten with Thompson hitting the side-netting and goalkeeper Daniel Fradd saving from Nathan Fisher and Amar Purewal.

Fisher started ahead of the rested Dowson, who was on the bench, and Gray resisted the temptation to reverse the change at half-time.

"There was no need to panic," he said. "You've got to give the players an opportunity."

Darlington-born IBF bantamweight world champion Stuart Hall was introduced to the fans during half-time, though Gray might have been better off asking him into the changing room to inspire his lacklustre players.

Like a dazed fighter waiting for the final bell, they remained off the pace at the start of the second half and when Stuart Cook slammed the ball home from the edge of the penalty area Darlington were on the ropes.

Darlington and Stockton Times:
Darlington-born IBF bantamweight world champion Stuart Hall shows his belt off to Quakers' supporters

Then the referee stepped in to end the contest, at least for Scott and Otis Gorman. The latter had fouled Scott, they both retaliated and were given straight red cards for violent conduct.

Quakers assistant Brian Atkinson was also sent from the dug-out for comments made to an official, but the dismissals at least sparked some fight in Darlington and for a frantic final 15 minutes 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. Was it over the line? Don't ask the linesman - he wasn't up with play.

Thompson started the comeback on 82 minutes with a goal of his own making, cutting in from the left and shooting from outside the penalty area for his 17th strike of the season and Quakers continued to pile on the pressure.

With Dowson on, Gray switched to 3-4-3 and it became an unorthodox 2-4-4 when Alan White was sent up front. After a Thompson corner, the ball was back-heeled over bar by Dowson and then Purewal hit the bar.

Having played only 48 hours previously, Salford were hanging on, time-wasting whenever possible and desperately wanting the final whistle.

But Darlington had other ideas and after shots by Thompson and Purewal had been deflected their gung-ho approach paid dividends with Dowson bundling the ball home in injury-time.

Perhaps harsh on the visitors, but ample reward for Darlington's perseverance.

Gray added: "We didn't start well at all, which is the first time for six or seven games. It happens. You don't expect it and you don't want it, but it happens.

"Sometimes you've got to give the other team credit and they were better than us in the first half, they competed better, they won their battles.

"Some harsh words were said at half-time, but we still didn't start the second half well enough.

"We dominated the last half-hour and really should've won."

As surprising as the result was, perhaps it was predictable given Darlington's penchant for being disappointing in front of a large crowd.

Darlington and Stockton Times:
Leon Scott, who was later sent off, is sent to the floor by a tackle

The 1,514 gate was the largest crowd of the season while the previous highest - 1,379 for the Prescot Cables game in October - also saw Quakers drop points against unfancied opposition.

How Darlington fare at Kendal on Wednesday will have an impact on how many return to Heritage Park on Saturday for the game with Clitheroe.

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