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Darlington demolish Wakefield
Full-time: Wakefield 1 Darlington 5
Adam Mitchell played his way into contention for a starting spot in the play-offs after a starring role Darlington’s 5-1 demolition of Wakefield.
He was one of seven changes as Martin Gray rested key players and gave others a chance to impress, and the fleet-footed former Sunderland winger certainly gave the manager something to think about.
Mitchell scored twice and was involved in two others as Darlington reached a century of league goals for the campaign.
The performance was as one-sided as the scoreline suggests, the match resembling a training session at times as Quakers won their sixth game in a row.
In doing so they reached 100 goals for the season on a day in their play-off opposition become a little clearer.
Farsley are now out of contention, meaning Bamber Bridge, Ramsbottom United or Lancaster City will visit Heritage Park on Wednesday of next week for the semi-final.
Whoever Gray’s men face on April 30, they will not find the opposition as weak as yesterday’s.
“We did what we needed to do, we got through it without any injuries and scored a few goals without trying too hard,” said Gray, who substituted Davis at half-time after he broke his foot.
“It was a chance to give lads a game who haven’t been playing and they are all playing for the shirt now. That’s what we talked about before the game.”
Darlington stormed into a 3-0 lead inside 20 minutes in glorious sunshine, yet they hardly broke sweat.
The first came on six minutes, Jonny Davis claiming it after his shot took a substantial deflection from 20 yards to deceive goalkeeper Samuel Mellor.
The Wakefield No. 1 was picking the ball out of his net again within 120 seconds and this time there was no doubting the identity of the goalscorer as Mitchell netted.
He latched onto a fine pass through the middle from Dale Hopson before guiding the ball inside the post from a central position.
And Mitchell was involved in the third goal too, as he was tripped inside the penalty area and up stepped Terry Galbraith to ram home his ninth goal of the season.
At that point double figures looked possible and it would have been 4-0 had Nathan Fisher’s aim been better, but after receiving a long Alan White pass the striker’s lob was off target despite Mellor being way off his line.
The points already effectively won, reminder of the half was scrappy and the complacency led to Wakefield venturing forward for the first time.
Stand-in keeper Peter Jameson, though, dealt easily with the only serious shot, Chris Hitchings’ long-range free-kick.
Just like David Dowson, Hopson and Mitchell, Fisher was playing for a place in the play-offs starting XI, but he missed another great chance to get on the scoresheet when he had a penalty saved on 55 minutes.
He had been tripped and immediately grabbed the ball, but Mellor guessed correctly.
However, Dowson soon picked up possession on the right and passed into the penalty area where the ball rolled under the hapless Fisher’s foot and allowed the ball to reach Mitchell and he made no mistake.
Sloppy defending allowed the west Yorkshire club a goal back. Adam Hayton beat Gary Brown on the byline and his cross was turned towards goal by James Davies, but it was David Bordman who got the final touch.
Near silence greeted the goal, however, as Darlington fan heavily outnumbered the home support at a venue where the average gate before yesterday was only 62.
There was something of a party atmosphere among the travelling support and various chants demanded a goal for White or Brown.
They had another goal to cheer, but it was Fisher who nabbed it, his eighth league goal.
It came in injury time, the former Gateshead forward side-footing home at close-range after good work up the right by man of the match Mitchell, who was joined on the pitch for the second half by older brother David.
It was the first time the pair, from Wolsingham, have been on the pitch at the same time, and Gray said: “It must’ve been a special occasion for them and their parents. Their mam dad were here I believe, they are big followers of the team and they will have enjoyed seeing their sons on the pitch.”
Adam Mitchell has now scored three league goals and Gray added: “He was great for us.
“He’s scored a few goals for us now and he’s got a good chance of playing in the play-offs. He’s bright and sharp on the ball, but it’s also his work ethic and what he does for the team that I like.”
* Jonny Davis is out for the remainder of the season after breaking his foot in the first half yesterday.
The midfielder suffered a clean break of a metatarsal so will be in a cast for six weeks.