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Ten out of ten for Darlington
Darlington 3 Bedlington Terriers 1
Darlington made it a perfect ten with their tenth home win in as many games at Heritage Park when they completed a 3-1 victory today.
It came thanks to a hard-working performance against Bedlington Terriers, though Martin Gray's men were given a tough test.
The visitors, third in the table at the start of the day, took the lead and enjoyed a significant amount of possession during a second period in which they had to play the final 24 minutes with an outfield player in goal.
That was because of an injury to Craig Pickering, but Quakers stood their ground, protecting keeper Jack Norton well and securing a win that extends their lead at the top of the Northern League to 11 points.
Terriers went ahead on 23 minutes, Steve Bowey tucking home from inside the penalty area after Paul Brayson had pulled the ball back from the byline.
Brayson was a constant menace with his movement and pace causing problems. When chasing a through-ball inside the first ten minutes the striker was halted outside the penalty area by Norton, a challenge that earned the keeper a yellow card, but fortunately for Darlington the free-kick came to nothing.
Darlington also fell a goal behind seven days ago at home to Ashington and, like that game, Quakers quickly levelled today. Three minutes after Bowey’s goal, Joe Tait headed home.
The centre-back went forward to meet a Stephen Harrison free-kick and rose highest to beat Pickering to the delivery and score his third goal in 11 appearances.
Brayson came close to restoring Bedlington’s lead on 40 minutes. Lightning quick winger Alan O’Brien, making his debut after signing yesterday, raced down the left, beating Harrison for pace, and his cross found Brayson at the near post, but his first-time effort was side-footed wide.
Soon, Darlington were ahead from another free-kick delivered from the right, though this was a well-worked goal. Adam Nicholls's low pass into the penalty area was controlled by Stephen Thompson who played a one-touch pass to David Dowson to blast home.
His fifth goal in eight appearances was his first since a spell on the sidelines with a groin problem.
Just before half-time there was a chance at each end of Heritage Park, with Quakers almost scoring a cracker.
Darlington’s Amar Purewal crossed for Thompson who controlled the ball on his chest before turning and blasting a volley that keeper Pickering gathered at the second attempt.
Then Bowey, scorer of Bedlington’s goal, saw a shot deflected wide for a corner.
Bedlington suffered a blow midway through the second period when Pickering had to be stretchered off.
He was involved in a collision with Thompson outside the penalty area – the ball span to Scott, but with the keeper prone on the turf, he was unable to take advantage – and had to be replaced, however, the visitors had no back-up keeper.
Former Darlington midfielder Stuart Elliott came off the bench and went in goal, but Quakers were unable to test the 35-year-old.
On other occasions this season, Darlington have scored heavily in the second period of matches, but Bedlington were in no mood to succumb.
They pinned back Quakers for spells, who made a tactical change with central midfielder Clark Keltie set on for winger Adam Nicholls. Manager Martin Gray later explained it was to narrow his midfield as Mark Convery, another former Darlington player, was a growing influence in the game.
But after Keltie had been caught in possession in midfield, Quakers were thankful to Norton who made a fine one-handed save to push over a Bowey blast.
Brayson’s mis-kicked wide when meeting a left-wing cross from Steven Baptist as Bedlington continued to push.
Their last throw of the dice saw Laurence McKenna come on as a substitute, meaning Bedlington ended the game with four strikers on the pitch, but it was Quakers who got the final goal in the 90th minute.
After Thompson negotiated his way past Bedlington’s offside trap, he teed up Scott to finish at the far post for his seventh goal in the past seven games.
That goal clinched the points at the end of arguably Darlington's toughest game of the season so far.
Although Elliott had not had a shot to deal with until Scott scored, Quakers quickly carved open the visitors’ defence with Chris Emms, Keltie and Shaun Reay all having chances.
None of them were able to score, leaving the final result 3-1 in Quakers’ favour while Spennymoor Town’s failure to beat Celtic Nation – they drew 1-1 – means Darlington are 11 points clear at the top of the Northern League.
Their next game is next Saturday at Billingham Synthonia.
Goals: Bowey (23, 0-1); Tait (26, 1-1), Dowson (41, 2-1), Scott (90, 3-1)
Bookings: Norton (7, foul); Morton (57, foul)
Referee: Joe Simpson
Darlington: Norton; Harrison, Brown, Tait, Richardson; Nicholls (Keltie 68), Clough (Emms 77), Scott, Amar Purewal; Dowson (Reay 63), Thompson. Subs (not used): Turns (gk), Smith
Bedlington Terriers: Pickering (Elliott 66); Baxter, Carr, Leeson, Cave (McKenna 87); Convery, Morton, Baptist, O’Brien (Bannister 66); Brayson, Bowey. Subs (not used): Pell, Wrightson