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Brown injury a blow to Darlington
Final Score: Gateshead 2 Darlington 1
Darlington could be satisfied with their performance despite losing their latest pre-season friendly at Gateshead, but concerns for the fitness of captain Gary Brown put a dampener on their day.
Brown sustained an ankle injury in the final minute of the game and was taken to hospital for an x-ray.
He needed to be stretchered back the changing rooms and needed crutches to leave the International Stadium from where head to hospital.
Losing the captain three weeks before the start of the season would be a blow to manager Martin Gray, who saw his side acquit themselves well at the International Stadium.
The full-time opposition remain undefeated in pre-season and play three divisions above Darlington, but the difference was not reflected on the pitch as the teams were a match for each other for long periods.
Gateshead gave a game to French trialist Isaac Kitambala, though he almost suffered an ignominious start when he allowed the ball to roll under his feet and Andy Johnson was close to taking advantage.
Darlington had a trialist of their own in the starting line-up, with Andy McWilliams playing at left-back. The Teessider counts York City and Stalybridge Celtic among his former clubs.
A backpass from Quakers’ right-back, Chris Hunter, was almost seized upon by Adam Boyes and keeper Mark Bell had to race off his line to clear, and that half-chance was one of the hosts’ few sights of goal during the opening stages.
Bell was not given a shot to save as Darlington prevented the Heed from making much headway.
A marginal offside decision stopped Johnson in his tracks when he ran on to David Dowson’s dink over the top and, in the midst of a bright spell for Quakers, Johnson’s powerful effort from an angle after tightly turning a defender was blocked with two hands by keeper Adam Bartlett.
But Gateshead took the lead on 35 minutes, taking advantage of two surprising decisions by the officials.
Richard Brodie, one of the Tynesiders’ new signings, was in an offside position, but was allowed to play on and executed a first-time finish after running on to Carl Magnay’s headed through-ball. The goal stood despite Brown being floored with a head injury during the attack.
The goal, Brodie’s third of pre-season, came soon after receiving treatment having fallen awkwardly and as he briefly left the pitch he made his frustrations clear with the newly-laid pitch.
The match was Gateshead’s first at the International Stadium for seven months having suffered pitch problems last season, which resulted in the club staging ‘home’ matches at grounds such as Middlesbrough, Carlisle, Boston, Blyth and Hartlepool.
Brodie has joined from Crawley and another of the Heed’s signings is midfielder Josh Walker, arriving from Scunthorpe, whose pass out to the left gave Brown a shooting chance and had to be saved by Bell.
Quakers’ keeper made another smart stop at the beginning of the second half, blocking a Brodie effort, amid a strong period for the Heed.
But then Darlington equalised. A goal from nowhere by Amar Purewal levelled the scores on 52 minutes, the forward cutting in from the left and unleashing a drive that bounced beyond Bartlett.
The keeper should perhaps have done more to get to the shot, and ten minutes later he will have been relieved to have dealt with a Purewal lob.
Purewal, who had just moved from left-wing to striker, ran on to Brown’s forward ball and his shot was clawed out of the air by the keeper who had raced off his line.
As is customary during pre-season friendlies, both teams made a number of substitutions in the second half. Darlington’s personnel changes saw them switch to 4-3-3, while among the Heed substitutes was former Quakers player Rob Ramshaw.
Soon after arriving the midfielder had an attempt at goal from 22 yards that flew inches past the post, one of the hosts’ last chances for a spell as the game became flat.
The state of flux perhaps led to Darlington losing concentration, as a lapse at the back led to Gateshead taking the lead on 75 minutes.
A prolonged series of Gateshead passes inside Quakers’ half resulted in Magnay swinging a ball over from the right wing for the unmarked Boyes to head home from eight yards.
That proved to be the final goal as there was no sign of another goal nor a second equaliser from Darlington, but they could be satisfied with their display.
But Brown’s injury, sustained when tackling Marcus Maddison in the last minute is a concern.
Gateshead (4-3-3): Bartlett; Baxter (Ramshaw 57), Kitambala (Hogg 46), Clark, O’Brien; Turnbull, Magnay, Walker; Brown (Maddison 57), Brodie (Marwood 57), Boyes. Subs (not used): Nixon, Bosch
Darlington (4-4-2): Bell; Hunter, Brown, J Robinson, McWilliams; Moore (Gott 57), Scott (Davis 52), Galbraith, Purewal; A Johnson (Hedley 69), Dowson. Subs: Mitchell, O’Connor, Scarr, Francis, Lovegreen, Atkinson
Attendance: 571 (164 visiting fans)
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