8:00am Wednesday 7th August 2013
By Ray Simpson
Darlington lost their penultimate pre-season friendly against their landlords Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park last night.
Several Darlington players were missing for various reasons, so manager Martin Gray played a scratch central defensive pairing of Leon Scott and youngster David Mitchell, with triallist Paul Weldon at left back, and Gray's injury worries increased midway through the first half when midfielder Craig Gott limped off with an ankle injury.
He might also be worried that the team didn't play anywhere near its best as former Darlington player Jeff Smith exposed its weaknesses.
Darlington striker Andy Johnson, playing against the club he left during the summer, put a left foot shot over the bar from the edge of the area, while Bishop left-winger Smith twice fired long distance shots into the hands of keeper Mark Bell.
Smith, who left Bishops for then Premier League club Bolton earlier in his career, looked the most likely player to break the deadlock, and he duly obliged on 41 minutes when he cut in from the left, skipped past a defender, and hit an effort with his weaker right foot that took a slight deflection off a defender and beat Bell.
It was nearly 2-0 a minute later when Dean Douglas crossed from the right for Rob Moncur to head downwards, but Bell smothered the ball on the line.
Quakers struggled to break down the Bishops defence, with too many high balls and not enough creativity. However, Johnson thought he should have had a penalty on 64 minutes when Chris Moore put him clear, but then he was barged to the ground, with the referee uninterested, and then Stephen Thompson headed an excellent left wing cross from Scott wide of the target six yards.
The revival was shortlived, however, when Smith floated a free kick into the Quakers' box on 74 minutes from way out on the left, and Moncur, who was briefly on Quakers' books last season, flicked the ball into the net with his head.
It was 3-0 to Bishops on 81 minutes when Smith was given plenty of space to cross from the left for Danny Hawkins to head firmly past the exposed Bell, and complete a deserved win in front of a 452 crowd.
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