Clitheroe 2 Darlington 3
A second half comeback and an injury time goal saw Darlington grab a dramatic victory from the jaws of defeat at Clitheroe.
They were 2-0 down at the break thanks to some poor defending, despite the return of Alan White to the club for his third spell with his hometown team.
But their team spirit shone through in the second half and goals from Andy Johnson and a late Amar Purewal brace gave Quakers a thrilling win.
Jamie Campbell put Clitheroe ahead on 15 minutes when he scored from a corner that owed something to slack marking as well a significant slope that ran the length of the pitch.
It meant that corners taken on Quakers’ left in the first half required very little elevation, allowing Chris Dykes to drill the ball across and an unmarked Campbell saw his header saved by Mark Bell, but the striker forced home the loose ball.
Having also fallen 1-0 down around the same point in the 4-2 defeat at Farsley recently, Quakers supporters may have feared the worst.
Clitheroe, had already wasted a good chance 60 seconds before the goal as Jack Higgins headed wide when beating Jordan Robinson in the air to a free-kick.
But it had been Darlington who’d shown the first signs of making a breakthrough with Purewal hitting the post with a rasping drive.
Purewal was one of four changes to the side that beat Kendal last time out.
He returned to the starting line-up as did Terry Galbraith while Paul Robinson was handed his first start and White made his third Darlington debut.
His selection saw Leon Scott shifted to left-back with Paul Weldon dropped and Robinson was on left midfield and that led to Stephen Thompson shifting across to replace the dropped Chris Moore on the right-wing.
Craig Gott and David Dowson also made way, but the glut of changes Martin Gray made hardly had the desired outcome as Quakers were were not firing on all cylinders.
For all of their possession, they did little to cause problems for Clitheroe keeper Richard Mottram and on 32 minutes the Lancashire hosts doubled their lead thanks to more poor defending as well as a neat finish by Scott Bakkor.
The impressive Chris Dykes was able to dribble through midfield with his close control taking the ball beyond White and Galbraith before crossing for Bakkor who, with right-back Chris Hunter AWOL, had time to take a touch and slot low past Bell.
Darlington rallied, but the closest they got was a Thompson shot wide and a weak Andy Johnson effort from 18 yards after Scott had made a run up the byline.
Gray had to taker action and his response was to send on Moore for Paul Robinson and that change meant Thompson reverted to left-wing.
Darlington soon had hope of a comeback. Five minutes in and Andy Johnson – who else? – pulled one back after a neat exchange of passes between Purewal, Thompson and Johnson who netted for the sixth time already.
The goal came after what had been a much higher tempo at start of second half from Darlington. No surprise really considering Gray’s no doubt strong words at the break.
His team were inches away from 2-2 when a Galbraith header was a smidge too high after meeting a Moore corner.
It was almost one-way traffic in Quakers’ favour and only a terrific tackle by Keith Wenge stopped Purewal from shooting six yards out. Moore’s cross was nutmegged by sub David Dowson, but as Purewal was about to shoot right-back Wenge got a toe to the ball.
The equaliser Darlington craved, however, finally came on 78 minutes with Purewal getting the final touch at close-range to Moore’s corner.
But the celebrations among the players were muted – a 2-2 draw at Clitheroe would have been little to cheer, despite being 2-0 behind at the break – and they were soon ready to go again in search of a winner.
They got it too and this time the celebrations were much more vociferous three minutes into injury-time when Purewal capped the five-goal thriller by scoring again.
The move began on halfway with Thompson jinking between two defenders and laying the ball off to Dowson who fired the ball across goal to Purewal who kept his cool to turn the ball home and spark jubiliant scenes.
On what was Non League Day, there surely cannot have been many more thrilling climaxes to a match throughout the country.
Goals: Campbell (15, 1-0), Bakkor (32, 2-0), A Johnson (50, 2-1), Purewal (78, 2-2), Purewal (90+3, 2-3)
Bookings: James (45, foul), Bakkor (64, foul); White (82, foul)
Referee: S Mather
Clitheroe (4-4-2): Mottram; Wenge, Carr, Higgins, James; Dykes, Bodie, Burchall, Carney (Ryan 71); Bakkor (Bell 85), Campbell (Griffiths 87). Subs: Gordon, Hewitt
Darlington (4-4-2): Bell; Hunter, White, J Robinson, Scott; Thompson, Galbraith, Davis (Gott 67), P Robinson (Moore 46); Purewal, A Johnson (Dowson 65). Subs (not used): Turns, Weldon