Darlington 2 Prescot Cables 2
Stephen Thompson’s 25th goal in his 50th Darlington game saved Quakers a point late on during frustrating encounter at home to Prescot Cables, who fought gamely for a 2-2 draw.
Martin Gray’s men created enough chances to win the game, but were left to rue slack defending at set-pieces that allowed the visitors to score twice at Heritage Park.
Both teams had long shots from distance in the early stages, Phillip Bannister dragging one well wide of Mark Bell’s goal, while Terry Galbraith put one into the car park as Quakers attacked the Tin Shed during the first half that was played in during unrepentant showers.
Galbraith’s first goal of the season put Quakers ahead on 19 minutes, though only after his penalty had been saved by Adam Reid.
It had been awarded after David Dowson was tripped by Prescot captain James McCulloch and although Galbraith’s penalty was stopped, the ball rebounded kindly to Quakers’ left-back who headed home.
It had been tough going until then with little between the sides, but within 60 seconds it was almost 2-0, Antony Shinks blocking a goal-bound Dowson effort after Stephen Thompson had made headway down the left.
And Thompson inches away from 2-0. He cut in from the left and floated over a cross that bounced past everybody before rebounding off the post and rolling agonisingly across the goal-line.
But an equaliser came ten minutes after Galbraith’s goal with Robert Doran scoring an overhead kick from ten yards after the Darlington defence failed to clear a free-kick. It was sloppy defending that irked manager Martin Gray.
His team, however, responded well and finished the half strongly.
Reid made a fine save to keep the scores level, diving to his left to push away a curling Thompson free-kick and Dowson was unable to connect with the loose ball.
Darlington then hit the woodwork for the second time when Curtis Edwards let fly from 20 yards but saw the ball hit the wrong side of the upright.
The half ended with two yellow cards, each for the visitors, with both of Prescot’s players on the right – Enzo Benn and Doran - booked within three minutes of one another for chopping down Thompson.
From one of the fouls, Thompson’s free-kick was almost headed home by White but Reid deal with the danger, and soon after the restart White was going for goal again, this time blasting wide with an ambitious effort.
But Dowson spurned a good chance, shooting wide of far post after a neat pass from the impressive Curtis Edwards.
Bell had an escape when he came charging out of his penalty area and was beaten to a long ball by substitute Issac Kusaloka, but the keeper did just enough to force the forward into shooting wide.
With Quakers on top for the bulk of the game, especially the second half, Prescot centre-back Antony Shinks was in the thick of the action, typical of the away team's determination, and often came to his side’s rescue, throwing himself in the way to protect his goalkeeper.
After a Chris Moore cross that Amar Purewal controlled, the defender flung himself in the way to stop the shot, and from the resulting corner, one of many after the break, came a magnificent save by Reid.
A Chris Hunter header was pushed acrobatically wide by the keeper, but a second goal Darlington at this point appeared inevitable.
Another goal came, however, it was to the visitors with Gerard Murphy heading home to make it 2-1.
After a corner had been conceded cheaply, an unmarked Murphy stole in at the back post to score leaving Quakers with 25 minutes to save the game.
But Darlington continued from where they left off, regularly penetrating the Prescott penalty area, though the visitors attempted to slow the game down by persistently time wasting.
Shinks again blocked a Purewal shot and then White played a ball over the top, but Dowson ballooned his effort ball over the crossbar and that proved to be his final touch as Steven Johnson was sent on as a substitute and he did not have to wait long for his chance, however, a header was saved by Reid.
Quakers may have felt it was not going to be their day after Shinks escaped punishment after a tackle sent Thompson tumbling in the penalty area. Gray was adamant that it should have been a penalty, but referee Ian Quinn said no.
But the goal they had grafted for finally came on 81 minutes, and it came in unusual circumstances.
The referee, as well as the home crowd, had had enough of Prescott’s time-wasting with Reid booked when taking an age to release the ball. The outcome was an indirect free-kick to Quakers on the edge of the penalty area which was touch to Thompson who rifled the ball home.
There was still time for a winner too as Quakers charged forward. Bruno Pilatos let fly from 30 yards with an effort that was narrowly wide, but cheers soon followed as it was announced the young right-back was man of the match.
And with the very last touch of the game Johnson thought he had become the hero when he headed home in injury time, but the goal was ruled out for offside.
Quakers head to Curzon Ashton on Monday evening for their next league game.
Goals: Galbraith (19, 1-0); Doran (29, 1-1), Murphy (65, 1-2); Thompson (81, 2-2)
Bookings: Thompson (22, foul); Benn (41, foul), Doran (43, foul), Reid (80, time wasting)
Referee: Ian Quinn (Sunderland)
Darlington: Bell; Pilatos, White, Hunter, Galbraith; Moore (P Robinson 68), Scott (Davis 68), Edwards, Thompson; Dowson (S Johnson 73), Purewal. Subs (not used): Jameson (gk), J Robinson
Prescot Cables: Reid, Benn (Beattie 62), Lynch, Murphy, Shinks, Doran, McCulloch, Bannister, Furlong (Kusaloka 46), McCarthy, Hoctor. Subs (not used): Menagh, McMilan, Aylmer