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Darlington pay the penalty
Darlington 3 Buxton 3 (aet, Buxton win 4-3 on penalties)
Darlington paid the penalty for squandering a three-goal lead in last night’s FA Trophy replay with Buxton and ultimately went on to lose 4-3 on penalties.
They suffered a deflating defeat despite being 3-0 up after only 25 minutes after goals from David Dowson and Stephen Thompson (2).
After a one-sided first half they were on course for a simple passage into the second qualifying round and a trip to Sheffield, and perhaps too many of the players thought the game was won.
Because they then switched off while Buxton were rejuvenated in the second half when they were easily the better side.
There were no further goals came in extra-time, but young Buxton goalkeeper John Stanway was the hero, saving from Bruno Pilatos and Curtis Edwards.
Manager Martin Gray, who did not watch the shoot-out, was stunned at his team’s capitulation.
He said: “It was a comfortable first half performance. We did things right, we kept our shape, we kept the ball and didn’t let Buxton get any momentum in the game, but we never started the second half, which was really disappointing.
“We knew they’d get a rollicking and would come out firing, but we told our players to stay in the game for the first 20 minutes.
“We lost our shape and conceded goals. Their goals came from poor defending as a team and it’s frustrating to say the least.
“It’s a silent changing room, they’re hurting.
“There’s couple of players that need to have a look at themselves and I’ll be looking for a big response from two or three players.”
Stanway only played because of the unavailability of Andy Warrington, who saved Thompson’s injury-time penalty on Saturday, which Quakers were left to rue last night.
Bu they set about making amends from early on by opening the scoring inside the second minute with Dowson netting.
Leon Scott carried the ball forward and laid the ball off to Chris Moore whose cross was punched off the line by Stanway, only for Jonny Davis to pull the ball back across and Dowson guided it beyond the keeper.
And within six minutes the reserve keeper was picking the ball out of the net again after an emphatic strike by Thompson.
He put the finishing touch to a fine team goal that saw complete a series of passes inside the opposition half, finally working a shooting position for Thompson to blast the ball in off the crossbar.
The early goals appeared to effectively kill the tie off and any chance Buxton had of salvaging the game appeared extinguished when Thompson grabbed his second, and ninth of the season, with a rare header at close-range following Moore’s corner on 25 minutes.
Buxton were sent out early for the second half and their half-time rollicking handed out by their manager did the trick.
They began the second period on top and demonstrated that they are in the division above for a reason, forcing several corners and pinning Darlington back.
Quakers weathered the storm for a while although Grant Black’s low blast from distance was cause for concern after Mark Bell punched clear a free-kick.
But Buxton deserved a goal and they got two within five minutes.
After playing the ball through midfield, from a position on the left Kieran Lugsden played the ball in for top scorer Lee Morris to score at close-range.
And within four minutes Matt Thornhill blasted home from 18 yards after Lugsden held the ball up.
There was the occasional respite for Darlington, but until the closing stages they offered nothing to really test Stanway while Thompson was wide with a free-kick, though he slipped as he struck the ball.
Stanway did make a fine save on 84 from Thompson, but generally Darlington struggled to keep possession while Buxton had the bit between their teeth as they sought to take the game into extra-time, something they achieved with two minutes to go when Craig King levelled with a very good strike from 20 yards
In the extra 30 minutes, Thompson was the only one that looked capable of creating something, though substitute Steven Johnson poked wide when at a stretch to meeting a low Edwards cross.
Bell did save from Derek Niven in the shoot-out, while Quakers’ scorers were Thompson, Paul Robinson and Davis.
Gray added: “If you look at their penalty takers, they were all experienced lads and our two that missed were young lads that have probably never been in that situation before. But it’s a lottery and it’s about who is feeling confident and who wants to take one.
“But it’s not about the penalties tonight, it’s about the second half performance because we really let ourselves down.”