Final Score: Darlington 0 Ramsbottom 1
IT was a case of poor performances all round as Darlington suffered their first league defeat at Heritage Park, losing 1-0 to Ramsbottom United last night.
BAD NIGHT: Darlington’s Nathan Fisher has his head in his hands after missing a chance last night
There was no hiding from the fact that Quakers simply weren’t good enough on the night and their opponents thoroughly deserved to take three points back to Lancashire, but the performance of referee Michael Gillespie left Martin Gray and the Heritage Park crowd infuriated.
The official made a number of blunders throughout the game and almost sent off Alan White for a foul the Darlington defender didn’t commit. Thankfully, one of his assistants pointed out the mistaken identity, but overall Gray felt Gillespie ruined a good game.
The result is Quakers’ first home league defeat since March 2012 when they were still in the Conference, and although he was highly critical of the referee’s performance, Gray was also left disappointed with his own men.
Phillip Dean’s 32nd minute strike was enough to earn Ramsbottom their second win over Darlington in two months – they won 3-0 in the return fixture in September – and although his side didn’t deserve to win the game, Gray couldn’t hide his anger at the referee.
“I thought it was the worst refereeing performance we’ve had all season,” said Gray, who confirmed Paul Robinson has left to club to join Blyth Spartans. “I don’t blame him for us conceding the goal but his performance overall was shocking and that’s not just me.
“Their manger felt the same. I felt he spoilt the game for both teams and missed a lot of decisions.
“It’s a good job the linesman put his flag up and corrected his decision to send Alan White off. It just summed up his game and he was just so arrogant. You couldn’t talk to him and I’m very disappointed and disgusted with the way he was.
“Had our players not made a scene of it Alan would have been off and suspended when he hadn’t even been near the incident. It’s just shocking. I don’t like to call referees but that was the worst performance from a referee I’ve seen all season.
“They had one shot on target all night and scored. It was a very open game but we didn’t take our chances in the first half. They scored against the run of play but a lot of our players were off form and a lot of them didn’t perform. Occasionally that happens but it’s now up to them to give me a response on Saturday.
With the opportunity to move up to third in the table on offer, Quakers started brightly with Stephen Thompson and Nathan Thomas both having efforts on goal.
However, the visitors, like they had done in the return fixture back in September, were causing problems themselves with Dean proving a particularly tricky customer for Jordan Robinson down the left.
On the quarter hour mark Ramsbottom’s pressure almost proved too much for Quakers when Jon Robinson found space in the box, but Peter Jameson managed to save with his legs before Leon Scott blocked the follow-up.
The sides exchanged shots through Fisher and Dean that were both saved, but it was the visitors who looked more likely to open the scoring and in the 32nd minute they did just that.
Gaskell sent Dean through on the left hand side of the area and the winger, who had Quakers ragged, put Ramsbottom ahead with a low hard shot that Jameson should have do better with even if the strike had taken a slight deflection off Robinson.
It was as much as the Lancashire outfit deserved and Darlington were punished for their poor first-half display.
They had the ball in the back of the net again minutes later, but luckily for Quakers, Dominic Smalley’s effort was ruled out for offside.
Darlington’s inability to really threaten Ramsbottom’s goal forced Gray into three early changes with Amar Purewal coming on for David Dowson at half time, while Chris Moore and Jonny Davis replaced Nathan Thomas and the injured Terry Galbraith shortly after.
Quakers’ performance frustrated the home crowd, but Gillespie did his best to take the spotlight off Gray’s side with some awful decisions.
He awarded a goal kick to Ramsbottom when the ball had clearly come off their defender Billy Priestly, but what followed was truly remarkable.
Smalley miss-hit a shot on the edge of the area and went down, but Gillespie awarded a free-kick and tried to send off White for a second yellow card even though it was Thompson closest to the Ramsbottom midfielder when he went down.
The confusion infuriated Heritage Park and although they upped their game slightly in the final quarter, Quakers couldn’t find a way back into the game.
Goal: Dean (32, 0-1)
Bookings: Scott (16, foul); White (54, dissent); Warrander (90, foul); Smalley (90, time-wasting) Referee: Michael Gillespie
Darlington (4-4-2): Jameson 5; J Robinson 5, White 5, Hunter 5, Galbraith 6 (Davis 49); THOMPSON 7, Scott 5, Edwards 5, Thomas 5 (Moore 57); Dowson 4 (Purewal, 46, 6), Fisher 5.
Not used: Bell, Pilatos.
Ramsbottom United (4-4-2): Shenton 6; Lomax 7, Warrender 7, Priestly 7, Hulme 7; Smalley 6, Stopforth 7, Spencer 7, Dean 8; Robinson 7, Gaskell 7.
Not used: Toth, Johnson, Brooks, Warburton, Smith.
Man-of-the-Match: PHILLIP Dean – terrorised Quakers down the left.