Full-time: Darlington 0 Northwich Victoria 1
DARLINGTON manager Martin Gray has called for patience after his side lost their second successive home league game to Northwich Victoria on Saturday.
Quakers had not lost consecutive league games since taking up temporary residence at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park until the weekend, but a poor first half performance gave the Vics the victory.
Gray’s men were booed off at half-time and full-time by sections of the 1,046 supporters at Heritage Park, but while the manager understands the fans’ frustrations, he called on them to stick with it while they get to grips with Evo-Stik Division One North football.
“The players now are really starting to understand the pressure that comes with the football club, and the expectations that come with the football club from the fans,” said Gray, after Brian Summerskill’s individual effort proved to be the difference between the two sides.
“What needs to be looked at is the bigger picture, that I’m the first person to hold my hands up, and I’ll take the blame for anything. We didn’t have a team 18 months ago, and now we’re competing in a league which is tough.
“We’re still finding our feet a little bit. We’ve gone on such a great ride and this is the first time we’ve lost two home games in a row since 1883 took over.
“We’re through our honeymoon period now and the fans don’t have much to shout about. It’s about being patient, because this is a long journey, and we’ll get there but we’re going to come up against teams that will make it difficult, and we’re going to have poor performances, but as long as we all stick together and see where we started and where we are now, we’ve achieved an awful lot.”
The Vics forced kick off to be delayed by an hour after being caught in traffic on the M6, but showed no signs of rustiness, while Darlington, by contrast, endured a torrid first half of football.
Northwich took the lead on 30 minutes when Summerskill finished after Gary Burnett's shot was parried out by Peter Jameson.
Quakers, meanwhile, were made to wait until five minutes before half-time before registering their first chance. Amar Purewal cut in from the left and shot wide, before Chris Moore and Bruno Pilatos combined for the former to fire a deflected shot wide. Purewal volleyed over from Moore's resultant corner.
After 40 seconds of the second half, Darlington spurned a gilt-edged opportunity to restore parity when Chris Hunter volleyed over from seven yards. Nathan Fisher and Purewal went close in quick succession as Quakers strived to get an equaliser.
The Vics were kept quiet in the second half but full-back Chris Smalley saw a snap-shot saved by Jameson on 71 minutes, while Burnett forced another stop out of the Quakers keeper minutes later.
Curtis Edwards fired over the bar on 84 minutes, while Deasy tipped over a Purewal header moments later as Quakers turned the screw, but could not get the necessary goal to prevent back to back losses.
Victoria and Darlington are something of a kindred spirit, both having suffered numerous periods of administration and finding themselves relegated into lower divisions not for football reasons. Both are currently inhabiting temporary accomodation, with Northwich playing in Flixton after a season in Stafford, having been evicted from their new-build Victoria Stadium.
But Gray believes it is Quakers who have the biggest profile in this division, and understands if the supporters are not happy with the football on show.
“All of these types of club have the same expectations, and we know more than most,” said Gray. “Darlington is the biggest club outside of the Conference, we know that. What comes with that is pressure.
“We heard one or two fans frustrated at the end. Players hear that as well - they haven’t had that before. Understandably, they’ve got the right to have a little pop, at the end of the day that is what football is about, so it’s making sure you keep putting in a 100% performance for 90 minutes and that will get you back to winning games.”
Goal: 0-1 Summerskill (30, walked through defence, rounded keeper and slotted home)
Booking: Smalley (22, foul)
Referee: Matthew Dicicco
DARLINGTON (4-4-2): Jameson 6; PILATOS 7, Robinson 5, Hunter 5, Scott 5; Moore 6 (Johnson 74, 5), Davis 6, Edwards 4, Thompson 6; Purewal 5, Fisher 6 (Dowson 57, 6). Subs not used: Bell, Thomas, Galbraith.
NORTHWICH VICTORIA (4-4-2): Deasy 7, Smalley 6, Henry 6, O'Neil 6 (Thomas 64, 4), Bailey 6; Boyle 6, SUMMERSKILL 7, Wisdom 5, Garvin 6 (Nangle 71); Burnett 7, Taylor 5 (Clarke 70, 4). Subs not used: Armstrong, Wright.
Man of the match: Brian Summerskill - Pulled the strings in midfield and showed composure to slot home the only goal of the game