New Mills 0 Darlington 3
Two stunning strikes by Stephen Thompson featured in Darlington’s best performance in weeks as they won at New Mills today.
The forward twice scored from outside the penalty area, the second one being a vicious effort that will be a goal of the season contender, while he also had a hand in the third goal by Nathan Fisher.
Manager Martin Gray was delighted with his team’s showing, but there was not shying away from Thompson’s input.
Gray said: “He was outstanding at times. Unplayable. Some of the things he does on the ball are unbelievable, but he also does a lot for the team which I think some people overlook.
“And he takes a lot of hard knocks. Three or four of their players got booked for wreckless challenges on Thompson.”
The result was a much-needed fillip for Quakers, whose league formed had dipped, but they had benefitted from a morale-boosting midweek cup win over Blyth.
Today they lined up in the same 4-3-1-2 formation that was so effective in midweek and made a bright start, creating a handful of half-chances.
Kicking down the Church Lane slope, first up Amar Purewal won the header from Peter Jameson’s long kick, but Thompson’s volley from outside the penalty area was deflected over for the first of several corners.
Then Leon Scott scooped the ball over the bar from 18 yards with a first-time attempt following good work by Thompson and Purewal.
Thompson played David Dowson in for a one-on-one, but a good save by Peter Collinge denied the Darlington striker, however, the visitors got the goal that their good start merited on 22 minutes.
After being played in by Purewal, Thompson headed for goal and with the defence back-peddling unleashed a vicious strike from 20 yards.
After setting up the first, Purewal was inches away from adding a second. He side-stepped a defender and curled the ball towards goal, but it thundered off the woodwork and away to safety.
And only terrific reflexes by keeper Collinge stopped Dowson scoring.
Purewal held off a couple of challenges inside the penalty area and laid the ball off to Dowson who looked likely to score from 12 yards, but Collinge reacted sharply to make the save.
There were strong appeals for a Darlington penalty at the beginning of the second half when New Mills captain Lewis Chalmers pushed Dowson, who was about to latch onto Thompson’s through-ball, but referee Mr Bickle somehow played on.
The senseless decision infuriated Quakers, with Alan White pointing out that if a penalty was not merited then Dowson should have been booked for diving, but Bickle made neither decision.
Bickle had been in the spotlight before the break too, often playing on instead of awarding free-kicks for clear fouls.
Bickle apart, the game was going well for Darlington, who started the second half solidly by protecting their lead, though they should have taken an opportunity to double their lead just after the hour.
Terry Galbraith’s long pass from left-back was flicked onto Purewal who had only the keeper to beat but couldn’t get the ball under control so laid it off to Jonny Davis, whose low effort from outside the penalty area was blocked by the keeper.
It was not to matter though as a sweet strike by Thompson made it 2-0 and it was another eye-catching goal.
Receiving the ball from Galbraith on the left, play-maker Thompson picked his spot and hammered the ball from distance, giving Collinge no chance of stopping the low net-bulger.
It was close to 3-0 when Fisher on the turn tested Collinge, the keeper getting down low to concede a corner.
Fisher did get on the scoresheet though, the substitute getting the third goal after a spell of possession by the visitors that led to Thompson playing the final pass.
The former Gateshead striker had the ball at his feet in the penalty area and took it past a defender before ignoring Thompson’s pleas for a pass and firing in a low effort for his third goal in six games.
*Darlington are to play a friendly on Wednesday against Sunderland at Heritage Park.
Sunderland have requested the friendly to give a run-out to their reserves, though Quakers are expecting a handful of the Black Cats' senior squad to be included.
Kick-off will be 7.30pm with admission £6 and £4.
Goals: Thompson (22, 0-1), Thompson (72, 0-2), Fisher (86, 0-3)
Bookings: White (31, foul); Smith (50, foul), Hopper (65, foul); Scott (70, foul); Hewitt (82, foul)
Referee: O Bickle
New Mills (4-4-2): Collinge; Weston, Shaw, Chalmers, Kay (Smith 38); Grimshaw, Maden, Hopper (Baguley 82), Heitt; Fish, McLoughlin (Hampson 64). Subs (not used): Douglas-Pringle, Gavi-Mihedji
Darlington (4-3-1-2): Jameson; Pilatos, White, Hunter, Galbraith; Davis, Robinson, Scott; Thompson; Dowson (Fisher 61), Purewal. Subs (not used): Bell (gk), Johnson, Moore, Weldon