Final Score: New Mills 0 Darlington 3
THE closing stages of Darlington’s victory on Saturday were played out to the most belated of firework displays, though none of the nearby pyrotechnics could rival the two rockets from Stephen Thompson.
In Quakers’ best performance for weeks, Thompson was the centre of attention with two sparkling goals that took his tally for the season to eight – all of them from outside the penalty area.
He does not seem to like scoring scrappy goals. If it’s not from at least 18 yards then he doesn’t want to know and both of Saturday’s strikes against Derbyshire-based New Mills caught the eye, especially the sensational second that was powered home from distance.
“I suppose playing in my position I don’t really get into the penalty area that much,” said last year’s player of the season.
“Sometimes I hit those shots when I shouldn’t and they go over the bar, but I will score them sometimes. Some of the lads probably hate it if they’re in a better position when I shoot, but if I’m around the box I’m going to shoot.”
“I’ve scored eight from outside the box this season, I don’t score tap-ins. I leave Amar, Dows and Fish to get the tap-ins.”
“Unplayable,” is how beaming Martin Gray summed up Thompson’s display, because there was more to his day than two long-range efforts.
He was at his marauding best, with Quakers’ new 4-3-1-2 formation positioning Thompson behind two strikers playing to his strengths, allowing him freedom to evade some of the attention that opposition defences have singled him out for of late, and he set up chances for team-mates.
Late on, he teed up Nathan Fisher to score the third, and 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 reckless challenges on Thompson.
“His performance was the difference. What was good today was that he mixed up his game well, putting some good balls through for Amar Purewal and David Dowson and he also scored two great goals. The second one is a contender for goal of the season.
“He knows what he’s doing when he opens up like that.
But he showed the other side of his game when he put Fisher in.”
The change in formation was necessary as not only have rivals become wise to Thompson’s ways, Darlington had become stuck in a rut, with only two goals in their previous five league games.
They were back to form on Saturday with a bright start rewarded when Thompson put Darlington ahead on 22 minutes.
After being played in by Amar Purewal, Quakers’ leading scorer headed for goal and with the defence back-peddaling unleashed a vicious strike from 20 yards, though goalkeeper Peter Collinge should have saved it.
That was Thompson’s view at least, Quakers’ striker saying: “The keeper should have saved it really. I think he had chocolate wrists.”
Darlington’s goalkeeper Peter Jameson, who has slotted in lately without a problem, was largely untroubled with the defence and a strong midfield maintaining their shape. Jordan Robinson replaced the ill Curtis Edwards and he was solid in the centre of the pitch.
The only disappointment was that Quakers were not further ahead by the break.
They should have had a penalty at the beginning of the second half when New Mills captain Lewis Chalmers pushed David Dowson to the floor and, as the ever-vocal Alan White pointed out to referee Mr Bickle, if Chalmers had not conceded a penalty then Dowson should have been booked for diving.
It was an incident which, against better opposition than mid-table New Mills, could have proved crucial. But the hosts were weak and offered little and it was only a matter of time before Darlington added a second. While a goal was coming, few would have predicted the manner of its execution.
There appeared to be no immediate threat when Thompson collected the ball from Terry Galbraith 25 to 30 yards out, but then he pulled the trigger on an explosive effort that whistled into the net.
Even by his own high standards it was a fantastic finish, so it was a great shame that the fixture was one of the few this season that Quakers have not filmed. For the 303 in attendance, it’s destined to become an ‘I was there’ moment.
“It was one of them,” said Thompson. “As soon as you hit it, you know it’s going in.
“It was a throw from Tez, Amar laid it off and I just smashed it. Some days they can go in Row Z.
“It could’ve gone either side of the post, but fortunately it hit the post and went in.
“Martin’s always saying that I have it in me to have a go from there so I did.”
To cap Thompson’s performance, it was from his pass that Fisher added the third inside the final five minutes.
The substitute, on for Dowson, wriggled away inside the penalty area and ignored Thompson’s plea for a return ball before scoring his third goal in six appearances.
The win lifted Quakers up a place to fifth ahead of this Saturday’s home game with Ossett Town.
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 5
NEW MILLS (4-4-2): Collinge 6;
Weston 6, SHAW 6, Chalmers 5, Kay 5
(Smith 38, 5); Grimshaw 5, Maden 6,
Hopper 5 (Baguley 82), Hewitt 5; Fish 5,
McLoughlin 6 (Hampson 64). Subs (not
used): Douglas-Pringle, Gavi-Mihedji
DARLINGTON (4-3-1-2): Jameson 7;
Pilatos 8, White 7, Hunter 7, Galbraith
7; Davis 7, Robinson 8, Scott 7;
THOMPSON 9; Dowson 7 (Fisher 61,
7), Purewal 8. Subs (not used): Bell
(gk), Johnson, Moore, Weldon
MAN OF THE MATCH
STEPHEN Thompson – A stellar
showing from Quakers’ star man