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Darlington felled by Forest Green
Forest Green Rovers 2 Darlington 0
Ten-man Darlington brought their programme of away games to a close with a 2-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers, but they were hamstrung by losing both of their strikers before half-time.
Ryan Bowman had to be stretchered off with concussion and was taken to hospital for an x-ray, and then Drewe Broughton was sent off in controversial manner when defender Eddie Oshodi went to ground after colliding with the Quakers striker.
That came with the score at 1-0 and just when Quakers were enjoying a decent spell as they recovered from a poor start.
Having made the five-hour trip to Gloucestershire this morning, Darlington were unsurprisingly sluggish at the beginning and after four minutes.
Kieron Forbes cut inside after receiving a throw-in on the left, conceded when Paul Arnison nodded the ball out of play, and lashed home from 20 yards.
Keeper Jordan Pickford did not stand a chance, the ball soaring over his head and into the top corner.
It was a fine strike, but an awful start for Quakers and within minutes of the restart it was almost 2-0.
Striker Matty Taylor turned home from six yards, but a linesman ruled that the ball had gone out of play before Yan Klukowski delivered from the byline.
Pickford gathered at the second attempt when Taylor got a deft touch on Jared Hodgkiss’ low ball from the right.
There was chance for Darlington when a corner taken by Kris Taylor, who returned to the side after two games out, led to Ryan Bowman drilling a low shot that was cleared from near the goal-line.
Then came a let off for Quakers as Rovers mounted a swift counter attack with Forbes racing up the right. His ball to the far post was met by Taylor, but the striker got his header all wrong and his effort went wide when he should have scored.
The first of two major blows to Darlington on 23 minutes when Bowman was stretchered off.
The striker came off second best after a seemingly innocuous challenge with left-back Chris Stokes and his exit required a rethink by manager Craig Liddle.
Haydn Hollis moved up front with Taylor dropping to centre-back, John McReady switching to central midfield and substitute Danny Lambert playing at right-wing.
Quakers eventually stemmed the tide of Forest Green attacks. They had started rampantly, pinning Darlington into their own half for the first 20 minutes, but Liddle’s side gained a foothold in the game.
One decent move led to McReady coming close to goal. Hollis held the ball up, held off a couple of defenders before playing the ball into Broughton who laid it off to McReady and his quick feet created a shooting chance that saw the ball roll narrowly wide.
Then Broughton was narrowly wide with a chip from long range after Hollis had dispossessed Klukowski.
But then came another blow when Broughton was sent off when he was adjudged to have pushed Oshodi.
Having received two dismissals when playing for Alfreton at the start of the season, it represented a third red card and Liddle later said the veteran forward’s reputation had worked against him.
Referee John Hopkins explained that excessive force had been used on Oshodi who spent a short while clutching his face in apparent severe pain, only to return to play seemingly unaffected by any injury shortly after the official had flashed a red card.
Thereafter every touch of Oshodi’s was booed by the frustrated Darlington supporters behind the goal who had had a good view of the incident as it occurred in the penalty area closest to them.
The Forest Green defender did little to alter Quakers’ perception of him soon after the restart when he needlessly clattered into Pickford as the keeper cleanly caught a Jake Thomson free-kick.
There was another flashpoint for Hopkins to deal with James Norwood appeared to foul Arnison on the byline, but the referee played on.
Darlington players surrounded the hapless official who promptly booked Adam Rundle for dissent.
Being reduced to ten men, a factor that saw Liddle push Lambert up front in a 4-3-2 formation, had a major impact on Darlington who made little impression at the beginning of the second half.
On 56 minutes a flowing Forest Green move saw the ball played ball out wide to Thomson whose ball in to Taylor was intercepted and headed wide by Quakers’ Taylor.
Midway through the half, a sudden cloud of smoke appeared behind the goal guarded by Forest Green’s Sam Russell, who was playing against Quakers for the first time since leaving three months ago.
The smoke appeared to have emitted from a firework, but that was the only distractions for Russell who had little to do during the bulk of the game other than playing the ball to team-mates.
But at the other end, Pickford was picking the ball out of the net on 67 minutes when Klukowski made it 2-0 after an attack up the left.
Norwood dribbled ball up the touchline where Arnison was beaten for pace before the Rovers winger put Paul Johnson on his backside and then crossed for Klukowski to turn home from close-range.
The goal had been coming as ten-man Darlington were flat, although falling two goals behind did signal something of a resurgence.
McRready pulled the ball back from the byline for for Lambert, but his shot was cleared by Oshodi before Russell only save of note.
On 71 minutes the keeper held Taylor’s effort after an Aaron Brown free-kick had rebounded off Rovers’ defensive wall.
Hollins saw a tame shot go wide after Keltie played a trademark pin-point cross-field pass into the makeshift striker’s path.
Keltie had gained possession after Arnison had taken the ball cleanly off Thomson, but the Darlington full-back soon left the field, which was no surprise as he has been carrying a calf injury.
With a 2-0 lead to sit on, Forest Green went through the motions for the closing stages, though substitute Reece Styche was fortunate, in comparison to Boughton, to evade punishment when he appeared to use excessive force when he pushed Johnson to the ground when the centre-back was shielding the ball back to Pickford.
That was the last incident of note as Quakers’ final away game of the season ended without a win, setting a new club record of 20 successive league matches without a win.
Liddle hopes to end that miserable run on the last day of the season next week when Kettering, also relegated, head to the Arena.
Goals: Forbes (4, 1-0), Klukowski (67, 2-0)
Bookings: Rundle (51, dissent); Hollis (63, unsporting behaviour); Oshodi (63, unsporting behaviour); Brown (79 foul), Keltie (80, foul); Stokes (86, foul)
Sending-off: Broughton (40, violent conduct)
Referee: John Hopkins Attendance: 1,131 (87 visiting fans)
Forest Green Rovers (4-3-3): Russell; Hodgkiss, Turley, Oshodi, Stokes; Rowe (Thomson 46), Forbes, Collins; Klukowski, Taylor (Styche 67), Norwood (Uwezu 72). Subs (not used): Pook, Todd
Darlington: Pickford; Arnison (Ferguson 83), Johnson, Hollis, Brown; McReady (Wainwright 90), Taylor, Keltie, Rundle; Broughton, Bowman (Lambert 23). Subs (not used): Nixon (gk), Barton
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