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Darlington off to a winning start
Bishop Auckland 1 Darlington 3
Darlington began life in the Northern League with three points, but they did it the hard way against Bishop Auckland.
The scoreline appears comprehensive and by the end of the game Quakers were clearly on top, but Martin Gray’s side were a goal down at the break against a Bishop side that defended well and limited Quakers’ chances in their first game at Heritage Park.
Although classed as an away game, Darlington supporters accounted for three-quarters of the 2,004 attendance who basked in the sunshine.
But the sun was not shining on the Darlington supporters that filled Heritage Park’s covered terrace - and it was towards that end of the pitch that their team attacking during the first half and it was not long before an incident occurred close to them.
David Dowson got away from Chris Renshaw, but the Bishops’ defender held him back and he was shown a yellow card.
The centre-back received another caution before the break, this time for handball. He prevented Adam Clough's through-ball to Jamie Clarke and referee Mark Edwards had no option but to dismiss Renshaw.
Despite going down to ten men on 34 minutes, Bishops took the lead in first half injury time with their leading scorer from last season again finding the net.
After collecting a Stephen Salvin pass, Johnson held off a Darlington defender in the penalty area before volley expertly beyond keeper Jack Norton.
Johnson’s goal atoned for a penalty miss earlier in the half. His effort from 12 yards, after Stephen Harrison had pushed the Bishops forward, was too close to keeper Jack Norton who saved easily.
Although the balance of play had been even, the one-goal lead was arguably merited as the hosts had also created two opportunities for Sonny Andrews, both of which the striker wasted.
At the other end Jamie Clarke hit the side-netting and Adam Nicholls saw a shot blocked by keeper Peter Jeffries’ legs.
After the break, despite their numerical disadvantage, Bishops defended stoutly and Jeffries was hardly troubled as Darlington struggled to make inroads.
But they finally made the breakthrough on 64 minutes. Stephen Harrison’s right-wing cross found centre-back Arjun Purewal and his tame header bounced beyond Jeffries.
Four minutes later Darlington were on top, this time two substitutes combined for the second goal. Marc Ellison played perfectly-weighted pass into Shaun Reay who dinked the ball over the keeper.
Bishops had done well with ten men, but from this point onwards there was only going to be one winner.
Norton was left a virtual spectator and it was left for Dowson to add the final goal. After dribbling away from left-back Chris Lawson, he turned Adam McLane inside out before shooting past Jeffries with the aid of a deflection off McLane.
Darlington’s next game is on Tuesday, their first home game at Heritage Park, against Marske United while Bishops are at Penrith.
Goals: Johnson (45, 1-0); Arjun Purewal (64, 1-1); Reay (68, 1-2); Dowson (89, 1-3)
Bookings: Harwood (63, foul); Scott (77, foul)
Sending-off: Renshaw (34, two bookable offences)
Referee: Mark Edwards
BISHOP AUCKLAND (4-4-2): Jeffries, Shead, Lawson, Renshaw, McLane, Hodgson, Harwood, Salvin, Andrews, Johnson, Wearmouth (Ayers 65). Subs (not used): Ord, Thexton, Weirs, Parker
DARLINGTON (4-4-2): Norton; Harrison, Brown, Arjun Purewal, Smith; Emms (Amar Purewal 62), Ellison, Clough (Scott 54), Nicholls; Dowson, Clarke (Reay 54). Subs (not used): Connor (gk), Johnson