DARLINGTON Mowden Park are gearing themselves up for another tumultuous occasion in this week’s promotion playoff at home to Bedfordshire club Ampthill.
Incredibly, they attracted a crowd of 3,750 to The Northern Echo Arena on Saturday and after witnessing the enthralling drama of the 28-24 win against Macclesfield they have the chance to savour a repeat.
A stadium which was in danger of dereliction after being abandoned by Darlington FC has been spectacularly reborn.
The carnival atmosphere which accompanied the prematch entertainment gave way to such excruciating tension that Mowden coach Danny Brown said: “I hope the club is making enough money out of this to afford a defibrillator.
“I’ve been through the whole range of emotions and I don’t want to go through it again. I’ll be in the pub next week.”
By sheer coincidence Ampthill played Mowden at the Arena on a pre-season tour and won the game.
“People shouldn’t read too much into that because we treated it as a training game and used about 35 players,” said Brown. “It will be tough, but we just have to win it. We don’t have to worry about scoring four tries or getting a certain number of points.
“I was absolutely blown away by the crowd. Hats off to everyone in the town and to the other local clubs for supporting us.”
Ampthill lost eight games in finishing second in National Two South, while Mowden have been beaten only three times, and if they produce anything like the monumental effort they put into beating Macclesfield it should be enough to take them into the third tier of English rugby.
It had always looked likely that the National Two North promotion battle would go to the wire. In fact, it went to the very last strand.
Without the slightly controversial try they were awarded at the death Macclesfield would have finished third and Mowden first. But the try gave the Cheshire club a four-try bonus point and a second one for losing by fewer than eight.
It meant they secured automatic promotion to National One by finishing one point ahead of both Mowden and Stourbridge.
Despite winning 41-19 at Harrogate, Stourbridge suffered the agony of finishing third because their points difference was 24 worse than Mowden’s. One point covered the top three, then there was a gap of 25 to fourth place.
“I’m gutted, but the players are not too downhearted,” said Brown.
“It’s going to be tough, but they’re young lads and I’ve no doubt they’ll get themselves back up for next week. They won’t want to let it slip now.
“They’ve grafted their backsides off in the last three weeks and that was an outstanding effort today.
“I’m not great at maths so it was difficult to get my head round all the permutations.
Our aim was to get five points.
We did that and we couldn’t have asked for more.”
The club’s commercial director, Lee Rust, also said a “monumental” effort had gone into selling the game.
“It would be great if we could repeat that crowd for the play-off,” he said. “The atmosphere was fantastic. We had 600 in hospitality. Tickets and hospitality packages will be on sale again on Monday.”