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Archived News from October 2003

5th October 2003 0:14

Darlington well beat by Mansfield and by a referee who dished out seven yellow cards and a red one. Words by Kevin Luff.
Darlington faced potentially their toughest test of the away calendar since the opening day defeat at Hull City. Mansfield slipped down back into the second division all most unnoticed last season but were looking good after the first two months of the season to go straight back up. Quakers went into the fixture unbeaten in six games whilst Stags had won their last three games on the bounce. Having already proved that goals are not hard to come by Mansfield would be a test for Darlington's defensive capabilities. Both managers decided against change to their starting eleven. Whilst Mansfield would point to the impressive victory over Bristol Rovers in their last match for this lack of change Mick Tait could point to the fact that he has little other option but leave the team as it is. Apart from maybe the continued absence of Neil Maddison who at least made the bench this time around.

The home side started quickly and showed that they meant business and a cross as early as the second minute went wide. Much of Mansfield's early threat came from free kicks down either flank and it was no surprise that Stags took the lead via one of these free kicks just after the ten minute stage of the first half. Liddle was the first of many bookings for his challenge on Disley. The free kick from the right was sent over to the far post by Liam Lawrence where Price, who had strayed off his line to collect the cross, was beaten to the ball by Tony Vaughan who nodded the ball home to give his side the advantage. Stags continued to pull the strings in attack and another good cross to the far post area found Disley who could only head straight into the arms of Price. Mansfield's width was beginning to tell and another free kick down the left flank presented another opportunity for Stags to score and this time they should have doubled their advantage. Again the cross was sent accurately over to the far post where Day climbed well to head across goal and onto the far post. Price, who had been at fault for the first goal was again at fault for nearly letting in a second. Another free kick and another cross into the area where Price managed to get a gloved hand to the ball to unconvincingly first out. With Price off his line the ball fell to Disley who lobbed over the bar from just outside of the area with Price left in no mans land. As the first half reached the midway point a Craig Liddle slip allowed Christie the little extra space he needed to crack a shot just wide of the right hand post. On thirty six minutes David McGurk received a yellow card for a tackle on Disley. Mansfield continued to look threatening around the area and Joey Hutchinson was called upon to block after a nice one two on the area nearly let Stags in again. With the board up for stoppage time at the end of the first half Quakers grabbed an unlikely and frankly undeserved equaliser. In a rare attacking move down the other end of the pitch an Ashley Nicholls burst of pace into the box was ended when he was tripped by Day and despite staying on his feet Mr Kettle singled for a spot kick. Ian Clark stepped up only to see his penalty kick saved by keeper Pilkington. However Clark reacted quicker to the rebound and headed home the lose ball to give Darlington an equaliser before the break which few could scarcely believe possible.

Mr Kettle, the referee decided to give his notepad a bit of exercise in the second half and within minutes a seemingly innocent challenge from David McGurk was met by a second booking and his red card from the man in green. Their looked nothing wrong with the tackle, in fact it seemed that the referee was going to book their player. Down to ten men and virtually an entire half left to play Quakers were going to have to soak up a lot of pressure. Or so one would think. With David McGurk's sending off Darlington got stuck in and had a real go during the early stages of the second half and for a good ten minutes Mansfield were put onto the back foot slightly as Quakers tried to break down a defence which has let in a few goals already this season. Unfortunately for Darlington, Mansfield are quite good up the other end of the pitch and despite playing better since the sending off the Stags managed the third goal of the game and effectively killed off the Quakers' threat. A corner on the hour mark, something like Mansfield's tenth of the game, was headed home by Christie for his fifth of the season and Mansfield's second of the game. By now Kettle was losing the plot and yellow cards were being handed out for as much as breaking wind. Ryan Valentine and Joey Hutchinson were both added to the list by the ref who must have ended up taking more notes than myself! It was from Hutchinson's foul on Christie that Mansfield got their third and final goal of the game. From twenty yards out and not quite centre Corden stepped up and neatly curled in his free kick past the diving Michael Price. With quarter of an hour left Mendes turned well before delivering a shot straight at Price and soon afterwards up the other end the Darlington fans were given something to smile about as Pilkington fluffed a back pass and the ball ran out for a corner kick. Lawrence and Jamie Clarke linked up well for the hosts as the clock counted down and a good ball across the goal mouth was put just wide by Mendes. Near the end Larkin sent a first time shot wide and with time virtually up Hughes was booked for nothing by a ref who had long ago lost the plot and would not be leaving the changing room in a hurry. As the final whistle blew he needed assistance to leave the field as angry Darlington fans and Mansfield fans vented their frustrations on the man in green.

One would think for seven yellow cards and a red card to be dished out in a game the match would have had to be very dirty. But that was not the case here. Darlington players and management can feel harsh done by with every single yellow card and the one red card that was given to the unfortunate David McGurk. Whilst not as bad as Allcock he was certainly on a par, if not worse, than Danson at Torquay last season. But lets not escape the fact that Darlington were poor today and could have been punished more heavily by Mansfield especially during the first forty five minutes. Several times Mansfield could and should have done better from their chances. Darlington never seemed in the match at all during the first half and were rarely out of their own half. Michael Price, who's place is now assured for a good while with Collett out injured, was unconvincing today. He was at fault for the first goal and nearly caused a caused a second with a poor punch out to the edge of the area. Honestly how Darlington managed to equalise will perplex many of the travelling support as it was virtually their only meaningful attack of the half. Early in the second half Darlington were left with a really hard task to do when McGurk was unjustly sent off. To Quakers' credit they did have a go after this but once Mansfield got back in front the heads dropped and by the time the third went in the game was beyond Darlington. Despite the yellow cards pilling up Tait decided against any changes, even if it was just to protect players with bookings. The score line was a fair reflection in the end considering how dominating Mansfield were for most of the game. However the game will be overshadowed by the pillock in green. This month will be very tough for Quakers and with the suspensions and injuries stacking up this game, and more accurately this referee will have done them no favours. It seems as if a repeat of September's good fortune will be very hard to come by based on this performance.

Man of the match: Craig Liddle. Solid performance at the back.


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