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Archived News from May 2011

12th May 2011 12:25

FA Trophy Final
Darlington 1 - 0 Mansfield Town (AET)
Senior 120
Attendance: 24,668 (15,000 from Mansfield)

Date: 7 May 2011

Martin Shaw and Svante Bernhard at Wembley

Mansfield Town were beaten by Darlington in the last minute of extra time in a hard-fought battle at Wembley in the final of the FA Trophy. In a very even game, the Stags had a number of heroes who were carrying injuries yet battled on but in the end it was Darlington who won the cup having just about shaded the game in terms of possession and chances. In front of a fabulous Mansfield following of 15,000 fans, Darlington won the game with a header from close range by sub Chris Senior after Alan Marriott slightly misjudged a throw-in and the ball bounced off the top of the bar and fell nicely for Senior to head home. It was a devastating time for the Stags to lose so close to a penalty shoot-out, and with several of the Stags side producing fine displays, but in the end too many players were carrying injuries or completely burnt out and just had no more to give. Special mention must go to Adam Murray for an all-action display despite carrying an injury and Paul Connor who incredibly completed 120 minutes despite a bad calf injury that saw him literally limping on to the Wembley turf at 1.30pm in the pre-match build-up. The defence also deserves a special mention with Naylor, Foster, Spence and Silk all performing very well. It could have been different if referee Stuart Attwell had awarded the Stags a penalty when Stags sub Ashley Cain was clearly bundled over from behind at the end of the first period of extra time, but ultimately Darlington just about shaded it and deserved to take home the trophy.

Stagsnet player ratings in the Match Centre.


FA Trophy Final: Darlington 1 Stags 0
CHAD report by John Lomas

CHRIS Senior broke Mansfield Town hearts at Wembley today when he headed the winning goal for Darlington in time added on at the end of gruelling extra-time in today's FA Trophy final.


It was the only goal of a largely poor contest and came just as both sides were thinking about penalty kicks.

But, even though the timing of the goal was so hard to take for Stags' patchwork side, it was little more than Darlington deserved after creating all the best chances of the afternoon.

Keeper Alan Marriott was by far the busier of the two and the Quakers had hit a post, had another kicked off the line by Tyrone Thompson and missed two free headers in a game in which the North-Easterners had enjoyed a distinct edge.

Mansfield, with just four players available for the subs' bench and both Adam Murray and Paul Connor playing on with injuries that should have kept them out, can take heart from the fact they shut out a decent Darlington side for 120 minutes.

No one could question Stags' commitment and effort for the cause on the day.

Indeed, many of Stags magnificent 14,000 following were probably dreaming of a repeat of their 1987 penalties success at the home of football when they won the Freight Rover Trophy.

But it wasn't to be as a difficult season caught up with them in the end.

In the big team decisions, Marriott got the nod over Neil Collett in goal, Dan Spence was preferred to Paul Stonehouse at left back and Paul Connor, despite not being fully fit with his calf strain, played a lone role up front with Murray, also not fully fit, playing in the hole behind Connor.

As always seems to be the case, Wembley Stadium was warm and bathed in sunshine as the teams came out for their warm-ups.

But it had clouded over a little as the sides came out for the game and stood for the national anthem.

The roar that followed that made the hairs on the back of the neck prick up and it was Mansfield who kicked-off.

Murray almost unlocked the Quakers' defence with 80 seconds on the watch as he chipped a delightful through ball for Connor to chase down the middle, Russell alert to the danger and racing out his box to win the race by a fraction of a second.

Moore came off worst from a collision with Adam Smith and needed treatment for a facial injury.

Marriott did well, under pressure, to punch away three visitors' first corner by Brown on the right on 11 minutes.

Then Naylor did well to head away a dangerous Bridge-Wilkinson cross into the centre.

Briscoe won Mansfield's first corner on 18 minutes which Nix sent over and Foster met with a header that sailed over the bar.

Marriott held onto a Moore cross from the left a minute later, threatening to spill in for a second but hanging on.

Mansfield's second corner was easily cleared and Darlington broke swiftly, the move ending with Wright firing well over from 20 yards.

Hatch was in the way of a low Murray drive on the half-hour as both sides struggled to create a clear opening.

Adam Smith cut in from the right for Darlington and went inside two opponents, but Briscoe slid in before he could trouble Marriott and won the ball cleanly.

Hatch was lectured for flattening Murray just over 30 yards from goal. Nix floated in the free kick but Darlington again easily cleared.

The Quakers finally got the ball on target on 36 minutes as Moore sent a diving header at Marriott from a left wing cross.

Soon after Marriott was down well to grab a low Bridge-Wilkinson cross from the right as the visitors looked to have settled the best and began playing the better football.

But they had to make a change in midfield on 39 minutes when the outstanding Verma came on for Gary Smith.

A loose pass by Hatch just outside his own box gifted the ball to Connor. But, with Murray square, Connor was well tackled by Miller to spare his team mate's embarrassment.

It did win Stags the first of two more corners, the second of which deflected off a home player towards Briscoe who couldn't keep his finish down.

Adam Smith got in Mansfield's first on-target effort as we entered the four minutes of stoppage time with a low shot from Connor's accurate nod-down just outside the box.

Briscoe almost chipped Connor in on goal but once more Russell was there first.

That brought a tight, largely dull half to a close with a goal.

On the re-start Darlington put on immediate pressure with some good first time passing, though couldn't test Marriott.

Stags finally regained the ball and a burst from Briscoe on the right saw him feed the bal to Connor who, well policed, had to lay it square for Smith who fired a low effort into the sidenetting.

Mansfield's best move of the game so far came on 55 minutes as Briscoe bustled his way past three challenges on the right before drilling a low ball into the six yard box where, first time, Connor helped it goalwards, but over, from five yards.

There was worry as Campbell got the better of Naylor down the left and square to Wright who looked a certain scorer until Spence produced a crucial tackle on 58 minutes.

Campbell sent over the subsequent corner and Miller was allowed a free header which, thankfully for Stags, he failed to connect with properly and saw it skim wide of the target.

On 62 minutes Murray swapped passes with Briscoe and then fed Connor who, back to goal, swivelled well to send a firm low shot on target that forced Russell down to grab.

On 74 minutes Verma was too high with a rising 25 yard shot from Wright's head down. Then Briscoe was well wide with his low, ambitious 35 yard effort.

There was more hearts in mouths for Mansfield as a low Verma cross from the left passed through everyone.

Senior, only on a few minutes as sub, skinned Silk inside out on the left and drilled in another low cross which Marriott gathered.

More Stags pressure followed but, after promising approach play, Briscoe scuffed his subsequent shot as he burst forward in the box and it was cleared.

A mistake by Thompson almost let Senior away, Silk managing to slide the ball out for a throw before he could get clear.

Naylor and then Thompson were furious when what looked well-timed tackles were penalised with free kicks as we entered the final two minutes.

And from the second of those on 89 minutes, 25 yards out and to the left of centre, Bridge-Wilkinson curled a superb free kick over the wall and saw the ball hit the post high up just under the angle.

It was the nearest the game had come to a goal.

Two minutes of stoppage time were signalled as the Stags fans raised the volume one last time.

But it was Darlington who should have sealed it with the last action of the game as Bridge-Wilkinson's right wing cross found Wright eight yards from goal who, with Marriott at his mercy, somehow guided his stopping header wide.

The whistle blew and we were into extra-time with a weary Stags knowing they were fortunate to still be in with a shout.

Boss Duncan Russell, who had spent most of the game seated with assistant Paul Hall barking the orders in the technical area in front of him, joined Hall on the pitch for the team talk as players' aching limbs and cramps were dealt with as best as they could.

Stags immediately had to defend a Darlington corner as the 30 gruelling extra minutes began.

Then Thompson headed away another corner while Wright guided a header wide from a deep cross soon after.

On 95 minutes Stags mad their first change as Cain took over from Smith on the wing.

In his first involvement he played a square ballot Nix who helped it on for Briscoe to screw a low effort wide of the left hand post from 18 yards.

Terry joined the action for Darlington and when he hit the ball forward, Wright got a touch which wasn't far wide of the post.

On 103 minutes Terry also saw the game's first booking for his challenge which left Spence flat out and needing treatment.

Into the second period of extra-time and Terry's through ball to Senior almost unlocked the Stags' defence until Foster threw himself in the way of his shot.

Murray could barely walk by now and received warm applause on 108 minutes as he was replaced by Mitchley.

Marriott was again out of his box to sweep up before Senior could reach a through ball.

A couple of injuries allowed the players a well-earned breather and drinks as the afternoon took its toll.

On 112 minutes Cain managed to squeeze a cross through everyone but Connor, who can't have expected it to reach him at the far post, was unable to get his diving header on target.

Stags had another major let-off on 114 minutes as, from a left wing Brown corner, Wright saw his header cleared off the line at the far post by Thompson and Marriott then produce a great save to tip over Miller's follow-up header.

With three minutes left a Cain corner was easily headed away and seconds later Nix was well over from 35 yards as the spectre of penalties loomed large.

But that was shattered in the first minute of stoppage time as Darlington broke through.

A long Brown throw from the left set up the chance. It was helped on and, when Wright outjumped Marriott, the ball sailed against the crossbar.

With Marriott now trying to get back into position, it was sub Senior who got there first to the rebound and buried his close range header to spark wild celebrations behind the goal.

With only seconds remaining Cain went on a strong run and won a free kick which earned Brown a booking.

But the Quakers defended the free kick and the whistle went to leave Mansfield's tired players dejected and broken-hearted.

DARLINGTON: Russell, Arnison, Chandler, Miller, Hatch, Wright, Moore, G. Smith (Verma 39), Brown, Bridge-Wilkinson (Terry 100), Campbell (Senior 74). Subs not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Gray.

STAGS: Marriott; Silk, Foster, Naylor, Spence; Briscoe, Nix, Thompson, A. Smith (Cain 95); Murray (Mitchley 108), Connor. Subs not used: Stonehouse, Collett.

REFEREE: Stuart Attwell of Nuneaton.


GOAL: Darlington – Senior 120 (+1).

CAUTIONS: Darlington – Terry 103, Brown 120 (+3) (both fouls).



Agony as last-gasp goal leads to Wembley woe for Stags
Evening Post considered report by Matt Halfpenny

THE look on Adam Murray's face as he walked agonisingly past the FA Trophy to collect his Wembley runners-up medal said it all.


After dragging his battered and bruised body up the steps leading to the royal box, the Mansfield Town skipper could not even bare to glance at the glittering prize he had been absolutely desperate to lift.

None of Duncan Russell's men gave more to the cause in a bid for the Stags to secure a glorious end to an otherwise disappointing season.

After being unable to train all week because of a sore back, Murray put his body on the line, running through the pain of a groin injury, until he could literally stand no more in the second half of extra time.

So to see his hopes swept away by a goal in added time after 120 minutes of stalemate, and with a penalty shoot-out looming, was simply gut-wrenching.

Such feelings were totally understandable and his heartache encapsulated the way almost 15,000 fans from north-Nottinghamshire felt.

Having seen their team, below strength due to injury and unavailability, fight until the bitter end, only to lose to a last-gasp Chris Senior header, they were just as devastated to see hopes dashed at the last moment.

As the Darlington players cavorted around deliriously in front of them, some members of the Mansfield squad just stood and stared, disbelievingly; others slumped to the Wembley turf they had so yearned to grace through a mixture of disappointment and exhaustion.

For all concerned, coming up just short on non-league football's showpiece occasion was something they had not dared contemplate.

Goalkeeper Alan Marriott had stressed in the lead up to the game that clinching a place in a match of this magnitude was all well and good, but going on to triumph was all-important.

Of course, he was right – as the miserable faces of those still decked out in amber and blue on coaches and in cars making the journey back up the M1 testified.

Yet, waking up this morning, having had chance to digest what happened, very few will deny that Darlington deserved their victory over the course of a match that was never edge-of-the-seat exciting but always compelling because one moment was always likely to settle it.

It was the Quakers who struck the left-hand post through Marc Bridge-Wilkinson's free-kick strike with 90 minutes fast approaching.

And it was Darlington who, through Tommy Wright's header wide of the left-hand post from eight yards, should have snatched victory in the dying embers of normal time.

Ian Miller had earlier missed when presented with a free header, while Wright saw an extra-time header cleared off the line by Tyrone Thompson.

With Murray, playing just behind a clearly not fully fit Paul Connor, the Stags, by contrast, were limited largely to half chances as they struggled to find the attacking potency that has been their best hand for much of 2010-11.

Their best opening fell to Connor when 19-goal Louis Briscoe, disappointingly quiet on the day, fired across the six-yard box for the former Lincoln man to divert over the top.

The former Lincoln hitman also had a vision of glory with penalties in the pipeline but could not react quick enough to steer a close-range header on target when substitute Ashley Cain's right-wing cross found a way through to the far post.

So while the manner of the defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, Mansfield could have no real complaints about the outcome that was the result of a poacher's finish from substitute Senior.

The former Altrincham man was in the right place to nod home after Wright had beaten Marriott to a flick on from Aaron Brown's long throw to head against the bar.

The truth was that Mansfield just did not have the tools at their disposal to unpick the lock of the Darlington defence.

Shorn of the services of Conor Higginson, Luke Medley, Niall O'Rafferty and Keigan Parker, only Danny Mitchley was available to provide an alternative from the bench.

Aside from changing his wingers around, which Russell did with the introduction of Cain for Adam Smith, he simply had no options.

Even in midfield and at the back, with Steven Istead, Kevin Sandwith, Rhys Day out of the equation, had Mansfield experienced other injury problems, their bench, down to just four players, would have been barely able to cope.

It was just as obvious that, after a punishing ten league games in April, several of the Stags players were out on their feet, particularly once the game went into the extra period.

The more cynical of Mansfield's followers will say that such a scenario – the energy-sapping heavy end-of-season backlog – should have been foreseen given the number of games postponed in the snowy lead-up to Christmas.

They will argue that more players should have been brought in during the January transfer window after Russell's initial cull in numbers, making Mansfield more competitive in these closing weeks of the campaign.

As it transpired, and as the FA Trophy run developed, it could have also eased the burden on Mansfield's key players and given them the licence to get fully fit for the big day.

The Stags manager, in his post-game press conference, countered by saying that such hindsight is a wonderful thing, and believes there was little more he could have done.

Whatever your own personal take on the point, it certainly did not help Mansfield's bid for glory. What would have happened had they been at full strength we will now never know.

Not in doubt was that by the time Darlington paraded the FA Trophy, many Mansfield fans had already left, feeling just as dejected as Murray; there was to be no glorious repeat of Mansfield's triumph in the Freight Trophy Final of 1987.

Almost a quarter of a century after George Foster famously held that silverware aloft, the Stags discovered Wembley can be just as cruel as it is kind

Match facts: Darlington v Mansfield
Darlington: Russell, Arnison, Miller, Hatch, Brown, Chandler, G. Smith (Verma 39), Bridge-Wilkinson (Terry 100), Campbell (Senior 74), Wright, Moore. Subs not used: St Louis-Hamilton, Gray.

Mansfield: Marriott, Silk, Foster, Naylor, Spence, Briscoe, Thompson, Nix, A. Smith (Cain 95), Murray (Mitchley 108), Connor. Subs not used: Stonehouse, Collett.

Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton).

Attendance: 24,668.

Goals: Darlington: Senior (120+1).

Shots on target: Mansfield 2 Darlington 4.

Shots off target: Mansfield 8 Darlington 8.

Fouls: Mansfield 17 Darlington 11.

Corners: Mansfield 5 Darlington 6.

Offsides: Mansfield 2 Darlington 0.

Bookings: Mansfield 0 Darlington 2 (Terry,103, foul on Spence; Brown, 120+3, foul on Cain).

Sendings off: Mansfield 0 Darlington 0.

Mansfield's man of the match: Adam Murray. Ran his heart out for the Stags despite only just returning from a back injury before a tight groin saw him leave the field in extra-time. Set a sterling example to the rest of his team-mates and proved, yet again, he could be a key performer next season

Despite defeat, Wembley was a day to remember for Mansfield's fans
Evening Post considered report by Matt Halfpenny

STANDING in front of the Bobby Moore statue, gazing down on Wembley Way, a sea of amber and blue stretched almost as far as the eye could see.


It was a moment many Mansfield Town fans have waited a long time to witness – and one at certain times they might fear they would never see again.

In recent years there has been nothing but dark clouds hanging over Field Mill. Nothing but uncertainty, disappointment and a sense of foreboding.

When the Stags were relegated out of the Football League in 2007-08, it was expected that would be the lowest ebb, their nadir.

But since then there has been the further pain of points deductions, financial problems and, above all, for the supporters at least, ongoing struggles on the pitch.

The 2010-11 season has been no exception, with a lowly 13th place finish in the Blue Square Premier following hot on the heels of Mansfield being kicked out by landlord Keith Haslam over unpaid rent.

Off-the-field issues between the former Stags chairman and new owner John Radford – in the shape of a court case – could well drag on into next season, unless the two parties find an amicable settlement this summer.

But for one day at least – on Saturday – all that every Mansfield supporter has been forced to endure was forgotten.

An early morning drive through the town made it quickly obvious this was no ordinary weekend and something special was on the agenda.

As wide-eyed youngsters helped their granddads onto one of the legions of coaches, spread around the district, others flew their flags, waiting patiently at their pick-up point.

On the M1, the traffic was more akin to a bank holiday and the interval was not more than 30 seconds between spotting yet another Mansfield scarf fluttering in the breeze out of a car window.

Down in the capital, friends and family took photos and videos of each other under the famous Wembley arch as others chatted contentedly in the warming sun or simply savoured the unique atmosphere.

And once in the stadium the Mansfield following of almost 15,000 strong were only too keen to make their voices heard, so that it was hard to believe what is a magnificent stadium was not even a third full.

It was true that the biggest bulk of these people are not regulars at Field Mill, that they will not be there when the 2011-12 season kicks-off in August – but that did not matter.

What was important was that this was an event that brought a community together for all the right reasons – and put smiles on faces.

Yes, that had understandably changed a little come full-time thanks to Chris Senior's late goal that clinched the FA Trophy in dramatic circumstances for Darlington.

But even in defeat, the Mansfield populous were quick to recognise the efforts of a team who were out on their feet, having given their all for the cause in difficult circumstances due to injuries, suspensions and those unavailable.

And you would be hard pressed to find someone who had not enjoyed visiting a venue that has, and will continue to be, graced by legends of the game.

It's also worth remembering that if Radford is able to gain control of Field Mill – and invests to the tune of £2 million as he has muted – a considerable amount of floating supporters who have lost faith in the team but made the trip to London will come flooding back.

If the Stags are challenging at the top end of the Blue Square Premier come Christmas and looking like serious candidates to regain a Football League place, you can bet your bottom dollar there will be gates of more than 3,000.

And, who knows, there might just be one or two footie-mad kids trying to get their dads down to games too.

Of course, for the Mansfield devotees the pain of defeat will not dissipate immediately.

It was still there when they woke up this morning, it will still be there tomorrow – and probably the day after that as well.

But when they come back to Field Mill in pre-season after a summer without football, they will surely reflect on their day out at the world's most famous stadium with a sense of fondness and pride


report and video highlights, thefa.com

The FA Carlsberg Trophy
Video: Senior moment wins it for Darlington
By Stuart Mawhinney at Wembley Stadium - Saturday, 07 May, 2011

Chris Senior wins The FA Trophy for Darlington.

The Quakers looked like heading to penalties in their battle with Mansfield Town but substitute striker Senior was on hand to steal the silverware for the North-East outfit and send their travelling fans into delirium.

Neither side could claim to have been vastly superior in a very competitive match, but Mark Cooper saw his side take the trophy for the first time thanks to a last minute winner.

In normal time there was little to choose between the two sides, neither of whom had ever won the competition before, though both 'keepers had to be alert with the game so finely poised for so long.

Chris Moore caused problems on the right wing for Darlington, often able to turn inside the full back and create space for a shot. Alan Marriott showed good handling on a number of occasions under pressure from Campbell and Wright.

After half an hour the first real opening came the way of Darlington, Gary Smith weaved through the Mansfield defence cutting in from the right and shaping to shoot on his left foot only to be denied at the last moment. Darlington fans appealed for a penalty, but the Stuart Attwell waved away the claims.

While Jamie Chandler patrolled the midfield with astute awareness, Louis Briscoe was a constant threat for Mansfield from wide areas and created much for his teammates, but he was guilty of a missed opportunity when he headed over moments before half-time when unmarked from a corner.

Ten minutes into the second period and Briscoe showed skill and grit in equal measure to break through on the right wing and turn onto his left foot for a shot. Paul Connor got a touch but the ball went over when he looked like diverting it into the net.

Darlington could have won the game in normal time as they saw two chances go begging in the dying seconds of the second half. First Marc Bridge-Wilkinson crashed a fantastic free-kick from 25 yards off the post, and then with virtually the last touch of the 90 minutes Tommy Wright headed wide from 12 yards out.

Both teams looked understandably exhausted following a long season and on the biggest stage the pressure drained some of the energy out of their limbs. Extra-time saw few chances for either side to win the game, and a long throw proved the decisive moment as Marriott failed to claim the ball and Chris Senior pounced to head home the winner.

Darlington fans delighted, Mansfield devasted, a thrilling end to the game


Darlo Uncovered

Darlington sealed a memorable FA Trophy win courtesy of a last gasp goal from substitute Chris Senior. The pint sized forward showed superb anticipation to get himself into the right position to head home a loose ball and send thousands of Quakers' supporters into ecstasy. The forward has struggled for goals of late but his first since October is probably the most important in the last twenty years of the club's history.


His late header not only saw Darlington clinch their first piece of silverware since 1991 but the FA Trophy come to the North East for the first time since it was first staged in 1969. Crucially however for Quakers it ended the pain of the previous two visits to the national stadium in 1996 and 2000 and could be a springboard for next season.

The late goal was not without a sense of irony either. Darlington have made an unwelcome habit of conceding late strikes this term. Ultimately it has cost them a place in the Blue Square Premier play-offs. However in a delightful twist of fate the Darlington players became last minute heros and the toast of the club's long suffering supporters everywhere.

Like many cup finals this was something of a cagey encounter. Darlington however edged proceedings and created the clearer cut chances. Ian Miller, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson and Tommy Wright all missed superb chances to spare Darlington extra-time. Wright and Miller both had opportunities again in the extra thirty minutes of play which followed but it was left to Senior to score the winner with virtually the last kick of the game.

It wasn't a bad achievement either for a player who had effectively been ruled out of the cup final a few weeks ago. The former Altrincham player picked up a calf injury and wasn't expected to play according to manager Mark Cooper. However the forward asked to be on the bench and the rest turned out to be history. Also on the bench at kick-off at was Arman Verma. The on-loan Leicester City midfielder had started all of Darlington's previous FA Trophy games but had to settle for a place on the bench at Wembley.

There had been little to pick from between the two outfits in the league - both games had ended in a draw - and so it proved here. In the second minute of the game however Stags danger man Paul Connor nearly latched onto a through ball but goalkeeper Sam Russell was equal to it. Not long afterwards Darlington player Chris Moore, who had been well out of the frame a month ago, lost both of his front teeth after an accidental clash with Adam Smith. The midfielder stayed on the pitch and saw a header well caught by Mansfield shot stopper Alan Marriott. Gary Smith though was soon forced off. Six minutes before the break he was substituted for Verma thanks to an ankle problem.

Chances were more forthcoming after the interval for both teams. Louis Briscoe saw a low effort fly narrowly over the bar thanks to a deflection from Connor. Miller then headed over the bar at the opposite end from a Bridge-Wilkinson corner-kick. The game remained incredibly tight as Senior entered the fray with fifteen minutes left to play. He quickly started to impose himself on the match as he saw a cross collected by Marriott.

With time almost up and extra-time looming for both sides Darlington saw two last opportunities present themselves. First Bridge-Wilkinson hit the upright from a curling free-kick twenty-yards from goal. The former Carlisle United man, who has become a lynchpin in the side since arriving in October, then delivered a superb cross into the box which Wright, who was unmarked, somehow managed to head narrowly wide.

It meant extra-time and Darlington's superior fitness eventually told as they continued as strongly as they had finished the ninety minutes. They did however see Bridge-Wilkinson limp off with cramp. He was replaced by Paul Terry. Mansfield did have their moments with substitute Ashley Cain causing some problems. He went down under a challenge from Aaron Brown in the area but his appeals for a spot-kick were waved away.

Cooper's side though were looking the more likely to score. They hit the woodwork for a second time in the game. Wright hit the base of the post from a Brown corner-kick right at the end of extra-time. It looked like penalties would follow but Quakers managed one last effort, and it was enough. Brown's long throw into the box was flicked on by Miller to Wright. His looping header hit the top of the crossbar as Marriott struggled to collect. The ball fell to the perfectly positioned Senior to squeeze a header home and send Darlington fans wild with excitement.

Darlington: Russell, Arnison, Brown, Miller, Hatch, Chandler, Gary Smith (Verma 39), Moore, Bridge-Wilkinson (Terry 100), Wright, Campbell (Senior 75). Subs not used: Phil Gray, St Louis-Hamilton.

Mansfield: Marriott, Silk, Foster, Naylor, Spence, Briscoe, Thompson, Nix, Murray (Mitchley 108), Connor, Smith (Cain 95). Subs not used: Collett, Stonehouse.

Darlington bookings: Wright.

Mansfield bookings: None.

Goals: Senior 120th min (1-0).

Att: 24,688

Words by Kevin Luff


Senior moment means delight for Darlington
thenorthernecho.co.uk, By Craig Stoddart, Deputy Sports Editor

Darlington 1 Mansfield Town (AET)

THERE have been better Darlington goals, but none have been as dramatic as the one which saw Chris Senior become a hero on Saturday.


Without question, it was the most exciting moment in the club's history.

Click here to view a gallery of pictures from the day

Nothing in the 128-year existence of a club that has suffered more than most in recent years has come close to matching the euphoria triggered by Senior's late Wembley winner.

At the end of extra-time in a tense FA Trophy final with Mansfield Town, a penalty shoot-out was just seconds away – then came the Senior moment.

After Ian Miller flicked on a long Aaron Brown throw, Tommy Wright's header bounced back off the crossbar and Senior was in the right place at the right time to etch his name into Quakers folklore with a never-to-beforgotten moment.

Ecstatic fans jumped for joy, there were tears of happiness everywhere and even a manager on the pitch! Mark Cooper was unable to stop himself as he raced on to the turf to join his players in their celebration, and who could blame him?

The near 10,000 Darlington supporters behind the goal probably felt like doing likewise after seeing their team clinch victory at the death.

There can't be a better way to win a match than to score in the last minute of extratime during a cup final at Wembley.

It was the stuff of dreams, particularly for Darlington fans who had never known such a moment. Such feelings of pure elation are the reserve of other clubs. No other clubs specifically, just not Darlington.

Twice previously they had been to Wembley and on each occasion lost without even scoring. Those defeats, in playoff finals in 1996 and 2000, made Saturday's win all the more enjoyable.

Cooper received a huge ovation from Quakers' supporters when he lifted the Trophy in the Royal Box, and he said: “I'm really pleased for the fans because they have stuck with us through thick and thin.

“They've had some tough times and that result today will be very sweet.

“I thought we shaded it and thought we had the better chances, but the longer it goes on the more you start to think that you aren't going to get a goal.

“We hit the woodwork a couple of times and I don't think our keeper had loads to do.

“I thought, when Tommy Wright missed a chance right at the end of normal time, it wasn't going to be our day, but we kept going and I thought we deserved to win.”

Injuries and player ineligibility affected Mansfield's team selection and they could name only four substitutes, while key players, Paul Connor and Adam Murray started despite being less than fully fit.

“We were always aware of how many games Mansfield had played and how many injuries they had, so I thought the longer the game was played the stronger we would be, which I thought was evident,” said Cooper.

In only the second minute though, Connor, who had shrugged off a calf strain, could have given the Stags the perfect start as he almost latched on to a through-ball but Quakers keeper Sam Russell was alert enough to clear the danger.

It was a cagey beginning, with little to choose between the sides, which was no surprise. Although Darlington finished ten points ahead of Mansfield in the table, their league meetings this season ended 1-1 and 0-0.

Completing the entire 120 minutes meant Russell became one of only two players, the other being captain Ian Miller, to play the entirety of all seven of Darlington's Trophy ties.

Brown started all seven but he was subbed in the quarterfinal with Salisbury City.

Aman Verma, however, could have joined Russell and Miller in completing that achievement but he did not make the Wembley starting line-up. Prior to Saturday he had started all but two of the previous 34 games in all competitions, but Cooper opted for a 4-3-3 formation, which meant Verma on the bench and a start for Chris Moore.

The pacey winger lined up to the right of Wright and John Campbell in the forward line, a remarkable feat for Moore, who was completely out of the first-team frame a month ago, as was Wright.

Moore played on despite a nasty incident early on when he lost two of his front teeth after the Stags' Adam Smith slid in and accidentally caught the winger, who required lengthy treatment.

But, having waited so long for his chance, clearly Moore was not about to give up his final spot now.

He could even have scored.

His deft header was caught cleanly by Mansfield keeper Alan Marriott, who only recently returned to action after breaking a finger and had a fine game.

During a decent spell for Darlington, Gary Smith passed up an opportunity to shoot before he was dispossessed in the penalty area by Murray, though there were Quakers appeals for a spot-kick.

Then Campbell wasted an opportunity to pass the ball to the unmarked Marc Bridge- Wilkinson as the play-maker arrived in the penalty area.

After Moore's scare, Verma had been patiently warmingup and he got his chance shortly before the break, but it was Smith who made way after aggravating an ankle problem.

Verma's pace and willingness to run with the ball added some drive to Darlington's midfield, while at the back Russell was protected by a defence that saw striker Liam Hatch used as a centre-back.

He enjoyed a solid game, heading and kicking away any danger, though a rare howler gifted Connor a chance. He raced away, but Hatch's blushes were saved as Darlington's defence retreated in time.

The game opened up marginally after the break, with each side trading opportunities to score. After Louis Briscoe beat Brown and Campbell on the right, his low shot was deflected narrowly over the bar by Connor.

Hatch's absence up front meant Mansfield were dominant in the air. Former Darlington captain Steve Foster and centre-back partner Tom Naylor won almost every high ball as Wright struggled to make an impact, though a slip in the Stags defence went unpunished early in the second half. Miller evaded his marker to meet Bridge- Wilkinson's corner, but Quakers' captain headed over.

He had his head in his hands because he knew it had been his chance to become a hero.

Cooper was looking for someone to fulfil that role and on 75 minutes he turned to Senior. Having been injured for three weeks and not scored since October, the Huddersfield-born forward might not have immediately appeared to be the answer.

But, after replacing Campbell, Senior almost immediately created a chance.

The nippy forward tackled right-back Gary Silk and delivered a low cross that keeper Marriott cut out before Wright could get to it.

With full-time approaching the tension mounted. One chance could have been enough to win the game and Darlington had two of them in the last two minutes, but took neither.

Nobody could fault Bridge- Wilkinson's effort, though. His curling free-kick from 20 yards sailed over the Mansfield wall and past the keeper but agonisingly bounced back off the post. Mansfield breathed a sigh of relief and the Stags were soon handed another reprieve.

Bridge-Wilkinson dinked an inviting ball into the penalty area for Wright, who timed his run to perfection. But from eight yards and unmarked, he somehow headed wide. He could not have asked for a better opportunity to become a Wembley hero.

Supporters were stunned while Wright lay motionless on the turf and seconds later the full-time whistle blew.

Inevitably players on both sides were tired, and shortly after the restart Bridge- Wilkinson surrendered to cramp.

Losing their chief creator may have appeared a blow to Quakers, but almost immediately his replacement, Paul Terry, teed up Verma in the penalty area, but he dallied and the chance was gone.

Mansfield had their moments too. Substitute winger Ashley Cain added pace to their attack and there were loud appeals for a penalty when he went to ground under a Brown challenge, but referee Stuart Attwell waved play on.

Earlier, Mansfield also believed that Paul Arnison had felled Connor in the area, and Stags boss Duncan Russell said: “They looked like penalties to me and both my players said they were bowled over.

“I said to the referee that sometimes you have to be brave.”

But Cooper said: “I thought the referee did well. He's from a good level and he had a good game, he let some things go and allowed the game to flow.”

In the second period of extra-time Darlington hit the wood work for a second time, with Wright becoming more effective and coming so close to scoring.

After a Brown corner, Wright's header hit the base of post and the loose ball fell to Miller, but Marriott was again equal to the effort. That incident came in almost the 120th minute and it appeared penalties would be necessary.

With Darlington not holding a great spot-kick record, few would have been confident.

Cooper admitted: “I wasn't confident about going to penalties, not after seeing them practice in training on Friday. All the players took one each and I think we scored once.”

Cooper need not have worried because up popped Senior, all 5ft 4in of him, to head home from a yard out.

Cue Darlington celebrations.

Cooper added: “I was dreading penalties, which is why we gambled a bit at the end to try to nick one.

“I think Aman wanted to try to take the throw quickly, but we made him wait and got Browny on it. We sent everybody forward, Browny slung it in and we managed to get a break.”

Quakers have enjoyed bigger achievements, such as their five promotions, all of which required success over the course of a season. Longstanding supporters still affectionately recall the 1966 triumph, for instance.

Saturday was not even Darlington's first piece of silverware, as 20 years ago they won the Division Four title and the year before that the Conference title.

But while there has been the occasional dalliance with success, there has never been a moment as breathtakingly brilliant as the 120th minute on Saturday at Wembley.

Senior's goal sparked pure pandemonium as elated supporters and players celebrated a once-in-a-lifetime experience, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Goal: 1-0: Senior (120, close-range header after Wright's header rebounded off the top of the crossbar)
Bookings: Wright (foul, 112)
Referee: Stuart Attwell (Nuneaton) – allowed the game to flow and got two major decisions right when Mansfield believed they should have been awarded penalties 8
Attendance: 24,688
Entertainment: *****

7 Russell: Did everything asked of him with the calmness and assurance that is his norm;
7 Arnison: Got forward extremely well, contributing to the attack like a right-winger
7 Miller: Lifting the Trophy was the captain's reward for not walking out on the club during administration in 2009
7 Hatch: Was badly missed up front but proved his worth at the back with an aggressive display in the air
8 Brown: His dead-ball delivery caused Mansfield problems and he did well to restrict Briscoe's involvement;
9 CHANDLER: His brief was to nullify Murray, a tough job but one he managed as he buzzed around the pitch winning a series of tackles
6 G Smith: The midfielder's final was brought to a premature end due to a frst-half injury
8 Bridge-Wilkinson: Always looked likely to tee up a teammate to score, and almost got the winner himself with a freekick;
7 Moore: The lively winger deserves credit for playing seemingly unhindered by losing two front teeth early on
6 Campbell: Worked hard for the team but it just was not the Geordie striker's day
6 Wright: Unable to win much in the air until extra-time when he hit the post and it was from his header that Senior got the winner

Verma (for G Smith 39): His arrival added pace to Darlington's midfield 7
Senior (for Campbell 75): Added pace to Quakers' attack and scored a goal that makes him a Darlington hero 8
Terry (for Bridge-Wilkinson 100): Played some nice passes during a 20-minute cameo. Like his brother, can now call himself a Wembley winner 6
Not used: St Louis-Hamilton (gk), P Gray

MANSFIELD TOWN (4-4-2): MARRIOTT 8; Silk 6, Foster 7, Naylor 7, Spence 6; Briscoe 5, Thompson 6, Nix 6, Smith 6 (Cain 95); Murray 7 (Mitchley 108), Connor 7. Subs: Collett (gk), Stonehouse

JAMIE Chandler – May be small in height but was huge in presence. The midfield dynamo did extremely well in the crucial anchor role, winning vital tackles throughout the final



Latest | May 2011