Darlington 6 Clitheroe 0
Away day blues continue
Clitheroe were comprehensively put to the sword by the north easterners, whose muscular brand of football coped more easily with the heavy conditions. It was also a debut for returning keeper Ben Proctor, and he will be hoping for quieter days in his Clitheroe career.
The tone for the game was set in the opening minutes of the game as Darlington had a couple of good chances in the first few minutes. On 5 minutes, the home side took the lead as prolific striker Thompson gathered a short pass, moved across the defence and slotted home . Four minutes later the lead could have been extended when Proctor misjudged his punch and the ball settled in the mud on the goal line before it was smothered. On 16 minutes, Darlington made it two when a regulation clearance was popped over the defence and the striker slipped it under the keeper. Darlington were playing at a high tempo and not giving the Blues a second on the ball and that work rate didn’t drop all game. A wickedly dipping free kick on 24 minutes almost took the home side further in front, but they only had to wait another minute when an inswinging free kick from the left was met unchallenged by a sweet, glancing header. Further good chances fell Darlington’s way, and it was not until the 37th minute when a Sean Miller free kick was fumbled but with no-one following up, that Clitheroe registered their first chance. Just before the half time whistle, Lloyd Dean who had been ploughing a lonely furrow down the middle, wriggled free of the defence and fired at goal, but again there was no one to follow up the fumbled save.
The second half followed a broadly similar pattern. On 47 minutes, Proctor made a great save with his legs after another chip over the defence had set the attacker free. Clitheroe had a chance of their own on 49 minutes, when neat passing on the edge of the Darlington box saw Ross Dent loose off a smart shot, which required attention from the home keeper. Five minutes later, a great feint by Danny Wilkins made space to set up Keith Wedge on the overlap, but his long range effort was ambitious. The pattern of play was summed up on 57 minutes when Lloyd Dean took on four players who converged on him, he wriggled free, made a half chance but then earned a yellow card for his trouble. On 59 minutes, a hopeful punt by Darlington to clear their lines headed for a Clitheroe corner. The Blues presumed the ball was going out, the home side chased to the end, and one cross and shot later and it was 4-0. Two minutes later, Walker lost his footing as a skied clearance came towards him, the ball somehow hit the back of his heels, freeing the attacker on his shoulder and giving him a free run on goal, which he converted. Further Darlington shots and saves came with increasing regularity until on 83 minutes, the goal of the game came from a surging run down the left, pulled back at pace and slammed home. Two more goals could have come in the dying minutes when a goal line block and a post came to the rescue.
There was no disgrace losing to a side of this pedigree, but Clitheroe’s woeful away form will need to be addressed if they are to mount a serious play off challenge in the future.
Team: Ben Proctor, Keith Wedge, James Walker, Will James, Ben Cartwright, Ross Dent, Kieron Lee, Danny Wilkins, Lloyd Dean, Sean Miller, Simon Garner. Subs: Scott Byrom, Adam Freeland, Bram Johnstone, Sam Heap, Ryan Parr
Thank you to Alan Walker for sending in these photos.