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Vanarama National League North match
played on Saturday, 24 August 2019, at 3pm


It isn't every Saturday that a game has a total of fourteen minutes added time; witnesses two players stretchered off, with one of them shown a red card as he was carried to the dressing room; and ends with one team playing with nine men and their smallest outfield player pressed into service as an emergency goalkeeper, who was beaten by a ninety-third minute equalizer. But that is what happened to Altrincham at the J. Davidson Stadium.

Altrincham, without the injured Josh Hancock, were on goalless terms with Darlington when a poor, lateral pass left Tom Hannigan trying to prevent danger by lunging in on Jarrett Rivers (35 mins). Both men were hurt but Hannigan came off the worse and had to be stretchered off with a bad cut to his jaw area. The Alty centre-back then suffered further indignity as the referee showed him a red card as he was carried from the pitch.

Despite eight added minutes, the game remained goalless at the interval.

Darlington struggled to make the extra man pay, despite penning back Altrincham early in the second half. But John Johnston was proving a vital escape valve for Altrincham and, from one of his speedy counter-attacks, he won a corner. Johnston's corner was firmly headed home by Jordan Hulme on his 100th appearance for the club in the 65th minute.

Darlington seemed to be deflated by the goal and Altrincham seemed to be heading towards an important three points. Then, bizarrely, in the 87th minute goalkeeper Drench crumbled to the ground with no one near him and he, too, had to be stretchered off. Having used their three substitutes, John Johnston donned the green jersey. In any case they did not have a sub keeper named on the bench today.

Six added minutes were proclaimed and, in the third of these, a clumsy challenge by Richman gave the Quakers a freekick just outside the left of the box. Predictably Campbell aimed for the far, top corner and, with no one on the back post, his freekick sailed over Johnston into the net for a leveller which the visitors celebrated like a winner.


REFEREE: Mr Sam Mulhall

Altrincham were without Josh Hancock (calf problem) and Jake Moult remained sidelined after his summer operation. So Max Harrop started in the no.10 shirt. Simon Richman got the nod over Conor Branson in midfield whilst, once again, no keeper was named on the bench, where Shaun Densmore returned after his omission from the squad at Brackley.

Darlington's new manager Alun Armstrong had brought five of his players, as well as himself, from Blyth Spartans this summer and three of them started today (Atkinson, Rivers, Laing), with defender Jordan Watson also being a former Spartan.


ALTRINCHAM (Red & white striped shirts, black shorts, red socks): 1. Steven DRENCH, 2. Andy WHITE, 3. Connor HAMPSON (c), 4. James JONES, 5. Tom HANNIGAN, 6. Sean WILLIAMS, 7. John JOHNSTON, 8. Simon RICHMAN, 9. Jordan HULME, 10. Max HARROP, 11. Ashley HEMMINGS. Subs: 12. Lewis WALTERS, 14. Shaun DENSMORE, 15. Tom PEERS, 16. Toby MULLARKEY, 17. Conor BRANSON

DARLINGTON (Black and white hooped shirts and socks, white shorts): 1. Christopher ELLIOT, 2. David ATKINSON, 3. Jordan WATSON, 4. Osagi BASCOME, 5. Louis LAING, 6. Terrance GALBRAITH (C), 7. Jarrett RIVERS, 8. Will HATFIELD, 9. Adam CAMPBELL, 10. Stephen THOMPSON, 11. Tyrone O'NEILL. Subs: 12. Omar HOLNESS, 14. Lucas BELL, 15. Josef WHEATLEY, 16. Justin DONAWA, 17. Joshua HEATON


As Mike Garnett's data shows, Alty had yet to beat the reformed Quakers at Moss Lane before today's match...

Alty went into this game in seventeenth position, three points behind the visitors.


On a hot, sunny afternoon, Darlington kicked off, defending the away end, which was populated by a good following from the North East. In just 46 seconds they had won the game's first corner. This was taken poorly, straight into the side netting.

Alty responded as Hemmings ran up the left and his low cross went across the face of goal. Watson then had to leave the field briefly to attend to a cut to his hand before the visitors won their second corner in the tenth minute which, as ever, prompted all ten outfield players to head back to defend it.

After Darlington had shaded the opening stages, Harrop was upended twice in succession. He put the first freekick wide and the other came to nothing after being taken short (13 mins).

Scrappy play ensued before Hampson gained his side's first corner. Next, Laing became the first booked player of the game when he pulled back Hulme as he threatened to get clear (18 mins). Then, after Rivers had got past Hampson a Thompson shot narrowly cleared the bar. Play was soon suspended as the net behind Drench had come adrift from the supporting pole behind it, but this was soon remedied with help of a pair of step-ladders.

When Harrop was brought down for the third time in the game, Watson was booked, whilst the Alty man seemed to have a good case for claiming a penalty for the challenge but the referee awarded a freekick on the very edge of the side of the box, right of goal (25 mins). Harrop then put the freekick well off target.

Immediately, Harrop took out his frustration by diving in on Thompson but his failure to make contact seemed to persuade the referee to wave play on (27 mins).

An uneventful spell passed before a fine run from Johnston got him to the byline where a goalkick resulted (34 mins). At the other end, as Darlington closed down Alty, a poor sideways pass left Hannigan applying desperate measures to block Rivers. His lunge left both men down but the defender was the worse off. After lengthy treatment, Hannigan was stretchered off with a bloody chin and, to add to his misfortune, referee Mulhall deemed his challenge worthy of a red card (40 mins).

So, Mullarkey was brought on to fill the defensive gap, with Hemmings the unfortunate player to be hauled off to facilitate this change.

Play resumed with a Bascome freekick, which forced a good save by Drench from the Bermudan's shot. Eight added minutes were decreed before half-time and, in the first of these, a comical, sustained rugby tackle by Bascome, around the waist of Hulme, made him the third Darlington player to enter the referee's notebook (45+1 mins).

Five minutes into added time it needed a fine save by Drench to block O'Neill after the Middlesbrough loanee had dribbled impressively into the box. Moments later, at the other end, Harrop fired well wide from a Hulme feed. Half-time arrived with the game goalless and the visitors having had marginally the better of proceedings.


Darlington started the half passing the ball across the pitch to exercise and tire the ten-man opposition. It soon took another fine save from Drench to stop a point-blank effort from O'Neill, before Harrop fired over the bar on the counter-attack (50 mins).

A good move from Altrincham ended with Johnston's shot at Elliott (57 mins) before play stopped when Galbraith was hit full in the face by a Harrop screamer from right of goal (60 mins).

A characteristic Johnston run up the left won his side a corner which Elliott batted away and, after Rivers had seen a low cross well held by Drench, Johnston embarked on another great run up the left to earn his side another corner. From the left, his corner was met with a fine header into the roof of the net from Jordan Hulme. It was his first goal of the season on his 100th club appearance (65 mins).

The already prepared Holness immediately came on for Atkinson, followed by two changes by Altrincham. Peers surprisingly replaced Hulme (67 mins) before Branson came on for Harrop (69 mins). Darlington reacted poorly to falling behind as Alty now enjoyed a relatively comfortable spell despite their one-man disadvantage.

Next, the pacey Bermudan Donawa replaced the injured Thompson (73 mins). Straight after this, Branson was booked for a poor challenge (74 mins). Darlington created little in the next few minutes as the ten men looked comfortable with their lead.

A good run by Peers ended with a save from Elliott before the Alty sub was fortunate to evade a booking for a challenge from behind (81 mins). For the Quakers, Donawa soon forced another save from Drench which yielded the first of two corners for the visitors.

Darlo's final change saw the lanky Heaton replace the visitors' other Bermudan, Bascome (84 mins). Once again Johnston proved a great threat on the counter as he cantered up the left and his low shot was pushed round the post by the keeper for a corner, which led to a second flag-kick (87 mins).

But then, to everyone's amazement, Drench dropped to the ground with no one near him. He soon became the second Alty player to be stretechered off in this game, leaving his side with no alternative but to use an outfield player in goal. Johnston was the selected man which meant that Alty were depriving themselves of their main outlet. Also, as the shortest player on the pitch was now between the sticks, Darlington sensed a chance for a late equalizer (90 mins).

Six added minutes were announced in which Hampson advanced upfield and was pushed over but got no freekick in recompense. Then a rash challenge on the left edge of the penalty area by Richman gave the visitors the chance they had been seeking.

It was obvious that the taker, Campbell, facing an outfield keeper of relatively small stature, would aim for the upper reaches of the net at the back post. And he duly did just that, netting a 93rd minute equalizer which prompted extravagant celebrations from the Darlington players. A home defender on the back post might have prevented it.

So, what had looked likely to be an Altrincham win against the odds ended in disappointment. Overall, Altrincham could not complain at sharing the points but the manner in which it happened was cruel, coming from a freak injury to goalkeeper Drench. Towards the end of the game Hannigan was watching the match from the tunnel so, hopefully he may be fit for Monday's game before starting his suspension next weekend.