Darlington 0-1 Fleetwood

By Matt NewsumBBC Sport at The Arena
Darlington Arena
The game looked unlikely to go ahead on Wednesday

Fleetwood Town overcame a patched up yet spirited Darlington to keep up pressure on leaders Wrexham.

Temporarily spared liquidation and under a player embargo, the Quakers matched the high-flying visitors for much of the game.

Danny Rose gave Town the lead in a close first half when he fired home after Andy Mangan's shot struck a post.

Both sides had opportunities in the second period, but were unable to add to the score.

Regardless of the result, the very fact Darlington were able to stage the fixture was a miracle in itself.

Minutes from liquidation on Wednesday and players already pondering a future without the club, the Darlington FC Rescue Group's last-gasp cash injection gave the club a two-week stay of execution - and set off a frantic effort on and off the field to get the game ahead.

Amid a backdrop of wrangling over player signings, interim boss Craig Liddle was forced to re-register as a player at the age of 40, but managed to assemble a squad, with Sunderland goalkeeper Jordan Pickford the only new addition.

The stadium was feverishly busy even two hours before kick-off, buckets rattled for loose change, volunteers mucking in at the kiosks and ticket office - while at the other end of the scale, big spending promotion-chasers Fleetwood arrived in a plush coach, without £1m-rated striker Jamie Vardy in the squad.

With kick-off delayed by congestion outside the ground and on the nearby A66 to allow the 5,638 supporters to take their seats, the atmosphere was one of celebration by the time the match got underway at around 1520 GMT.

Buoyed by a vocal support, the home side were adventurous, although it would be Fleetwood who enjoyed the early chances as a viciously swirling wind made life difficult for both teams throughout the half.

Peter Cavanagh scooped over for the visitors for the first chance of the game, while in response, Aaron Brown's curling free-kick narrowly evaded the lurking Ryan Bowman with Fleetwood keeper Scott Davies uncertain.

Pickford then gathered a brace of fierce Mangan crosses after Fleetwood found a way round the Quakers wall of white shirts.

Despite the Quakers' inexperience, they matched their high-flying opponents for much of the half, and it took freak circumstances for Fleetwood to gain the lead.

A hopeful, swirling ball forward cannoned off the head of Quakers centre-half Graeme Lee and dropped kindly into the path of Mangan, whose shot rebounded back off the post to Rose, who lashed home Micky Mellon's side a first-half lead.

Regardless of the football world's sympathies for Darlington, Fleetwood were ruthless in their quest for points as early second-half pressure demonstrated.

Again Lee was forced to head away a teasing delivery from Rose, and then Pickford clawed away when Mangan's edge-of-the-box effort bent towards the far corner.

Nathan Pond was denied a second from the resulting corner when John McReady stubbed the ball off the line and Pickford saved easily when Lee Fowler struck from 25 yards.

Having soaked up pressure for the first quarter of an hour of the second half, the home side finally although launched an attack of their own through Bowman, although Rundle's scissor-kick rolled harmlessly wide.

The Quakers continued to grow in confidence and when Adam Rundle was fouled, Marc Bridge-Wilkinson hammered a free-kick that was eventually cleared.

Further pressure from Liddle's side raised the hopes of the crowd, but Fleetwood's composure and quality was enough to keep the home side at bay, and maintain their promotion challenge on an emotional day at the Darlington Arena.

Both sets of players were applauded off, with the sound of 'You'll never walk alone' echoing around the stadium as fans headed for the exits.


Darlington interim manager Craig Liddle told BBC Sport:

"The result might have been immaterial to a lot of people but not to me, because I'm looking at the bigger picture and if we survive this next week we're in a relegation battle.

"For me I wanted desperately to get something out of the game, but there are a lot of positives to take from the game.

"I've got a young son and a daughter up there, who are proud of me, but to be backed in front of them gives you goosebumps and at times I was doing well to hold myself together."

Fleetwood Town manager Micky Mellon told BBC Sport:

"It was an emotional day, we knew what it was going to be like that.

"We had to stay as professional as possible and get the result.

"Now we've got it, we hope and pray that the people of Darlington have still got a club to support because it's a great footballing area."

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