Friday, 30 December 2011

Darlington FC memories

It would appear that Darlington FC are in a spot of bother at the moment. I don't know all the ins and outs of the situation (Nor does anybody else by the sounds of it) but from the outside the future doesn't look too great. As i am bored at the moment, stuck in this limbo between Christmas and the New Year i thought i would share with you a few of my memories of matches i have seen between the two clubs. Lets just hope that there will be more memories to add in years to come against Darlington fc, and not an AFC Darlington or another phoenix club. So without further ado lets get into the knackered old time machine in my tiny mind and take a trip down memory lane...

Tuesday 27th December 1994
Lincoln City 3-1 Darlington

This was only my 3rd Lincoln City game and one of the very few that i have viewed from the family stand. At the time Darlington were only a place below the Imps in the table with Lincoln sitting an unimpressive 14th themselves. It was a strange sort of atmosphere in the 1994/95 season as the Co-op stand was being rebuilt, meaning that the Imps played much of the season in a three sided stadium. Darlington took a shock lead early in the first half but it was soon cancelled out by David "Magic" Johnson. The second half belonged to the Imps and particularly Matt Carbon. Matt was an England youth centre half who, then manager, Sam Ellis played anywhere but centre half. Matt's goal which gave the Imps the lead, is one of the best i have ever seen at the Bank when he lobbed former Imp Mike Pollitt in the Darlington goal from 30 yards out. His second wasn't too bad either; a rasping shot from the edge of the box. For me, his first goal is the main reason this match sticks in the mind so much. This was at the same time Matt Le Tissier was making the Match of the Day goal of the month competition his own, but had we have been in the Premiership at the time our very own Matt "Le" Carbon would have given him a good run for his money.
Another reason to remember the match was the programme which featured Daily Sport stunner Sarah Hollet. Possibly one of the best Lincoln programme covers of all time eh gents? Did anybody remember see the other picture that went with this one in the paper with the Imps shirt off? I didn't as i was still at school, but it must have been up on a factory wall somewhere in Lincoln at the time?
In 95/96 Darlington came down to the Bank and got revenge with their own 3-1 victory. In the summer Lincoln had released Gary Bannister. The Imps loss was Darlingtons gain as he ran the show in midfield and ran Steve Wicks' Imps ragged. This was one of the best Darlington sides i have ever seen down at Sincil Bank and they went on to lose in the playoffs.

Saturday 25thApril 1998
Darlington 2-2 Lincoln City

My next Darlo memory comes from the away day in the promotion season in the 1997/98 season. Earlier on in the season Lincoln had strolled to a 3-1 win at Sincil Bank. Lee Thorpe had scored two but missed a chance to get his hatrick when he had a penalty kick saved. That was at a time when City were on a great unbeaten run which lasted 18 matches and was the bed rock of the promotion.
However, come the away day which was the penultimate match of the season, things weren't looking quite so rosy. Notts County and Maccelsfield had claimed the top two positions and Torquay had hit form at just the right time and looked odds on for the last automatic promotion place. City had to gain at least a point to keep the fight for third spot going till the last game of the season, and despite Darlington sitting in the lower third of the table they had only lost 4 matches at Feethams all season.
City had been given 600 terrace tickets for the match and they were all snapped up well over a week before the game which was unheard of at the time. The Imps fans were penned into a corner on the open terrace behind the goal and went mental when Steve Holmes gave the Imps the lead with a penalty in front of the City fans. However this being Lincoln City we were never going to do this the easy way. The hosts were level on 35min and then took the lead in the second half with a fantastic free kick which gave Vaughan in the City goal no chance. With time running out and City heading towards the playoffs, Shane Westley sent on Dennis Bailey who had signed a short term deal on transfer deadline day. Then deep into added on time Bailey turned and shot from the edge of the box and his scuffed shot ended up in the back of the net and the City faithful went wild. We all know what happened in that last game of the season against Brighton, but had it not been for Bailey at Darlington, none of it would have been possible. Dennis disappeared off the radar at the end of the season but to me and many others at Darlington that day he will always be one of City's great unsung heroes.
Mr Dennis Bailey we salute you.

Saturday 2nd November 2002 
Darlington 0-0 Lincoln City

This game doesn't stick in the memory for the match but more for the pre match drinking session. Darlo is handy for us Retford based Lincoln fans as you can catch a train straight up to Darlington which is just what myself and my worse half did, arriving just after eleven which just happened to coincide with the pubs opening. The pub nearest the station was called Hogans was quite full when we got there. It may have been full of old men playing dominoes and stuff but the beer was ridiculously cheap with two drinks coming in at just over two quid or something like that. At those prices it seemed daft to go anywhere else so we stayed in there till gone two. We managed another one in a pub en route to the ground and staggered into the ground just before kickoff.
On the pitch City gave a typical battling display on the pitch and were well worth a point. Lincoln have never really had a decent record up at Darlington so getting a point felt like a win to the Imps fans. The train back to Retford was delayed so that gave us more time to have a quick drink before we left. Happy days. This was the last time City played at the famous old Feethams ground and i for one really miss the old place even if City rarely won there.

On our return to the basement division in 1999/2000 we beat Darlington 1-0 at Sincil Bank not long after George Reynolds had bought the club with the aim of taking them all the way to the Premiership. After that 1-0 win, City didn't record another home win over the Quakers till the 09/10 season when the Imps recorded a 3-0 win over them under caretaker manager Simon Clarke. In between those to games we were very much second best to them. A 0-4 kicking at home to them under Peter Jackson being the low point.

My last memory is realy just an example of how football can change. I spent much of the early/mid 2000's as a steward working on the Stacey West end of the ground. After a 1-1 draw against Darlington in the 2001/02 season myself and a colleague had to escort Mr Reynolds round to the away end as he liked to shake hands and meet the Darlo fans after every away match. The fans loved this and were lining up to meet and greet the guy who was hell bent on taking Darlo upwards to compete with the likes of Newcastle and Sunderland. As we walked back up to the boardroom he told the two of us how much the previous Darlo manager had been a disaster for the club and that he knew that the club were now on the right track under the current coaching set up. Given his enthusiasm for the club and his then popularity with the fans at the time he is hard to believe that he is now seen by many as the guy who shoulders much of the blame for the current mess the club finds itself in.
It just goes to show that quite alot of takeovers by folk promising the world often go tits up, Pay heed fans of Liverpool, Villa etc.

Good luck to all connected with Darlington football club form the crew at the Mind of an Imp blog.

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