Manager Michael Dunwell rang the changes and rotated his squad for this Durham Challenge Cup Tie with Second Division Darlington RA. In came Paul Roddam, Chris Dunwell and Joe Posthill along with starts for Liam Jordan and Matty Garbutt
The Anchors flew out of the blocks and Jamie Owens back in the starting line up after an injury scare, bulleted a header from 16 yards out past the Darlo keeper in the first minute from a Jimmy Ward cross. Chris Stockton had 2 great opportunities as the Anchors piled on the pressure and poured forward. RA did well to hang on and unfortunately from what was their best move so far they conceded a second when Wilson smashed a shot against the bar after Reaks had cut inside and left Ward for dead. The ball rebounded to Carter who slung it up the pitch to Posthill he played a one two with Muligan and the ball was played into the box where Griffiths unfortunate fumble allowed Garbutt to walk it into the net on 23 mins. Stockton’s third goal again came on the back of a good Darlington attack Donaldson playing the ball into England with Jordan making a great save and Paul Roddam brilliantly blocking the shot from the rebound, the ball was cleared up to Garbutt who chipped the stranded Griffiths superbly from the angle of the box to make it 3-0. Griffiths made two further excellent stops when one on one with Owens to keep the score sensible at half time.
If Stockton thought they’d done the job already they were in for a shock as in the 46th minute, while most people were still finishing their half time cuppa (including me) England slotted the ball home to start the comeback. Matty Garbutt had the opportunity in the 59th minute to end the game and complete his hat trick from the Penalty Spot after Flounders brought down Posthill in the area. Griffiths continued to impress and saved the attempt form the normally reliable Garbutt. RA then made the game even more interesting when Wilson fired home an unstoppable shot form 25 yards on 62 minutes. Stockton responded well and created a couple of chances one for substitute Woodhouse who did well to get in behind RAs defence but fired over. Craggs curled a free kick over and then a sweetly struck low drive from Hayes on 74 mins was saved well by Griffiths and as Owens made up the ground to the rebound the Darlo stopper got a hand on it to push it away for a corner. Darlington were still pressing whenever they could and Reaks did well after a corner on 80 mins to work a shooting position but it was well blocked by Cossavella. The game had a feel that there would be a twist and it came on 84mins when Harrisons right wing cross was volleyed home by Joynes to make it 3-3 and set up a great finale. Stockton again had chances, Owens hit the bar with a long range shot on 88 and in the last minute Craggs just missed the target with a curling dipping free kick. Full Time 3-3 and so to Penalties.
Stockton keeper Jordan showed his class saving Wilsons penalty and when Craggs converted the Anchors were favorites to go through, Donaldson, Reaks and Joynes all converted for RA but with Ward, Owens and Woodhouse expertly slotting theirs home too, Hughes had to score to keep RA’s hopes alive, Jordan again the winner here saving low to his left and Stockton go through 4-3 on Penalties. Garbutt got MoM from the sponsor for his 2 terrific goals, but Liam Jordan can count himself unlucky as he put in a flawless performance after spending weeks on the sidelines so huge credit to him and it shows how hard hes been working.
Manager Michael Dunwell will have mixed feelings about this game. He managed to get some game time into a few squad members and injured players and at half time would have been thinking he could relax and enjoy it…. But he won’t have been pleased with conceding 3 goals and having to dig out a win when in the ascendency. However, Darlington RA were excellent second half worked very hard and deserved to be in the game. Stockton played some great stuff at times and their quality told in the shoot out to clinch the win.
Onto Bishop Auckland this week, a very first visit to one of the most the famous non-league teams in the world with a rich history in English football. Just shows how far this side has come in the past few years.