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Darlington 1 Harriers 1


Date: 22-02-11gif Venue: Northern Echo Darlington Arenagif att: 1615gif away fans: 57
Jack Byrne sent off for second time this season

gif Report by Philip Lench
Jack Byrne was sent off for the second time this season in the dying seconds of this game at Darlington for a crunching tackle on Gary Smith and could now miss up to the next four games against Wrexham, Luton, Crawley, and AFC Wimbledon.  Important games against the top four teams in the league and games that he could ill afford to miss.

It's all a bit of a shame really because Jack is far from being a dirty player and his influence in those games will be dearly missed.

We had taken the lead with a screamer of a goal from Keith Briggs and then went on to control the rest of the half without any further scoring.  Steve Burr made two changes from the side that defeated Cambridge on Friday with, as expected, Lee Vaughan suspended for two games due to gaining ten yellow cards.  Tom Sharpe started at right back in his place while Tom Shaw dropped to the bench for Matty Blair to make a first start since his injury a few weeks ago.

For the hosts the former one game loan Aman Verma started the game and looked more interested in playing for Darlington than he ever did with us.

It was Darlington that made the first early move of the game with Gary Smith letting a shot fly just wide of Danny Lewis' post but we countered with a blocked shot from Sean Canham that got blocked by Adam Quinn just before a Briggs pass found Nick Wright but his shot was too weak to worry Sam Russell, the Darlo keeper.

On fourteen minutes we took the lead with a stunning goal from Briggs.  Tom Sharpe had taken the ball almost the full length of the field without a serious challenge from the hosts before putting it into the path of the Harriers captain some twenty yards from goal.  He let loose from the corner of the area with a shot that left Russell rooted to the spot in admiration as the ball headed towards him and into the roof of the net.

Darlington replied almost immediately with a shot from Curtis Main that he somehow managed to squeeze through a crowded goalmouth before Danny Lewis spotted it just in time to fall down and smother the ball.  Matty Blair drew a similar response from Russell seconds later when he got on the end of Chris McPhees' cross from the byeline into the path of the young winger.

The game settled down to probing from both sides out in search of a goal with the Harriers trying to increase their lead and the home side to catch up with us.  Main was again the main threat to us and he only just missed connecting with one cross and then later a lack of control let him down after Vermas' pass found him one on one with Sharpe right in front of goal.

With time ticking down to the end of the first half Mark Albrighton found his name in the book for the second game running for a late challenge on Marc Bridge-Wilkinson.
  HT: 0 - 1
The second half saw a more bad tempered game develop with a fair few niggling tackles going in from both sides with the referee deciding that action need only be taken against those in red.  Keith Briggs was the victim of a crunching tackle that went un-punished and then when Jack Byrne received similar treatment for a foul on him Briggs found himself in the book for doing the captains job by bringing the unfairness of the situation to the referees attention.

Up until then we had continued to pressure Russells' goal with a shot from Sean Canham that he held easily and then a few seconds later Canham again went close with a header straight at the keeper.  Byrne went the closest you can go without scoring though when his header from the edge of the area landed on top of the bar with the keeper beaten.  He went close again just seconds later when he fired just wide of the post.

Almost on the hour Nick Wright, having another quiet game, was subbed for the potentially more lively Callum Gittings.  At the same time Darlington swapped Curtis Main for Tommy Wright.

Minutes later and Darlington had drawn level.  It had been coming for a while with the Harriers defence getting caught flat footed too often.  Gary Smith had put the cross over and, with no-one marking the far post, Mike Smith had all the time in the world to head it beyond the grasp of Danny Lewis.

Darlington then started to pile the pressure on when Marc Bridge-Wilkinson fired in a superb long range volley that the Harriers keeper somehow managed to reach backwards for and stuck out a hand to divert it onto the upright.  Tom Sharpe came to Lewis's rescue straight away when the keeper rushed out to block Michael Smith as he dashed after a ball into the box but he dropped the ball.  Luckily Sharpe was on hand to clear the ball away to safety before Smith had a chance to react.

Danny was again in action as the Harriers goal faced another onslaught from the hosts.  This time it was a downward header from Tommy Wright that Lewis stopped from going in for an almost certain goal.

With four minutes remaining of the game we sent on Jamille Matt for Sean Canham in the hope that he could possibly repeat his last minute goal from last Friday.  He couldn't this time but with the seconds ticking away came the flashpoint of the game when Byrne got his marching orders for that crude tackle on Gary Smith.

In the end it was a another good result for the Harriers that now takes us into a run of very tough looking games that could decide our season for us.  That all starts against third placed Wrexham at Aggborough on Saturday before we travel to fourth placed Luton then second placed Crawley before ending up at the current table topping Wimbledon in three weeks time.

It's a shame that Jack Byrne will only be able to watch from the sidelines.
  FT: 1 - 1

 Goal for Darlington: M Smith 63
 Goal for Harriers: Briggs 14

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Darlington  subs   cards      Harriers  subs   cards 
Russell     Lewis  
Arnison     Sharpe  
Quinn     Williams  
Chandler     Briscoe  
Brown     Albrighton
Miller     Byrne
G Smith     N Wright gif  
Verma     Briggs gif
Bridge-Wilkinson     Canham gif  
Main gif     McPhee  
M Smith     Blair  
SUBS:       SUBS:    
St Louis-Hamilton     Stevens  
Senior     Gittings gif  
McReady     Matt gif  
Gray     Shaw gif  
T Wright gif     Hankin  

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