After over forty years of watching football you’d think that making assumptions about the outcome of a particular match would be something that experience tells you is best avoided.
However, sometimes you just can’t help yourself. Take the game today for instance. Farsley had lost their opening game of the season away at Clitheroe 1-0 missing two penalties into the bargain and followed this up with a 3-1 home victory over Prescot Cables. Their opponents today Darlington 1883 had stormed to promotion taking the Northern League Division One title last season and had got off to a flyer in the new campaign not conceding a goal, as they dispatched Warrington Town (2-0) at home and Bamber Bridge (3-0) away. With Farsley seemingly still trying to bed in the summer signings and Darlington massive favourites to achieve a second promotion, the result seemed to be a bit of a foregone conclusion. Certainly this was the buzz from the travelling Quakers fans’ that swelled the attendance to a healthy 502 at Throstle Nest.
That confidence translated from the terraces to the Darlington players on the pitch, as they dominated the game from the off. The opening ten minutes belonged to Darlo as Stephen Thompson was the major threat to the Farsley defence. He was providing a dangerous outlet down the left and also had an early attempt on goal which Tom Morgan saved with his feet. Morgan was soon in action again, as he turned an Amal Purewal effort round the post. However, The Villagers held on during that early bombardment and on the counter won a penalty when Darlington skipper Leon Scott clipped the heels of Aidan Savory. Farsley skipper Rob O’Brien stepped up and scored to put the home side ahead with thirteen minutes gone. Darlington though took it in their stride and nearly equalised on the quarter hour mark, but Thompson fired wide after good work by James Moore provided the opportunity. If the expectation was that it was just a matter of time before Darlington equalised then this belief was dispelled as Farsley grew in stature as the half went on with Ellington and Savory coming more into the game. Bell in the Darlington goal had to make a finger-tip save from a Savory volley and suddenly the visiting fans were looking nervously at each other as their side was struggling at the back. Their concern was realised when on thirty one minutes Savory collected the box on the edge of the box before turning and firing home a low drive past Bell. The Farsley faithful were in raptures just three minutes later, when from a Paddy Miller free-kick, Bell tipped the ball onto the bar and with Darlington failing to clear the ball, Savory slammed home his second to make it 3-0. The Quakers players were shell-shocked and their supporters stunned at the shift in momentum of the game. However, they did get back in the game with Thompson providing the cross from which Andrew Johnson had a comfortable finish, just before the half-time whistle.
Many in the ground would have assumed that the visitors would come out all guns blazing in the second-half. However, it was Farsley who started the more positively. Darlington manager Martin Gray reacted by bringing on David Dowson and Craig Gott on fifty four minutes, but just two minutes later Farsley restored their three goal cushion as Savory raced onto a Mark Thompson through ball to smash home for his hat-trick. With the home side 4-1 up they seemed happy to sit back and allow Darlington possession. Whilst this allowed The Quakers plenty of the ball and despite the introduction of final substitute Paul Robinson, Darlington were unable to fashion a genuine chance as the game hit the seventy minute mark. Just as it seemed there would be no breakthrough for the visitors, Farsley backed off too far and allowed Stephen Thompson time and space to shot past Tom Morgan. Darlington continued to ‘huff and puff’ and with seven minutes remaining they were awarded a penalty after Matt Young was adjudged to have fouled Andy Johnson. Stephen Thompson took the kick, but blasted it high and wide and with it went The Quakers last chance to put Farsley under pressure and salvage anything from the game. At the whistle, Farsley had deservedly taken the points with a 4-2 score-line.
Given that it was only the third game of the season, the significance of the result can only really be viewed once the last kick of 2013/14 is taken. Farsley though will take heart from beating the title favourites as they attempt to put the disappointment of last season behind them. For Darlington it was probably a bit of a ‘reality check’ but in the long run will not do them any harm. On the evidence of today, these two sides will be amongst the promotion and play-off spots – blimey, now we’ve moved from assumptions to predictions.