ALL GOING SOUTH AS GRAY FIRES A VOLLEY
Darlo thumped by Shields
SOUTH SHIELDS manager Graham Fenton said his side put in their “best performance of the season” after thumping Darlington at Blackwell Meadows.
The Mariners bridged the twodivision gap and strolled to a fully deserved win with Dillon Morse and Carl Finnigan (2) scoring against a Quakers side who were always second best.
After ending a winless run of seven National League North games with a 3-0 win over FC United in midweek, Darlo went into yesterday’s game with renewed confidence.
However, by half-time, Martin Gray’s men were 2-0 down and never looked like salvaging the tie, meaning Darlington exited the FA Cup at the first hurdle for the third year running.
“I’m really pleased and proud,” said Fenton. “I’ve just told the players in the dressing room that I’m so proud of them, the way they went about their business.
“Sometimes you can come to a place two divisions above and be in awe, but our lads were anything but.
“We settled into the game from the start and stuck to the game plan. They were brilliant at what we asked them to do, and I thought there were some tremendous performances without singling anyone out.”
Evo-Stik First Division North side Shields took the lead on seven minutes, Morse getting the final touch on a Robbie Briggs free-kick that had been flicked on by Jon Shaw.
The dreadful start almost worsened for Quakers, but goalkeeper Adam Bartlett twice denied Jamie Holmes after Liam Marrs had given the ball away.
Darlington improved steadily, with a cross from the recalled James Caton almost floating over the head of Shields’ keeper Jack Norton.
But the crucial second goal came midway through the half. Marrs was turned easily by Holmes, leading to Anthony Callaghan’s low cross from the left being turned home by Finnigan.
After that there was only one winner, with no sign of a response from Darlington in a lifeless second half in which they huffed and puffed but did not come close to goal.
Their humiliation was complete in injury-time; Michael Richardson and Finnigan exchanging passes before the latter coolly slotted home.
“On another day we probably could’ve had six or seven goals, we were a little bit wasteful with our chances,” added Fenton. “That’s our best performance of the season.”
But Gray was scathing in his assessment, emerging from an hour-long post-match inquest to blast: “That’s the worst performance I’ve had as a Darlington manager in the five and a half years I’ve been in charge.
“Some very strong words were said in the changing room. Myself and the staff have had a very long debrief. Players will be leaving and players will be coming in. We’ve got to make changes to go forward. I won’t tolerate this.”
“That’s our best performance of the season. We could have had six or seven on any other day” Graham Fenton South Shields manager
“Some strong words were said. Players will be leaving. I won’t tolerate this” Martin Gray Darlington manager
HEADS-UP: Dillon Morse opens the scoring for South Shields
NO WAY BACK! South Shields’ Carl Finnigan celebrates the visitors’ second