STL NORTHERN LEAGUE, DIVISION TWO
Alnwick Town...0 Darlington RA...3
ALNWICK Town were second-best as they fell to their second defeat of the season against table-toppers Darlington RA on Saturday.
The St James’s Park side welcomed back a number of players but could not put in a performance of the level already seen this season, losing 3-0 in a match that, had the result been reversed, would have seen Alnwick go joint top.
Darlo managed to get an early goal when the wind helped a header from Alnwick’s McPherson over the keeper before the game was put to bed in the second half with two goals in two minutes from Huscroft and Barnett.
Even with problems created by the weather, Alnwick were second-best, with a terrible display and missing the usual fight-back.
Darlington almost took the advantage before their first goal when, during torrential rain in the sixth minute, it took keeper Armstrong, between the posts as Brooks was away, two attempts to hold a 20-yard shot from Howlett.
And in the 11th minute, Alnwick did go behind when McPherson managed to get his head to a cross from the right-wing, only for the wind to loop his header past the advancing Armstrong (0-1).
Town reacted to going behind with a few chances of their own. In the 15th minute, a long-ball from Vickers found its way to Shanks as he cut in from the right and his snap-shot had the keeper at full-stretch.
Ten minutes later, Catlow’s long cross found McFarlane, who managed to outjump his marker, only for his header to go just wide.
By this stage, Darlo still had the bulk of the possession but Alnwick were having the best chances, and Catlow had a shot blocked after he jinked into the box in the 29th minute.
Darlington finished the half strongest, though, and they very nearly managed a second when Armstrong came off his line only to be beaten by Webster, who headed towards an empty net. Brian Murray’s clearance via the goalpost kept Alnwick in the match at the break.
Town had another spell of chances into the second half but again could not capitalise on them. Shanks took things into his own hands in the 60th minute when he ran onto a good pass in the middle and took the ball on to strike a clean shot from 10 yards outside the box but the keeper pushed it wide.
Five minutes later, Vickers was fouled out on the right. The resulting free-kick was crossed high to the far post but Patterson could not direct his header on target.
However, the game was effectively ended in the 73rd minute when Huscroft sliced through the Alnwick defence and slotted his finish under the keeper (0-2).
Two minutes later, a defensive lapse allowed in Barnett to head over the stranded Town defenders and keeper (0-3).
There was a final chance for a consolation for Alnwick five minutes from time when a free-kick from the left found Tony Brown at the far post but he could only head just wide.
Despite this loss, Alnwick have still only lost twice in eight games this season, their first back in the Northern League, and stayed in third despite this defeat.
However, it may be of concern that both of their defeats have come at home.
This match saw the return of Danny Lowes, Tony Brown, Adam Shanks and Gary Patterson to the squad and Alnwick may be able to settle a little more following an opening to the season that has been disrupted by holidays, work and long-term injuries.
Alnwick Town: Armstrong, Murray, Catlow, Hodge (McKenley), McPherson, Patterson, Brown, McFarlane (Lowes), Shanks (Gibbard), Vickers, McMullen. Man-of-the-match: Brown.