Tough to predict what sort of season we will have

LIFELONG DARLINGTON SUPPORTER TREVOR OAKLEY WRITES FOR NESN

The Darlo Diary by Trevor Oakley

With two defeats on the road and a disappointing draw at home to Leamington in the last three games, we needed something to go our way to help us get back on track. Nobody will have foreseen how luck would work in our favour ahead of last Saturday’s win over Guiseley. Coming into Blackwell Meadows, there were whispers about how many players were missing for our visitors. Surely not?

With no fewer than 15 players out with a mixture of Covid, injuries and suspensions, it was hard to not get a bit carried away about facing what was effectively a Guiseley academy side. Thirty-odd years of supporting Darlo has conditioned me to a 101 ways in which we can screw a good thing up, but fortunately for us we decided against looking the gift horse in the mouth and we suitably dealt with a team full of fresh faced youths.

Before I go any further, I have to say those kids (and a smattering of senior players) equipped themselves well. Despite appearing to be feeling the pace towards the end of the first half, they managed to get a second wind after the break. Maybe some sweets and a can of fizzy pop did the job. That they properly lasted the full 90 minutes was a credit to them.

Quite what a par score was supposed to look like was difficult to judge. A resounding victory felt like a must and by the full time whistle the 5-1 scoreline suggested that was the case. A clean sheet would have been reasonably high on the wish list pre-game, but Darlo being Darlo that was simply too much to ask, even against such depleted opposition.

As it was, Guiseley’s goal was quite pleasing on the eye although rather damning for us the space they exploited in the build-up had the look and feel of a James Bond car chase scene, where the traffic on the road conveniently gets out of the way. The manner in which the entire Darlo defence coalesced around the attacker on the near post leaving the youth on the far post completely unmarked was extremely poor. The Guiseley players must have felt they were back playing youth football.

Much more positive was the five goals scored and importantly the spread of goalscorers. A first goal in a little while for the workaholic Jake Cassidy, a deserved goal for the excellent Jack Lambert, a well-taken penalty from Will Hatfield, a Jake Cooper goal from a corner (yes, we really did score from a set piece) and a well-taken first goal from Junior Mondal. It was the sort of day when those who wanted to make their mark could.

Ultimately, this was a game that we couldn’t win. Wallop a bunch of kids and that’s all they were, kids. Struggle or even worse lose and it would have been a concerning continuation from the poor showing from the previous Tuesday night’s shellacking at the hands of Southport. Although the scoreline was pleasing, we were far from outstanding. It was a solid performance which got the job done and importantly helped get our goal difference back into positive territory.

With just over a quarter of the season done, trying to predict whether we’ll do well, settle into mid-table mediocrity or struggle is proving quite difficult. Only four teams have scored more goals than us so far this season. The flip side to that is only five sides have conceded more. It may be the case that we turn into one of those sides which scores a ridiculous number of goals only to balance it out with a ridiculously porous defence. There’s usually at least one in the division each season. This might be our year.

Hopefully, the goals will keep flowing at the right end and dry up at the other end this coming Saturday when we travel to Kettering. The Poppies have made a surprisingly solid start to the season. Unlike us, they’re neither free-scoring or charitable at the back, so it’s anyone’s guess how this one will play out. They’ve failed to score more than one goal in any of their four home games.

If we can keep that record going, there is every chance we might be able to out-score them. With the current price of fuel making the long trip to Northamptonshire only marginally cheaper than a sub-orbital space flight, I hope the players will put in the sort of performance which makes the trip home more enjoyable.

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