80s memories of James Middleton
This is 80s week on the official website, and we're looking back at fans memories of that decade.
Today, with the help of the popular book Darlo's Going Up, James Middleton talks about the two FA Cup ties against Middlesbrough in 1985.
We had already beaten Chester City and Frickley Athletic in the FA Cup that season. I was nine years old. The morning was Saturday January 5th 1985. I had never been so excited about a football match. Ever since the draw was made and we were drawn away to Middlesbrough I hadn't stopped thinking about it. My dad drove, my mum was in the front passenger seat and my friend and I sat nervously in the back.
Approaching Middlesbrough I thought we had arrived at their ground only to be told they were the floodlights for the railway. We parked up and made our way to the ground. Inside the ground I couldn't believe how many Darlington fans there were. We managed to find seats but I think we had to stand on the seats the whole game in order to see.
The match kicked off and it was an intense atmosphere. I looked to my left and noticed a large section of Middlesbrough fans being removed from the ground. One man had blood streaming down his face from the missiles being thrown that I was oblivious to at the time. The match was faster than a league game and I can still picture Fred Barber diving to his left and tipping a shot round the post in front of the Holgate end. The view for me was impaired such that I could only see to about the 6 yard box at the end we were now attacking. A Darlington player rounded the Middlesbrough goalkeeper. An open goal beckoned. A shot was sent goalwards and we all started to celebrate. It was a goal. A certain goal. Then the match continued and we hadn't scored. I was confused but the groans and the hands on people's heads said it all. I left the ground still excited that we had another chance in the replay and always thought we had every chance of beating them.
The game at Feethams was different. I was sat in the top corner of the West Stand. It didn't feel like Feethams as it was full to bursting and fans of both teams seemed to be everywhere in the ground. The pitch was awful and the football was not great. I was amused by the numerous snowballs thrown that night. Darlington scored two very scrappy goals in front of the Tin Shed end. The feeling of being two nil up against Boro was amazing. Their fans invaded the pitch and for a while I feared the match would be abandoned and another game might have to be played. The ten minute delay unsettled Darlo and Middlesbrough scored a goal with maybe ten minutes remaining. It was a very nervous wait for the final whistle.
Telford United visited Feethams for the fourth round. It was a cold Tuesday night and I was mascot. I had been a mascot before and it was fun. Tonight I was petrified. The players were not as relaxed as usual and they were concentrating more on their preparation for the game rather than having a bit passy with a schoolkid. I don't remember the match and I think Kevan Smith suffered a dislocated shoulder. A draw still left us a chance to go through to the next round. The FA Cup always creates that dream of being drawn away to the best team. That year it was Everton and with the draw taking place before the replay everyone knew that the winners would play Everton at Goodison Park. I listened to the replay on BBC Radio Cleveland. I was so sure we would beat non-league Telford United. It sounded as though Telford played the match of their lives. I was devastated as I listened to what sounded like three superb goals against us. The magic and heartache of the FA Cup.
Pic at the top of the page: Gary MacDonald and Phil Lloyd celebrate after the 2-1 home replay win over Middlesbrough.