Another walk down memory lane with Simon Weatherill
Simon Weatherill continues his popular Memory Match series with the 6-1 away win at Aldershot on 1st March 1983.
Serious financial problems had blighted the 1981/82 season, but manager Billy Elliott had still led the team to a creditable mid table position. The fans had raised £50,000 to ensure that the club completed the season and the coffers were further boosted in the summer as Peter Skipper left for Hull City in a £10,000 tribunal transfer and David Speedie was sold to Chelsea for £65,000. Elliott wasn’t given any money to replace two of his most influential players however and the club kicked off the 82/83 season with a threadbare squad of only fifteen professionals. Elliott would have to supplement his squad with loan signings and former youth team players as and when required. The youth team had been disbanded and a reserve team had been entered in the newly formed Northern League Division 2. Many of the previous season’s youth team were still with the club and made up the bulk of the reserve team.
The Quakers started the 1982/83 season in fine style, beating Rochdale 3-0 at home on the opening Saturday, followed by a 5-2 away win at Crewe the following week. Eight goals scored and maximum points from two games saw Darlington top the table. They were still there after four games played, but then a run of only two wins in the next 23 games saw the club drop through the whole Division 4 table to occupy bottom place by the beginning of February. In an attempt to stop the rot, manager Elliott signed two players on loan from Newcastle -- Kevin Todd to play up front, and David Barton to fill the problem position of centre half, where Peter Skipper had never been properly replaced.
The introduction of Todd and Barton had the desired effect and two wins in February lifted the Quakers off the bottom of the table. By the time their visit to Aldershot came around on Tuesday March 1st, Darlington sat second from bottom with 29 points from their 30 games so far. Aldershot sat comfortably in mid-table with 39 points from 31 games, and with one defeat in their previous eight games, they were in a decent run of form and would provide a stiff test. They were managed by ex-Quaker coach and manager Len Walker. Elliott named an unchanged eleven for the long trip to Aldershot. They’d suffered a 3-1 home defeat in their previous game to promotion chasing Colchester United, but the manager had been happy with the performance and had blamed missed chances for the defeat. He admitted that the Quakers had to be much more accurate with their shooting in order to get the results that their play deserved. Prophetic words!
A crowd of 1400 were at the Recreation Ground to see the home side make a bright start to the game. They suffered a setback as early as the 8th minute though, when centre half Alan Wooler limped off with a groin strain. He was replaced by midfielder Colin Fielder. Aldershot took time to re-organise their defence and the Quakers took full advantage and snatched the lead in the 12th minute. Dave McLean played an inch perfect pass through the home defence and Alan Walsh blasted the ball home with the Shots defenders appealing for offside. The visitors took total control and should have added to their lead. They forced three corners in as many minutes and Kevin Todd wasted some good opportunities as the home defence found his pace almost impossible to deal with. Aldershot’s task got even harder on 35 minutes when left back Ian Gillard was stretchered off with a back injury after an aerial collision with Todd, meaning they had to play out the remaining 55 minutes with ten men. Half time: Aldershot 0 Darlington 1.
Any hopes Aldershot had of getting back into the game were quashed with two more Quakers goals at the start of the second half. On 46 minutes a Tim Gilbert corner resulted in a goalmouth scramble with the ball forced home by Todd. Two minutes later, another Gilbert corner was headed home by Dave Barton. In a rare attack, Aldershot managed to pull a goal back on 52 minutes when Stuart Robinson broke clear and ran through a static defence to hammer a great shot past the helpless Pat Cuff in the Darlington goal. The ten men were starting to struggle though and on 69 minutes Tony McFadden capitalised on a defensive mistake by Dale Banton and fired home the fourth goal. Todd grabbed his second, and Darlington’s fifth, with a fierce drive from the edge of the box in the 81st minute, and then two minutes later he completed his hat trick when he fired home from close range.
The 6-1 victory was Darlington’s biggest away win since beating Durham City 7-3 in a Division 3N game in 1921, and it lifted the Quakers four places in the table and took them clear of the dreaded re-election zone. They finished the season relatively strongly with six wins and five draws from their last 16 games, which meant an eventual 17th place finish with 52 points from 46 games. Attendances were really disappointing and hovered around the thousand mark for much of the season. The average league attendance for 82/83 was only 1454, the lowest figure ever for Darlington as a league club. Six of the previous year’s youth team progressed through into the first team during the 82/83 season. Fred Barber, Brian Honour, David Young, David Wakefield, Gavin Liddle and Jeff Wilson all turned out in Division 4 games.
Aldershot produced a 16 page programme priced at 35p. Heavy on adverts, the programme had two pages on their visitors, with a team photo and pen pictures of the Darlington players. There was also an article highlighting a previous encounter between the two clubs. The team line-ups were on the back page.
Team v Aldershot: 1 Pat Cuff 2 Alan Kamara 3 Harry Wilson 4 Kevan Smith 5 Dave Barton 6 Roger Wicks 7 Tim Gilbert 8 Dave McLean 9 Kevin Todd 10 Alan Walsh 11 Tony McFadden Sub Brian Honour (replaced Wicks, 61 mins)