Simon Weatherill takes us down memory lane again
Simon Weatherill continues his Memory Match series with the 5-2 away win at Crewe Alexandra on September 3rd 1982.
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 was given no money to replace two of his most influential players however and had to rely on free transfers to boost his squad. Former Sunderland midfielder Tim Gilbert was signed from Cardiff City, forward Barry Dunn (also a former Sunderland man) signed when released by Preston and full back Trevor Brissett joined from Port Vale. Midfielder Billy Ingham signed from Bradford City, but then within days shocked Elliott by announcing that he was retiring from the game. This meant that 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. Six of them, including Fred Barber and Brian Honour, progressed through into the first team during the course of the season.
Injuries to John Stalker and Gavin Liddle meant that the team virtually picked itself for the opening day fixture at home to Rochdale, which resulted in a 3-0 win in front of a disappointing crowd of 1672. The match took place on the same day as Kevin Keegan made his Newcastle United debut at St James’ Park. Darlington’s home games coincided with Newcastle’s all season and the Quakers attendances suffered accordingly.
The second game of the season was on the following Friday night, September 3, away to Crewe Alexandra. Manager Elliott had no hesitation in naming an unchanged side. His only selection dilemma was who to pick as substitute. Stalker and Liddle were now available, as was teenager Brian Honour who had impressed for the reserves in midweek, but the number 12 shirt went to Dave Hawker. Crewe had finished the previous season bottom of Division 4, an incredible 15 points adrift of second bottom. They had managed only six wins all season and were determined to do better this time around. They were managed by Arfon Griffiths and had extensively reshaped their squad over the summer. They included eight new faces in their side and had opened the season with a 1-0 defeat at Chester.
A crowd of 1739 were at Gresty Road for the match. They saw Darlington turn in a complete performance and dominate the game from start to finish. They took the lead in the 19th minute when a fierce Alan Walsh drive was blocked by home goalkeeper Steve Smith. The ball rebounded to the edge of the box where it was met by Tim Gilbert who drove the ball home. The Quakers continued to drive forward and had two strong claims for penalties turned down. Barry Dunn was brought down by home defender Neil Salathiel when in full flight, then a Dunn shot appeared to be fisted away by central defender Bob Scott. Crewe were hanging on but conceded a second goal five minutes before half time. Harry Wilson played the ball to the edge of the Crewe area to Tony McFadden who superbly nodded the ball back into the path of Dave McLean. His fierce drive from 20 yards out flew into the roof of the net. The half ended with an injury concern for the impressive Gilbert who went down after a clash of heads with Bernard Purdie. Half time: Crewe 0 Darlington 2.
The shaken and concussed Gilbert was unable to continue and was replaced at half time by Dave Hawker. The change didn’t seem to disrupt the Quakers much, who still played all the flowing football and threatened more goals every time they attacked. Their third goal came after 56 minutes when Alan Walsh cracked a shot against the foot of the post and Dunn coolly picked his spot and swept the rebound home. In a rare home attack Crewe gave themselves some hope with a goal of their own on 62 minutes. A Clive Evans shot came back off the woodwork and Steve Craven reacted quicker than Kevan Smith to stab the ball home. The home revival never really happened though and the Quakers increased their lead in the 70th minute. A McLean corner was flicked on by Walsh and volleyed home by Smith at the far post. The waves of attacks by the visitors continued and they scored their fifth of the night in the 86th minute. A sweeping 60 yard pass from Walsh sent McFadden racing into the box. He held off Scott’s challenge and drilled his shot between keeper Smith and the near post. There was still time for Crewe to grab a second consolation goal on 88 minutes, when Evans headed home a Dave Goodwin cross after a defensive mix up. Full time: Crewe 2 Darlington 5.
The win put the Quakers top of the table with two wins from two games, with eight goals scored. They followed that up with a 2-0 defeat at Halifax, then a 2-1 home win over Hereford to maintain their place at the head of Division 4. Things then turned bad in spectacular fashion as two wins in their next 23 games saw the club drop through the whole division to occupy bottom place by the beginning of February. They rallied towards the end of the season 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 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. (The “Keegan factor” added nearly 7000 to the average Newcastle attendance, quite possibly affecting crowd figures at Feethams.)
Crewe produced a 16 page programme, priced at 30p. It included 2 pages devoted to their visitors, including a team photo, previous results between the clubs and brief pen pictures of the Darlington players. The team line-ups were on the back page.
Team v Crewe : 1Pat Cuff 2 Trevor Brissett 3 Harry Wilson 4 Kevan Smith 5 Alan Kamara 6 Tim Gilbert 7 Roger Wicks 8 Dave McLean 9 Barry Dunn 10 Alan Walsh 11 Tony McFadden Sub Dave Hawker (replaced Gilbert, 45 mins).