another walk down Memory Lane with Simon Weatherill
Simon Weatherill continues his Memory Match series with the 4-1 home win over Exeter City on December 8th 1987.
The summer of 1987 saw David Booth take over as Darlington manager. The former Grimsby boss had been out of the game for a couple of years but was chosen as the man to get Darlington back on track. The club were preparing for life back in Division Four after two seasons in the Third Division under Cyril Knowles. Knowles had been sacked in the March and replaced by Paul Ward as player manager until the end of the season. Ward hadn’t been able to save the club from relegation, so the new season would kick off with the Quakers back in more familiar surroundings.
One of Booth’s first acts was to appoint Phil Bonnyman as his assistant. The 33 year old midfielder signed from Grimsby and had previously played for Hamilton, Carlisle and Chesterfield. He would provide valuable experience to the Quakers midfield, as well as his coaching responsibilities. Booth also added Gary Worthington (from Huddersfield), Mark Outterside (from Sunderland), Kevin Stonehouse (from Blackpool) and Dave McAughtrie (from York City) to his squad in preparation for the new campaign.
The new look side made an inconsistent start to the new season. In the league there were some excellent wins (for example, a memorable 5-2 at Hartlepool) mixed in with some poor defeats (such as 4-1 at home by Scunthorpe) and the side never really put any kind of run together to drag themselves away from mid table obscurity. By the time Exeter City visited Feethams at the beginning of December, the Quakers sat in twelfth place in the table, with a record of seven wins and seven defeats from their nineteen games, with thirty goals scored and thirty conceded.
Exeter were originally scheduled to visit Feethams on Saturday, November 28, but that game had been controversially postponed less than an hour before kick off due to a frozen pitch. The referee had delayed his decision as long as possible to allow the pitch to thaw. The game was rearranged for ten days later on Tuesday, December 8, and as people arrived at the ground there were fears of another postponement due to the frozen conditions. Spectators who’d been inside the ground on the original date claimed that the pitch was in a worse state for the rearranged date. The rumour around the ground was that Exeter had insisted that the game go ahead, so they wouldn’t have a second wasted trip. Because of the freezing temperatures and a general feeling that the game wouldn’t be going ahead, only 1107 hardy souls turned out to see the game.
They were rewarded with a one sided game as Darlington secured their best home win of the season, inspired by a brilliant individual performance by David Currie, whom the Exeter defence found completely unplayable on the icy surface. The Quakers were ahead as early as the third minute. Gary MacDonald made progress down the wing and played the ball inside to Mark Hine, who drove the ball across visiting keeper John Shaw and inside the far post. Eight minutes later it was nearly two as a Peter Robinson back header from an Alan Roberts corner was cleared off the line by Ray Carter. The one way traffic continued and Kevin Stonehouse was the next to go close in the 17th minute when he crashed a header against the bar after a superb chip by Currie. Then it was MacDonald’s turn, as he saw his header blocked on the line and then Shaw make a brilliant double save to keep out his follow up effort and also one from Roberts. Darlington continued to pour forward and increased their lead on 37 minutes when Currie latched onto a Hine through ball and calmly sidefooted the ball past Shaw’s despairing dive.
Three minutes later Currie made it 3-0 with the goal of the game. Receiving the ball wide on the left, he cut inside two defenders and unleashed a powerful drive past the helpless keeper from just outside the box. The total domination continued after the break and on the hour Currie turned provider to set up the fourth goal. He skated past Richard Massey to the by-line and crossed for Roberts to smash home from two yards out. Exeter grabbed a consolation goal on 77 minutes when Simon Mitton prodded home following a goalmouth scramble but they finished the match a well beaten side. They never came to terms with the icy surface and couldn’t handle Currie, whose balance and tricky skills seemed unaffected by the frozen conditions.
Four wins from their next six games pushed the Quakers towards the top of the league and hopes were high that the club could get involved in a promotion fight with a consistent run towards the end of the season. Those hopes were cruelly dashed when star man Currie was sold to Barnsley for £150,000 at the end of February. When Currie was sold, the Quakers sat in sixth place in the table, which in 1988 was the last of the play off places. They fell away badly after Currie’s departure though, winning four out of their last fifteen games and finishing the season back in mid table, in 13th place with 65 points.
The programme for the 87/88 season consisted of 16 pages, cost 50p and was designed and printed by Mawers. The front cover was printed in orange and black and either featured an action photo from a previous game or an advert for the match sponsors. The inside featured a column by manager David Booth, two pages on our visitors, past encounters, fixtures, results and appearances, Focus on Four (with what was going on elsewhere in the division), and Quaker Action (with photos from a previous game). The team line-ups were on the back cover.
Team v Exeter : 1 Jeremy Roberts 2 Mark Outterside 3 Gary Morgan 4 Mark Hine 5 Peter Robinson 6 Phil Bonnyman 7 Alan Roberts 8 Paul Ward 9 Gary MacDonald 10 David Currie 11 Kevin Stonehouse Subs 12 Stephen Bell (not used) 14 Andy O’Dell (not used).