Padiham’s biggest attendance of the season was treated to an absolute cracker at the Arbories Memorial Sports Grounds YESSS Electrical Arena on Wednesday night.
But there was to be no fairy tale ending to the David and Goliath clash which saw league leaders Darlington 1883 eventually come out on top with two late goals.
This was a game played at a high tempo with chances created by both sides throughout the 90 minutes, the first of which fell to the visitors on 12 minutes when David Dowson’s shot was blocked on the line by Ashley Young, while a minute later Bobby Langford went close for the Storks with a shot over the bar.
Darlington’s new signing and the league’s leading goal scorer Nathan Cartman got his first sniff of goal on 15 minutes, but saw his side-foot effort from a right wing cross go wide.
Visiting keeper Peter Jameson had to be alert to save a Padiham attempt in the Storks’ next attack, and the home fans breathed a sigh of relief when Stephen Thompson’s run towards the cricket field end goals ended with his shot going over.
Minutes later however, Padiham’s supporters were up and cheering as a long ball over the top by Chris Turner released Langford, who raced away to shoot past Jameson and put the Arbories side 1-0 ahead.
The game continued to switch from end to end as first Darlington’s Terence Galbraith shot over, then Langford saw Jameson keep out an angled shot.
And after a break down the right and cross, Thompson smashed another chance over the bar.
A Cartman effort was then cleared by Storks full back John Ross on 39 minutes, Langford shot over two minutes later, and then Cartman sent in another angled shot wide.
But in the fourth minute of injury time, Darlington’s Nelson Mota equalised, leaving Padiham angry with referee Matthew Parry’s decision to play any added on time at all, as there had been no injuries or substitutions during the first half.
At the start of the second half, Padiham keeper Davies was called upon to make an early save at the feet of Cartman and on 55 minutes Padiham were angry once again with referee Parry after he turned down a massive shout for hand ball and a penalty.
Padiham substitute Martin Trickett had his first shot deflected for a corner on 72 minutes and three minutes later Langford had a shot saved following a ball in by Alex Grice.
Then Brett Ormerod won a challenge with Jameson and the loose ball broke to Langford, only for his long range chip to go wide of the unguarded net.
The deadlock was broken on 82 minutes when a long throw into Padiham’s box was turned in by substitute Graeme Armstrong, and a minute later Thompson finished off a forceful run with a shot that beat home keeper Davis to make it 3-1 to Darlington.
Padiham travel to Burscough tomorrow, while Padiham Reserves are at home to Lancaster City Reserves, kick-off 3 p.m.