two goals against Skelmersdale - Matt Bell, Nantwich Town, man of match in FA Trophy

Nantwich Town were unlucky to be left empty-handed after title-chasing Darlington held on to their 2-1 lead after going down to ten men.

Darlington opened the scoring with Stephen Thompson just before the break but Nantwich responded shortly after the restart through a Matt Bell (pictured) free-kick.

The home side had retaken the lead through Tom Portas before Chris Hunter received a red card leaving the hosts a man short for the last 15 minutes.

The crowd of 1,268 didn’t have to wait long for some action as Graeme Armstrong’s header glanced just wide of Daniel Gyollai’s post in the opening minute of the game.

Nantwich were quick to involve themselves and Liam Shotton saw his header back across goal at the back post caught by Peter Jameson.

With 15 minutes gone, Darlington created two chances in a row.

Terry Gailbraith fired over the bar after Gyollai’s punch landed at his feet 18-yards out and a minute later Portas ran down the right before James Baillie cleared his delivery into the box.

Both outfits looked like scoring when they attacked and Sam Hall almost found the net with a 30-yard strike amid Darlington cries for a handball, but his rocket of a shot flew inches wide of Jameson’s post.

Sean Cooke had a chance to see his side take the lead half an hour into the game after receiving the ball from Shotton on the edge of the area.

However, Phil Turnbull charged to block his effort from just inside the area.

Moments later Thompson found himself in position to shoot at Nantwich’s goal but his effort travelled over the crossbar by some distance.

Minutes after clearing the crossbar, Thompson did give Darlington the lead.

Portas slid the ball from right to left across the box, and Thompson stroked the ball into the bottom corner of the net with precision in the final five minutes of the half to earn the home side an advantage going into the break.

That advantage wasn’t to last long after the restart, though, as Nantwich found an equaliser.

Bell whipped in a free-kick from the right, no one in the box connected with the ball and it bounced in front of the goalkeeper before creeping into the back of the net at the far post.

The hosts were hungry to retake the lead after conceding, but two quick reflex saves in succession by Gyollai denied them the goal they desired.

Nantwich dominated for a period an hour into the game and Cooke went close as he tried to guide Josh Hancock’s ball into the bottom corner only for Jameson to deny him with his leg.

Hancock then had a chance himself after running into the box and chipping the ball just over the bar.

Darlington retaliated by applying pressure of their own.

Pressure that paid off in the 73rd minute. A throw in on the right was flicked on into the box, Gyollai missed the ball as he came to collect and Portas headed home from 6-yards.

Elation from the Darlington fans was short-lived as they found themselves down to ten men for the rest of the game a few minutes later following Hunter’s red card for a challenge on Shotton.

With a man advantage, the Dabbers pushed for a well-deserved equaliser, and went close when Jon Moran’s close-range header fizzed over the bar with five minutes left.

But Darlington managed to keep their lead and Nantwich would have been feeling hard done by as they headed back to Cheshire.

Nantwich TownGyollai, Baillie, Moran, Harrison, C.Jones, Cooke, Hall (c), Shotton, Bell, Hancock. Substitutes – Osborne (on for Hancock), Smith, Bailey, Short (on for Harrison) and Kosylo (on for Cooke).

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