Chester 0 Darlington 1: Felix's winner fires Quakers up to second
DARLINGTON have won six league games in a row after they claimed their first victory at Chester's Deva Stadium since 2009.
Quakers let a two-goal lead slip at the Deva last season, but their strong defensive resilience ensured there wasn’t a repeat after Kaine Felix scored the only goal of the game just after the hour.
Alun Armstrong's side now sit second in the table, after being 17th in August, and are just a point off league leaders Kings Lynn, who they play a week on Saturday.
Tricky winger Felix, who was signed on the eve of the season, might have been the match-winner, but loanee Dan Dodds, from Middlesbrough, was the Man of the Match with a great all-round display.
Armstrong said; “It was a fantastic win, it’s about time we won at Chester. Last season, we threw it away at 2-0 up with just a few minutes to go. It was really deflating.
“This time, the lads’ defending from one to 15 was absolutely fantastic. The back four were superb – they maybe dropped a little too deep in the last 20 minutes, but it was a proper gritty performance.
“I thought it was a very even game. Chester are a good side, with good players, so I’m delighted with the win.”
Felix’s goal was his second of the season since signing from Peterborough Sports.
“Maybe he was a little fortuitous with the strike, but we’ll take it," added Armstrong. "We ask people to take opposition players on, he did just that and got his just rewards. You earn your luck, and maybe these lads earned it with the graft that they put in.
“I think the fans appreciate that, they can see how hard the players are working. Sometimes it’s not pretty and sometimes we’ve got to defend. We can’t dominate teams in the way that I used to want to play – we used to get done at set-pieces for example. I’ve seen a difference in mindset this season -- the players’ work ethic is phenomenal.”
Dodds was signed on loan from Middlesbrough before the Hyde FA Cup tie, and he was one of the top performers on Saturday, with a clearance off the line, some great interceptions and nearly scoring a goal in the second half.
“You can see why I’ve been trying to bring him in for 18 months,” said Armstrong. “Without a doubt, he’s an exciting prospect, and if we can keep him here for the season after his loan ends on January 3, then I’ll be delighted. He’s a young lad who is going to get better. He just wants to improve. He steps in, he’s got that burst of pace and he’s composed with the ball.”
Chester started at a faster tempo than Quakers, and twice managed to get down the side of the Darlington defence. Lewis Coulton broke into the box and Ben Hedley was forced to hurriedly clear with keeper Tommy Taylor exposed, then Jamie Morgan dribbled into the six-yard area and Dodds just managed to stretch out a foot and intercept when a goal seemed certain.
Quakers came more into the game as the half went on. Hedley fired over the top from 25 yards, and Jacob Hazel had a shot blocked after Mark Beck had nodded down a free-kick.
Darlington's pressing and harrying put Chester under pressure, and that hard work paid dividends on 62 minutes. A long goal kick by Taylor bounced over the Chester defence for Felix to latch onto, and under pressure from a defender, he managed to lift the ball over Harry Tyrer from an acute angle to send the Darlington contingent wild.
Dodds then showed why he is such a good all-round player. He produced another great interception when Chester burst into the box, and it was nearly 2-0 when he picked the ball up on the halfway line, ran powerfully forward, played a one-two to get into the area, and then pulled his left-footed shot wide of the post.