Stevens leads the charge as Iron crush woeful Darlo
DAVE Stevens capped off a whirlwind month with an unlikely goal as Ben Wright’s magic unravelled a dismal Darlington side.
Wright was the architect of the Iron’s opening two goals, scored either side of half time by defender, Stevens and Kenny Davis, before Sean Marks gave the hosts breathing space.
Graeme Lee pulled back a late consolation but his side were well beaten, leaving Stevens to reflect on a frantic four weeks and Wright’s exquisite performance.
“I am delighted for the players and the fans but I was also pleased that Alan Devonshire gave me the nod,” said Stevens, a summer signing from Hampton and Richmond, who replaced Adam Bailey-Dennis at centre-half.
“It’s been disappointing for the club the last few weeks so it was great to get back to winning ways and I also managed to get on the scoresheet with a goal.
“It was a great game to play in and I had good defenders alongside me and we all made sure, as a team, we got the simple things right.
“As for Ben (Wright), the guy is best technical player I have ever played with and his set-pieces were on target time after time and we should have taken advantage of that more.
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Stevens enjoyed a perfect start to his career with the Iron a month ago, starring in their 4-0 win at Southport, but then things turned sour and, after a booking in the home defeat by Fleetwood three weeks ago, he was dismissed in the heavy 6-2 defeat at York.
Almost a month to the day since he made his debut, the smile was back on the big defender’s face.
“We have worked on a few things but the main thing is we have got back to basics, albeit changing our team shape a little,” he said.
“The manager and his assistant Keith Rowland have to take a lot of credit for that, they have been brilliant with us.
The Iron were not the levels they displayed during their September purple-patch but still showed far too much desire and determination for Darlington, who were described as “miserable and embarrassing” by one north east journalist after the game.
Wright and Andy Yiadom signalled their intent early on, both testing Swedish goalkeeper Ole Soderberg.
The Quakers’ best outlet came in the form of giant defender Exodus Geoghagan who, with more than a passing resemblance to Audley Harrison, launched several huge throws into the box that the home defence and goalkeeper, Nathan McDonald, struggled to deal with.
From one such exocet, the ball found its way to debutant Niall Rodney but, from a narrow angle, he could only blast the ball over the bar, four yards out.
As the teams looked set to go into the break goalless, Stevens scored a goal out of nothing a minute before the break when he bundled home Wright’s exquisite free kick at the back post with left-back Aaron Brown in no man’s land.
If Darlington’s defending was poor for the first goal, it was abysmal for the second as Wright’s corner found captain Kenny Davis at the back post and he planted a header into the top corner.
Wright could have got on the scoresheet himself but blasted wide before Marks put the game beyond doubt.
Jai Reason and Brad Quinton combined passes on the edge of the box and after the latter chipped the diving Soderberg, Marks tapped the ball home on the line.
Yiadom then had a header ruled out for a foul on the goalkeeper before Lee pulled a goal back for the visitors with 10 minutes left.
That finally sparked Darlo into life but Alan Devonshire’s side held out for a much-needed three points.