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Two matches in the Blue Square Premier brought together four clubs from directly opposite ends of the football spectrum yesterday and, while the results of those matches were hardly unexpected, it was difficult not to feel at the end of this week that these were not as important as the fact that the matches had taken place in the first place. The matches were, of course, between Darlington and Fleetwood Town, and between Wrexham and Kettering Town. Darlington’s plight has been thoroughly documented on these pages over the last seven days. That they were playing at all yesterday afternoon was a testament to the hard work put in last week by many, many people. That they should have been playing against the financially-plumpened Fleetwood Town, who continue to agitate at the top of the table, is an irony that will not have been lost on many.
Meanwhile, in north Wales, Kettering Town travelled to play Wrexham. Kettering Town found themselves in the dock last week over the non-payment of football-related debts. The supporters of Wrexham will be more than aware of this feeling of financial difficulties starting to spiral out of control. Wrexham battled to stay alive throughout most of last year before the club’s supporters trust took ownership of it in October. Somehow or other, player-manager Andy Morrell has managed to keep his side winning and they went into yesterday’s match still unbeaten in the league since the end of September and having earned considerable acclaim with the courage of their performance in their FA Cup Third Round replay against Brighton & Hove Albion during the week. Would this eventual defeat, however, have a knock-on effect on the team’s morale?
At The Northern Echo Arena, meanwhile, kick-off was delayed by fifteen minutes due to crowd congestion – not a problem that Darlington have had to face that often over the last few years on that many occasions. If the problems that the club has had of late has re-awoken the interest of the local populace in the club, then this will be all for the good. Just over 5,000 people turned out for the match – over twice Darlington’s average home crowd this season – and this money will all be very beneficial in keeping the club’s head above water. On the pitch, though, the realpolitik of money did the talking and Fleetwood Town won the match by a single goal. Still, though, it was a determined performance by Craig Liddle’s team and those leaving the ground at its end may have taken the opportunity to consider the fight that the team put in against superior opposition.
Kettering Town’s darkest days may yet be to come, and the recent silence coming from inside the club itself has led many to speculate over whether the club’s biggest match of the season may come next month at the High Court in London, when a winding up petition brought against them is due to be heard. The Nene Park experiment has failed, of that there can be no doubt, but the club now has no alternative but to stay where it is for the time being and perhaps the biggest question that they now face is that of whether they will start next season in the Blue Square North or whether they will find themselves expelled from the Football Conference over this season’s financial irregularities and will be playing in the Northern Premier League next season – if the club still exists by then, of course.
On the pitch, there was no contest. Wrexham, for all the tiredness that the players may have been feeling in their limbs from Wednesday night’s exertions, strolled to a comfortable 4-1 win, meaning that the top of the Blue Square Premier remains as you were today, with Wrexham still two points ahead of Fleetwood at the top of the table. At the foot, meanwhile, Kettering sit in the relegation places, although for now they are only one point from safety for the time being. Darlington sit in sixteenth place in the table, five points above the relegation places after their ten point deduction for entering into administration.
This weekend, however, it wasn’t the results on the pitch that took paramount importance. That Darlington should have been playing at all this weekend was something that was looking like a near impossibility for most of the early part of last week. They may not have won on the pitch yesterday afternoon, but a crowd of over 5,000 people will have brought some much-needed money into the club. They have two more matches – paid for by the extraordinary events of Wednesday lunchtime – before the administrator has to re-evaluate the club’s financial position, so Darlington haven’t been saved yet. It feels that much more likely that the will be than it has for some time today, though. At Wrexham, meanwhile, the most important result of the day also came off the pitch. Wrexham supporters know all too well how it feels to have your club slip away from you, and it was this, perhaps, that informed their supporters donating over £1,400 towards their opposition’s plight. None of us are glad that it is so, but financial results are as important than results on the pitch for at least two of these clubs at present.
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Ian began writing Twohundredpercent in May 2006. He lives in Brighton. He has also written for, amongst others, Pitch Invasion, FC Business Magazine, The Score, When Saturday Comes, Stand Against Modern Football and The Football Supporter. Ian was the first winner of the Socrates Award For Not Being Dead Yet at the 2010 NOPA awards for football bloggers.