Darlington stage fightback

Hereford United 1 Darlington 2

Darlington fought back to earn a priceless first-leg victory in yesterday's third division promotion play-off semi-final at Edgar Street.

The visitors suffered a nightmare start, falling behind to Dean Smith's second-minute opener from Murray Fishlock's free kick after Richard Wilkins was fouled by Matt Appleby.

But Darlington, who withstood some heavy pressure after the early setback, drew level in the 27th minute after Sean Gregan headed over the goalkeeper Chris McKenzie's head from Matt Carmichael's useful centre kick.

Youngster Jamie Pitman gifted Darlington the winner 10 minutes later, losing possession to Mark Barnard on the left, who centred for the teenager Robert Blake to claim his 12th goal of the season.

Goals: Smith (2) 0-1; Gregan (27) 1-1; Blake (37) 2-1.

Hereford: MacKenzie, Watkiss, Fishlock, Smith, Cross, James, Stoker, Wilkins, White, Hargreaves (Lyne, 45), Pitman. Substitutes not used: Brough, De Bont.

Darlington: Newell, Carmichael, Bar-nard, Appleby, Crosby, Gregan, Bannister, Gaughan, Painter, Blake (Mat- tison 87), Carss (Brumwell 85). Substitutes not used: Twynham.

Referee: K Lynch (Knaresborough).

Bookings: Hereford: Smith, Cross, Wilkins, Stoker. Darlington: Carmi- chael.

Man of the match: Carmichael.

Attendance: 6,622.