Darlington FC couldn’t have enjoyed a better day.
As well as beating FC Halifax Town 3-2, league leaders Fylde lost at home 2-nil to another title contender Chorley, while Kiddiminster were held to a nil-nil draw in the Vanarama National League North.
If this is how life at DFC’s new home – in Darlington – is to be from now on, the Quakers will soon be back in the football league.
HIT: Darlington FC vs Halifax Town. Picture: Fiona Smith/NE Camera Club
A £1m project funded largely by loyal supporters has secured the club a new home in its old neighbourhood thanks to years of meticulous planning, hard work and big dreams.
Giant strides off the pitch have paved the way for the Quakers to take their first steps out in front of a sell-out crowd in the 3,000-capacity Blackwell Meadows site.
The ground, which is shared with Darlington FC, received the Football Association’s official approval just seven days ago while paint was still drying and finishing touches were being added.
However, the labour of love has finally paid off for bosses at the club and those behind the push to bring Darlington back from Heritage Park in Bishop Auckland as today is the day Darlington host their first game at home since 2012.
Malcolm Cundick, who has been the Blackwell Meadows project manager during the club’s four-year stint playing at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park, said: “I am very, very pleased, because I have been working on this project for four years.
“I am more than happy with the end product, and am very excited for the future.”
Matched fan funding and grants from organisations dedicated to improving football facilities has seen the town’s Blackwell Meadows transformed into an FA category B ground in just a 16-week period.
Plans have also been put in place to ensure today’s match goes off without a hitch as thousands of fans make their first pilgrimage to Blackwell Meadows.
A new 250-space car park funded in part by Darlington Borough Council was a key piece of Blackwell Meadows’ redevelopment, however 150 of those spaces have been pre-booked ahead of today’s match.
Remaining parking spaces will be available for £5 on a first-come-first-served basis and all drivers are advised to arrive before 2pm to allow plenty of time to get into the ground.
The Darlington FC Supporters Group urged fans to leave their cars at home – or share a lift – to avoid congestion. In an appeal to fans, the group said: “Away from Blackwell Meadows, there is free on street parking available within a 20 minute stroll. However, the availability is not unlimited and it would help the situation tremendously if fans could make a special effort to share lifts.
“If you do choose to park in a residential area, please park responsibly and definitely not across someone’s drive.”
Darlington Borough Council’s Councillor Nick Wallis, cabinet member for leisure and local environment: “I’m sure I will be amongst thousands of fans ready to give Darlington FC a warm welcome back to their rightful place – Darlington.
“To pardon the pun, it has been a real team effort to make this return a reality and I am pleased that the council has been able to play its part in this.
“Good luck to the team and, hopefully, they will win the first of many games on their new home turf.”