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Website last updated: 21 Dec, 2014 @ 20:14
Darlington Railway Athletic Football Club History
DARLINGTON R A F C are really a club of three distinct eras.
The club was formed shortly after the First World War and started out in the Darlington & District League. Little is known of the club in the early seasons but in the 1919-20 season the club joined the Northern League. They found the going tough and after finishing second bottom in the 1924-25 season they returned to the Darlington & District League.
The second era came in the 60â€™s and 70â€™s. With an upturn in form the club went through possibly its most rewarding period accumulating a number of honours. In 1964 they won the Darlington & District League and the League and League Cup double in 1968. Two years later they were North Riding Cup winners and runners-up in 1973. Then came the clubs greatest success, their triumph in the 1975 Durham Amateur Cup. In 1981 they almost repeated the feat, narrowly going down in the final.
Darlington Railway Athletic then joined the Teesside League and in the late 80â€™s were accepted into the Vaux Wearside League.
In the 1990-91 season the club gained promotion from Division Two. The following season they narrowly escaped an immediate return to Division Two with a 4-1 win at Marske in the last game of the season. The club then hit financial trouble and in 1992 folded.
The R A Football Club ceased to exist until the beginning of the third era. Martyn Jackson, while playing for CAS in the Darlington & District League decided to reform Darlington R A F C for the 1993-94 season using the players of CAS. David Woodcock joined Martyn as Manager for the season of 1998-99, and were rewarded for there hard work by winning the Darlington & District League. They were accepted into the Auckland District League for the season 1999-2000 and finished third in their first season, and won the R A Medals Trophy, not a bad feat for a team reformed only a few years before. The following season 2000-2001 saw probably the clubs greatest season. With a lot of new players and financial support the club was able to win the Auckland and District League on the last game of the season and pick up three other trophies, the club also reached the Semi-Final of the Durham Trophy only to be beaten narrowly 2-1. The club joined the Wearside League in 2001 finishing third and runners-up in the Durham Trophy, losing 1-0.
At the start of the 2004-05 the decision was taken that all efforts would be put into gaining promotion into the Northern League. Work started on the ground with a band of very willing volunteers and very helpful local businesses. The lights went up first shortly followed by the new stand and slowly the ground started to take shape. The ground was completed in time and the work on the pitch was completed with a few games to spare and the eagerly awaited return to the Northern League was set.
The Wearside league was won with 4 games to spare and a magnificent season was rounded off by winning the Sunderland Shipowners Cup against Stokesley at Brinkburn Road. 2005 marks a huge milestone for the club from humble beginnings.
Darlington Railway Athletic Football Club History cont
The first season back started badly with two defeats but the team slowly picked up momentum, after a victory away to Pontefract in the F.A. Vase we were rewarded with a home tie against Dunston where we were beaten after a replay but had the honour of having the biggest attendance in the country at Brinkburn Road in the second round. After a great unbeaten run in the League going back to November found ourselves in a promotion place. More seats were put in the stand and another entrance to take the ground up to 1st Division standard and on the last day of the season a victory at Alnwick secured promotion.
The first game of the season saw us beaten 2-0 by Whitley Bay who ended up champions, the following week our first venture into the F.A. Cup ended in disaster going down 5-0. In September we seemed to find our feet and three league wins on the belt plus a win in the F.A. Vase give everyone hope for the season. Our failure to convert chances and inability to keep clean sheets saw us in the bottom three all season, we used over fifty players during the season and only managed to field the same team twice all season. Injuries to key players didnâ€™t help and some of the players who had enjoyed success in previous seasonâ€™s werenâ€™t prepared to roll up their sleeves and fight against relegation. The main bright spots of the season were the lads who emerged from the junior set up and made telling contributions towards the end of the season and off the pitch a new committee was formed and foundations laid to make sure that we could complete both on and off the pitch, and hopefully gain promotion at the first attempt.
The 2007/08 season began well and included our first ever FA cup victory when beating Yorkshire amateur 6-0, but things went downhill rapidly and in October Dave Woodcock resigned as manager after 9 seasons with Martyn Jackson also standing down as his Assistant Manager and Secretary.
The club went through changes both on the field and behind the scenes with the committee dropping down to just two people. Marty Clement came in as manager, but results were not good enough and he was replaced by Dave Woodcock along with Richie Hill to manage the team again. The team managed to stay out of the bottom three. Dave resigned just before the start of the season and Max Rees took on the role but things were in a bad way and Max failed to lift the heavy burden on the team. A new management trio came in and results and performances improved, but all three resigned at the end of the 2009-2010 season.
2010-11 saw a new management team at the RA, Nick Harrison, Jamma Smith & Mark Scott. All are young and keen and each brings their own values to the team. They have built a team which from being accustomed to be in the bottom third of the table, achieved a fifth place finish in the 2011-12 season (with 73 points) and an appearance in the semi-final of the League Cup which they narrowly lost to local rivals, Northallerton Town.
There have been changes behind the scenes with both Chris Griffin (Secretary) and Craig Watson (Treasurer) both resigning their posts due to pressures of work. Alan Hamilton (a retired bank manager) has been appointed Secretary and stalwart Chairman Doug Hawman has assumed the role of Treasurer until a replacement for Craig can be found.
The club repeated the 5th place finish in 2012-13 with 75 points and another semi-final appearance in the Ernest Armstrong Cup. This time they were beaten in extra time at West Allotment. The RA raced to a 3-0 first half lead only to be pegged back in the second period to 3-3.
2013-14 was something of a curate's egg. The RA played some good football at times and ended the season with a fine win against champions North Shields at Brinkburn Road. Overall however, inconsistent performances left the club in a mid-table 12th place. This was respectable enough but following on from two top 5 finishes, manager Nick Harrison saw it as something of a disappointment and, coupled with domestic pressures, felt he could do no more and resigned in the close season.
The RA start the 2014-15 campaign with a new management team. Paul Bowman, deputy to Nick Harrison in the second hald of last season, steps up to the hot seat with Warren Moncur as his deputy. They have set themselves a goal of finishing above last term's 12th - a position everyone at the club will be happy enough with.