He made himself a hero during his two spells at Darlington, so Nuneaton Town boss Tommy Wright hopes there were no hard feeling when his side secured a dramatic win over the Quakers on Saturday.
Wright’s side inflicted a first defeat on the Quakers at their new Blackwell Meadows home, as Jordan Nicholson’s injury time winner sealed Town’s seventh win in a row.
A Joe Ironside penalty had given them the lead just before the hour mark, only for David Syers to head the Quakers level as the game went into injury time.
Minutes later a quick break caught out the Quakers defender and Nicholson smashed home at the near post to set off wild celebrations in front of the Town dugout.
Despite disappointing his former supporters Wright was given a fine reception by the Darlington faithful, with his name sung throughout the game and he was given a generous applause at the full time whistle.
The feeling is mutual for Wright, as he admitted Darlington was “like a second home”.
He said “I hope the defeat is a little easier to take because it is my side that had won here. These fans are special to me, this place is special to me, it is like a second home.
“I had some great times here, the FA Trophy win, the play-offs, it was a special place and I think everyone knows I didn’t really want to leave.
“I loved being here, the fans took to me and their reception to me, after the game, that means a lot to me. It’s nice to be remembered”
Wright admitted that he feared the worst when his side were pegged back by David Syers header in injury time.
The midfielder broke into the Town area and looped a header past keeper Christian Dibble and it seemed as if there would only be one winner.
Darlington kept on attacking, seeking what would have been a remarkable win.
However, they were hit on the break and when striker Joe Ironside flicked on a clearance he set Jordan Nicholson through on goal.
His rising shot left Quakers keeper Peter Jameson with no chance and left Wright feeling proud of his players.
“I would have settled for a point when they got the equaliser.
“You see the board go up with six minutes on and you just think here we go.
“We knew we would create another chance, we knew something would come our way. I think they just threw too many forward and we do break very, very quickly.
“When Joe (Ironside) won the header and sent Nicholson through, he is so composed in that position I almost knew he would score.
It is a huge win, absolutely massive. I am very proud of the lads”
Since their 4-1 home win against Alfreton Town in early December, Nuneaton Town have a 100% record.
Seven games, seven wins, including eye-catching victories against the likes of FC United of Manchester and a double over Tamworth.
An FA Trophy Second round home tie against Guiseley is next on the agenda for Wright and his players.
That precedes a tough run of fixtures as they end January with a home game against Brackley Town and away games at play-off challengers Salford City and Kidderminster Harriers.
Despite that tough run of games, Wright is confident that his players can keep on “proving people wrong” as they look to continue their rise up the National League North table.
“We have a tough Trophy game ahead and we obviously wanted a home draw. We have Guiseley and their form has picked up recently.
“But if you are playing a team from the league above you want a team that is in the relegation zone. We are on the back of seven wins, we are confident going into the tie.
“We do have a tough run ahead of us with the likes of Brackley, Salford and Kidderminster Harriers to play, so it is a big ask to continue this run.
“But these players keep answering questions they are asked, they keep proving people wrong”
A final word goes to his former club.
After being relegated back to the EBAC Northern League in 2011, Darlington have secured three promotions and now find themselves within one promotion of the league where they played before the Football Association imposed a punishment on them.
The latest positive step came with their return to their hometown, after four years playing their “home” games at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park.
Boxing Day’s home win over FC Halifax Town saw the Quakers celebrate their return to Darlington in style.
The move, according to Wright, is the final piece in the jigsaw, as he revealed he can see another promotion in the near-future for his former club.
“It means a lot to see them back home. The punishment they received was far too severe, relegating them back to the level they have come from was too severe.
“But they are back, they are on the back of three promotions so whether they will get another this year, I don’t know.
“It’s a tough league, one of the toughest in the non-league set-up.
“Darlington have capable players, they have a good manager, someone I know well.
“I think if it’s not this year, it won’t be long.
“It’s a big club, the fans are passionate, that Tin Shed was rocking today and they will make this their home.
“It’s the final piece in the jigsaw and you can see they are on their way back. It means a lot, as a former player, as someone that knows these supporters, to see that happening”
Interview: Mark Carruthers (@marknldaily)
Images: Simon Kimber