Newton Aycliffe recorded a fine 3-1 victory over Northern League Champions Darlington as they maintained their 100% pre-season record in their third outing.
Darlington may have been missing a handful of first team regulars, but included at least six players in their line-up who will be guaranteed starters as they kick off their EvoStik campaign next month.
And although manager Martin Gray made a string of changes in the second period, the Newtonians ran out comfortable winners with some promising performances from their new-look squad.
The victory comes seven months after Aycliffe’s memorable league win at home to Quakers, which was Gray’s side’s last defeat before going on to clinch the Northern League title.
Boss Allan Oliver started with his strongest possible side, with skipper John Close rested as precaution following a calf injury. New signings Dan Mitton and Stephen Salvin lined up in central defence.
Jamie Owens partnered last season’s top scorer Danny Earl up front, while Christian Selby and goalkeeper Dan Molyneux started their third consecutive game.
Darlington forced the first half pressure and fashioned half chances through new signing Andrew Johnson and the returning Chris Moore, with Molyneux seldom troubled with the best the Quakers had to offer.
In return, Earl was a fractional second to a loose ball in the area which Craig Turns did well to clear as he raced off his line midway through the half.
Oliver introduced former Coundon pair Scott Oldfield and Michael Gibson at the interval and saw his side go ahead shortly after, as Owens – a former Gray target – curled an unbeatable lob into Turns’ top left hand corner from fully 35-yards.
Former Aycliffe youth product Kerry Hedley squared the scoreline on 68 minutes when he latched onto a loose ball and rifled an angled drive into the Town-End goal, off the foot of the upright.
The Quakers hit the bar twice in quick succession as Moore created problems down the right, with Johnson and Hedley both coming close to nudging Darlington ahead.
It was the hosts though who regained the lead – in front of a modest 311 crowd – as Gibson cut in from the right hand side before curling a left foot effort past Turns with consummate ease.
Birthday boy, and former Quakers man Dan Mellanby glossed the performance by tidying up after Owens’ shot came back off the post and Aycliffe comfortable saw the game out to record an impressive victory – their second in succession over Gray’s side following their 2-1 league victory last December.
Molyneux; S.Gibson, Owen (Oldfield), Mitton, Salvin; Broom, Woodhouse, Selby (Hutchinson), Lambert (M.Gibson); Owens, Earl (Mellanby)
Unused; Farley, Oliver, J.Young
MotM (Sponsored by CVO Fires); Michael Gibson