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Darlington 1 Mansfield Town 0

LET us hope Lyn and Emma Senior are in forgiving mood.

LET us hope Lyn and Emma Senior are in forgiving mood. Chris deserves as much. The Darlington striker has endured a testing season, and a tough couple of years.

Having been released by Halifax Town in 2007, he supplemented his income from part-time football by qualifying as a masseur with Sheffield United, and was staff when the Blades lost the Championship play-off final to Burnley two seasons later.

“Terrible,” he called it. So too when, upon joining the Quakers last summer, he was injured on his debut, a pre-season friendly against Sunderland.

A subsequent knock has further curtailed his campaign, but the 5ft 6in forward – “has he grown?” Mark Cooper joked – emerged as Darlington’s late, late match-winner in Saturday’s FA Trophy final against Mansfield Town, heading in with a penalty shoot-out just moments away.

“Outrageous,” he said, describing the near-tear-jerking moment, when he also received a dead leg amid a celebratory pile-on which took place while Cooper launched a one-man pitch invasion.

“The best moment of my life,” added the Huddersfield-born 29-year-old, before correcting himself for fear of recriminations from wife, Emma.

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She may be placated by the tattoo her husband has just had done in tribute to their marriage, having wed last summer. Mother Lyn may not be.

But Senior – Chris, that is – knows all too well what his goal, and victory, means for the club, the town and, since he is soon to be out of contract, himself.

“This is massive, not just for the club but for the town and surrounding areas,” said Senior, who upon scoring revealed a T-shirt wishing sister Ellie – 16 yesterday – happy birthday, and apologising to Lyn for the ink.

“Hopefully it can give them a bit of a boost, a feelgood factor and bring a bit of support to the club.

“Hopefully that will carry on to next season, and for myself too because I’m out of contract this summer. Hopefully that might have gone a way to earning me a new deal.”

Over to you, Cooper, and Raj Singh, who after all he has done to steady Darlington’s ship, deserved his day in the sun.

So too, the “ferret” – Cooper’s word, not mine – Jamie Chandler, man of the match, and Chris Moore, who for the trouble of becoming a Trophy and FA Vase winner inside two years parted with his two front teeth after an early kick in the face.

The real action of a tight affair, however, came at the end. In normal time, Ian Miller headed wide and right at the death Marc Bridge-Wilkinson’s free-kick clipped a post and Tommy Wright nodded off target.

Then with five minutes of extra time left, Liam Hatch headed against the other upright, then wide.

Spot-kicks beckoned, but bang on 120 minutes Aaron Brown’s thrown was flicked on by Miller, Wright headed on to the crossbar and Senior nodded in the rebound.

“It’s outrageous, words can’t explain how I feel,” Senior said, adding that he would have volunteered to take a penalty.

“I missed the gaffer’s celebration, there were about 15 bodies on top of me! But I heard about it, I think him and (Jose) Mourinho would be a good race.

“There was a pile-on in the corner after I scored, which was lucky because I could feel a few tears coming. Although I did get a dead leg from Tommy Wright.

“There’d been a few bits and bobs bouncing around the box, we’d hit the bar and the post and we were unlucky.

“It was frustrating, Mansfield were on the back foot and tiring.

“We had the upper hand and knew if we kept plugging away we’d get a chance. If someone had have said I’d score the winner at Wembley after two injuries, I’d have snapped their hand off.

“It’s the best moment of my life, but don’t tell the missus that. I mean the best moment after getting married. It’s a dream come true.”

DARLINGTON: Russell, Arnison, Brown, Miller, Hatch, Chandler, Gary Smith, Moore, Bridge-Wilkinson, Wright, Campbell. Subs (not used): Terry, Phil Gray, St Louis-Hamilton, Senior, Verma.

Goal: Senior 119.

MANSFIELD: Marriott, Silk, Foster, Naylor, Spence, Briscoe, Thompson, Nix, Murray, Connor, Smith. Subs (not used): Collett, Stonehouse, Cain, Mitchley.

Referee: S Atwell (Nuneaton). Attendance: 24,668.

 

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