Chester battled hard for a clean sheet in the North East this afternoon in the Emirates FA Cup.
The draw means the two sides will do it all over again at the Deva Stadium this Tuesday (7.45pm).
Bern and Jonno reacted to defeat at Chorley seven days ago with five changes, and – despite the opening 45 being a midfield battle – the Blues would have been encouraged by a solid defensive effort.
Darlington had half chances early on, as Will Hatfield curled home but was flagged offside, before Junior Mondal’s effort from the edge was comfortably stopped by Louis Gray.
Chester’s first opportunity came from the halfway line as Dec Weeks saw Tommy Taylor off his line and had a go – but the Darlo keeper got back to tip the ball over. The number one ripped the net in the process which saw a five minute delay at Blackwell Meadows.
That ambitious attempt was used as encouragement to press forward, and Weeks again tried his luck from outside the box on two separate occasions, but they were off target.
Paddy Lacey was back into the side for the first time since his injury back om Boxing Day, and tested Taylor with a 25 yard free kick on 31 minutes.
Down the other end, Hatfield had a go with a whipped shot from range but Gray was equal to it.
Chester saw a big opportunity pass them by nine minutes into the second half as Hardy played Stephenson through with a nice pass but the forward saw his shot hit the side netting.
But they kept creating chances after this, and Stephenson twice caused problems from the right. His first cross was low and found Waring who saw his his shot deflected into the hands of the keeper. His second delivery was high and found the run of Hardy – and his header was tipped behind.
Darlo then had a promising spell in a second half that was turning this into a proper cup tie. George Smith’s dangerous cross was well turned behind by Simon Grand with Jake Cassidy trying to head home, before sub Andrew Nelson drilled an effort wide from the edge.
Both sides continued to battle late on but couldn’t find a breakthrough, as the game finished all square and means we require a replay in three days’ time.
CHESTER: Gray, Roberts, Williams, Grand, Askew, Weeks, Lacey, Hardy (Johnston 83), Dudley, Stephenson (Marsh-Hughes 79), Waring (Livesey 83).
SUBS NOT USED: Morgan, Clark, Lowe, Horsfield.