THE lowest crowd of the season were in attendance and those that stayed at home to watch England beat Brazil did not miss much as Darlington made hard work of beating Hebburn on Wednesday.
On a bitterly cold night, David Dowson put Quakers ahead early on and it looked likely to become a goal glut that would have warmed up the 789 crowd.
But the flurry of chances dried up as stubborn Hebburn, despite going down to ten men midway through the second half, made Martin Gray’s side work hard for their victory, which followed the 5-0 win at Marske at the weekend.
While admitting his team missed the opportunity to add to their goal tally, Gray was pleased with a performance, which sees Quakers move 12 points clear of second place, though Spennymoor Town have six games in hand.
“It was a similar performance to Saturday when we won 5-0 at Marske, the difference being that we took our chances early against Marske,” said the manager, whose team play Hebburn again on Saturday in South Tyneside.
“Tonight, we needed that second goal. It didn’t come, but it wasn’t for a lack of chances, we created so many through our positive attacking play.
“Overall it’s the points that matter and it’s another three going towards what we want to achieve.”
Darlington had not played at Heritage Park for seven weeks, however, they did not have to wait long for their first goal, Dowson firing home after a neat pass by former Hebburn midfielder Jonny Davis.
He saw a penalty saved on Saturday by Marske’s Ollie West, but Hebburn’s Daniel Regan was given no chance as the striker blasted his 11th of the season.
Regan was to feature regularly, thanks in part to shaky Hebburn defending, as the visitors had to retreat into their own penalty area.
Two Regan saves in as many minutes kept his side in the game.
He stopped Stephen Harrison’s chip to the far post after being played in by Adam Nicholls, and then Nicholls was denied by the keeper from close range.
Although Quakers looked composed and in control, they were wasteful in front of goal.
Amar Purewal was a case in point, unable to find the target when shooting from 18 yards.
The profligacy was not a major concern while Darlington’s defence held firm.
Keeper Mark Bell was well protected during what was his fifth clean sheet in six games.
Hebburn’s Wayne Gredziak, who joined yesterday from Northallerton, and Aaron Croft both tried their luck from distance.
But the second goal that Darlington threatened just wouldn’t come. Thompson headed into Regan’s hands, Dowson fired over and Nicholls had a shot blocked by a resolute Hebburn rearguard.