With one pre-season friendly to go, Martin Gray is confident Darlington’s preparations for the new campaign are on track.
He saw a strong side beaten 1-0 at Whitby Town on Saturday, and although defeated the 90 minutes were an improvement on the underwhelming performance seven days previously when Quakers lost 2-1 at Billingham Synthonia.
Darlington’s season starts on August 16 at home to Warrington and they do not have a game on Saturday, though Gray says he will arrange one if required depending on his verdict on tomorrow evening’s match against Bishop Auckland at Heritage Park.
“Things are coming together,” said Gray, who gave a game to former Hartlepool United keeper Adam McGugh as both Mark Bell and Peter Jameson were unavailable.
“At the moment it’s about getting through pre-season and getting everybody minutes under their belt and I thought today was one of our better performances in pre-season in terms of performance. We had lots of possession and created lots of chances.
“They had one shot all game, one shot from a free-kick. We had chances, we had one cleared off the line. We were good in the final third and I was pleased with our performance.”
Whitby’s goalscorer was Craig Farrell, the striker slamming home a 27th minute free-kick after Jordan Robinson had fouled Lee Mason.
Darlington had edged proceedings until that point in a contest in which there was little between the teams, though McHugh had a quiet afternoon while Whitby keeper Shane Bland had a handful of routine saves to make.
David Dowson and Adam Mitchell were lively and both were involved in the build-up that led to Whitby captain Mark Robinson making a goal-line clearance to prevent Amar Purewal equalising within 120 seconds of Farrell’s free-kick.
Gray added: “It doesn’t make much difference in pre-season whether you’re playing a team from a division higher or a division lower, it’s about how you play, your attitude and how you go about things. From that point of view it was a good day.
“Our closing down was good and we created lots of chances. You always prefer to have taken your chances, but at least we’ve created them and come the start of the season we’ll convert them into goals.”
Midfielder Leon Scott made a welcome return for the final 13 minutes, playing his first football since the studs-up knee-high by Ramsbottom United left-back Owen Roberts which brought his play-off semi-final to an abrupt end in May.
Scott did not need an operation to overcome injury, but has required a period of physiotherapy over the past three months.
He almost crowned his return with a goal, his first touch seeing a shot go over the crossbar.
“It was good to get him back on the pitch and he nearly scored, he usually scores from there,” said Gray.
“It was great to see him back and he should be somewhere near come the start of the season.
“We always wanted to give him some minutes in a friendly. We didn’t know which friendly it would work out being, but we said that if today’s game was settled, if there were no tackles flying around, then we’d get him on.
“It worked well and hopefully that’s given him a lot of confidence.
“The physios have been good and he’s a really disciplined lad, he looks after himself well, so he gave himself every chance of getting back to fitness.
“We’ll get Tuesday out of the way first, hopefully he’ll play some more minutes and we’ll see how he is for the first game.”
Whitby Town: Bland, Hassan, Burgess, Bullock, Robinson, Brown (Banks 66), McTiernan (Taylor 66), Gardener (Waters 81), Mason (Dalton 59), Snaith (Bath 81), Farrell (Chamberlain 77). Sub (not used): Williams
Darlington: McHugh, Brown (Fisher 61), Hunter, Hatch, Galbraith, Mitchell, Portas, Robinson, Thompson (Hopson 61), Purewal, Dowson (Scott 77). Subs (not used): Provett (gk), Lovegreen