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Gray puts Quakers’ loss into perspective
Darlington's flying start to the season may have ended in abrupt fashion, but Martin Gray has praised his players rather than rebuke them.
They lost 4-1 on Wednesday at Guisborough Town, a team who were in the bottom half of the division having previously lost 6-0 to both Spennymoor and Shildon, and were second favourites against a Quakers team who had won their four opening matches.
While Guisborough deserved the points, Gray has put the poor performance into perspective.
"It's been a great start to the season," he said. "We've had around 15 games so far with the first team, including pre-season, and Wednesday was our first defeat. So if you look at it overall, we've had a good start.
"Wednesday was very disappointing, but it happens in football and you've got to put it behind you.
"We did expect to win. You look at their previous results, when they'd lost by six goals to Shildon and Spennymoor, but we didn't turn up. We let ourselves down and we let the fans down.
"We've had five competitive games now and as you go along you see things need to be better, but don't forget that this is a brand new squad. Eighteen players have come together and we're trying to formulate a team.
"They deserve a lot of credit because up until Wednesday they've been great. They didn't know each other until three months ago, but they've come a long way together."
Until Wednesday, Quakers were unbeaten in their first four league games, something they had not managed at the beginning of a season since 2007-08 when they also suffered a shock result early on.
They lost 5-1 at Hereford, despite going into the match third in the table having conceded only five times in 13 games.
But Quakers quickly recovered, winning their next five league games and Gray will hope for a similar return to form with three successive games at Heritage Park.
"Expectations are high, but maybe Wednesday's result brought us back down to earth a bit, myself included," said Gray.
"I won't accept again what happened. I've looked at everybody involved, I look at myself as manager as well as the players.
"It's not just about how you play, it's about desire and attitude and mentality. Ours had been great up until Wednesday, so I'm not going to a big issue of it because sooner or later we were going to lose a game.
"I didn't expect to lose on Wednesday and didn't expect to lose in the manner that we did, but it has happened and we won't accept it anymore. We had the players in on Thursday, we had a good two-hour meeting with them and had a good chat about things.
"It was a good team bonding exercise and we talked about plans for Saturday against Consett."
Gray spent yesterday in talks with potential signings. He is keen to bring in forwards Jamie Owens from Billingham Town and Stephen Thomas from Durham City, with the latter involving a small fee if he moves.
The manager added: "You're always trying to strengthen your squad. Anybody that has ambition and drive, like we have at this club, is looking at what you can do better on the pitch.
"We've been busy on the phone and hopefully we can get some business done before Saturday.
"The chairman's been fantastic in getting out and meeting people, so hopefully we can see some movement in the next two or three days."
With West Auckland and Spennymoor, in first and second position respectively, on FA Cup duty today, completing the double over Consett would take Quakers back to the top of the table.
Consett have Carl Piecha, Ryan Bell, Anthony Lund, Andy Cuthbertson and Gavin Ross injured, while Scott Martindale and Luke Olabode are unavailable.
* Darlington's Durham Challenge Cup tie at Hebburn has been arranged for Tuesday, September 18.