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Quakers respond to Gray’s demands
An immediate response to last week's humbling at Guisborough Town is what Martin Gray demanded of his Darlington players. Fifteen seconds was all it took to atone for their midweek mauling.
They laboured their way through an abject performance at Guisborough, but teams with promotion aspirations can't afford 4-1 defeats so Gray challenged his players to quickly return to winning ways.
Their response came in the form of the quickest goal in the club's history, which set the club up for a 5-0 win over Consett on Saturday that takes Quakers back to the top of the table.
Amar Purewal got it, breaking into the penalty area after collecting a long pass by right-back Stephen Harrison and burying a shot across the 18-yard box to give Quakers a fantastic start and put himself in the record books.
"We asked for a response and you can't get a much better response than scoring after 15 seconds," beamed Gray, who started with Purewal up front rather than left-wing for the first time.
"They were told to start the game well, although I didn't expect them to start that well! But it was a great start and it went on from there.
"Credit goes to all of the team because they responded and that was the biggest message to the players. It was all about how they reacted to Wednesday, that was the most important thing."
It's testament to Gray's management and the character of his players that they were able to immediately return to the form shown pre-Guisborough.
The contest was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests, a stroll in the sunshine at Heritage Park where Quakers have now won their three home games 3-0, 4-0 and 5-0.
Copper-topped keeper Jack Norton was more likely to be sunburnt than beaten by a blunt Consett who had trouble getting beyond Quakers' back-line.
Darlington were largely in control throughout a first half in which new centre-back Joe Tait instantly provided the leadership and vocal command that was missing at Guisborough due to Gary Brown's Las Vegas jaunt.
Tait signed on Friday having been on trial in pre-season and before the break blocked an effort from Consett striker Michael Mackay shortly before 1-0 became 3-0. Two goals in three minutes from David Dowson; the first after a Chris Emms pass was guided past the onrushing keeper from outside the penalty area, the second a close-range finish after neat footwork by winger Adam Nicholls.
Consett boss Kenny Lindoe has seen his team concede 13 goals in losing their past four league games - one being a 3-0 defeat to Darlington a fortnight ago - and he lamented his team's defending.
"Giving a goal away inside the first 30 seconds is pressing the self-destruct button," he said.
"We weathered the storm a bit and created a few opportunities, but we didn't even test Jack Norton.
"The killer goal was the second one where when we were on the attack, but gave the ball away, Darlington broke away and we didn't defend very well.
"The third goal was a bit scrappy, but we didn't defend that very well, we should have just put the ball out of the ground."
The fourth goal was not only the most impressive of the day, but also the best of Darlington's 19 in their six Northern League games.
Nicholls was again the provider. As Darlington countered, he played a cross-field pass into the feet of Emms who had to take a touch, but instead he hit a cheeky chip from 16 yards and Peter Jameson could only watch as the ball arched over his head and into the net for 4-0.
The keeper could have been picking the ball out of his net again, but Darlington relented, satisfied instead to play keep-ball.
Norton had to get down low to save a Mackay effort as well as push away a Stephen Call shot from a tight angle, but the final say went to Darlington with Nicholls providing his third assist of the day.
He played a ball into the penalty area where Shaun Reay's immaculate first touch enabled the substitute to round Jameson in the 81st minute.
Notching his sixth goal in as many games was Reay's own response to Gray dropping him.
"That's Shaun for you," said Gray. "Put the ball in the box and he'll score for you."
*Darlington last night announced that Stephen Thompson has joined from Durham City. A nominal fee is understood to have been agreed for the forward.