9:00am Saturday 1st March 2014
By Craig Stoddart
Although sore from a midweek defeat that ended their 12-game unbeaten run, the title remains Darlington's ambition and they intend to start another winning run today.
They head to Padiham, near Burnley, having seen another Lancashire outfit end a run which stretched back to November.
Lancaster City's backs-to-the-wall approach worked. They restricted Darlington to shots from the edge of the area, most of which were blocked, and nabbed two goals on the break to win 2-0 at Heritage Park.
The defeat was Quakers' sixth of the season and it leaves them seven points off leaders Warrington, though it is second-placed Curzon Ashton who remain favourites.
They are only a point behind Warrington, who they hammered last weekend 5-1, with three games in hand and Darlington manager Martin Gray says the pressure is on Curzon to maintain their advantage.
"The top spot is there to be won and not until it's mathematically out of reach will we stop striving for it," said Gray, whose side host Curzon at Heritage Park this month.
"We've got to give it everything. Curzon are the team to beat. The pressure is on them to maintain it, we've got to focus on what we've got to do.
"We've had six defeats, which isn't bad considering we didn't have a team 18 months ago, and we've had a promotion since."
Curzon, who have lost only twice this season, play in midweek when none of the other sides involved in going for promotion will be in action.
Gray believes Quakers created more than enough chances to defeat play-off chasing Lancaster.
His team enjoyed the majority of possession, but Darren Peacock's Lancaster soaked up the pressure and scored towards the end of each half.
Gray said: "We need to put in the same effort, the same performance and create the same number of chances. We go into the game with confidence.
"If we continue to put that level of performance in we will win more than we lose.
"We created more chances than we have in most games we've played, it was just one of those days when it didn't go in for us, and goals change games. David Dowson had a one-on-one, Amar Purewal had a free header and put it over after a Stephen Harrison cross, Alan White had a header cleared off the line - they were clear chances.
"We also had a goal disallowed, Stephen Thompson had shots blocked and Rob Ramshaw had a shot which took a big deflection. So I was delighted we created so many chances against a good Lancaster side."
Darlington are looking for their tenth successive away league win today against a side fourth-bottom of the table.
Dowson sustained a cut leg on Wednesday but that should not keep him out of the action, so with no new injury worries, Quakers are likely to name an unchanged team.
Gary Brown made his first appearance of the season as a makeshift forward on Wednesday, the centre-back coming on for the latter stages.
"It was good to see Gary back on the pitch," added Gray. "Hopefully we'll build up his minutes over the next few weeks.
"We threw him on up front because we had to go direct and ask him to be a nuisance around people.
"It was my idea to put him up front, we had to go for it, hoping he could win headers and try to flick it on for us. Some days it goes for you, but it didn't for us."
Brown could be given the nod in his usual centre-back position when Alan White serves a two-match ban for collecting ten cautions. He misses the games at home to Cammell Laird on March 12 and at Northwich Victoria three days later.
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