9:00am Monday 3rd March 2014
By Craig Stoddart
Full-time: Padiham 0 Darlington 2
Having now strung together ten successive league wins on the road, perhaps Darlington will begin to wish they did not have so many matches remaining on home soil.
The perfect ten was completed at Padiham on Saturday, despite an unconvincing performance in which Darlington were never at their best. They did enough to secure a 2-0 win, turning up the heat on their promotion rivals.
Some results elsewhere went in their favour and Quakers need teams around them to continue to falter. Curzon Ashton tripping up for once would be most welcome.
The new leaders have lost only twice and it was they who inflicted Darlington's last defeat away from home back in October.
Martin Gray's men have since been unstoppable in their excursions away from the North-East. In their last ten away matches they have taken 30 points, scored 32 goals and conceded only six times.
But there are only four more road trips to come with the visit of New Mills this weekend being the first of nine matches at Heritage Park, where Darlington have won just four of their last ten league games, one of which was Wednesday's defeat to Lancaster City.
Gray maintains his team did enough to win that match and thought Saturday's display in Lancashire, despite the result, was less impressive.
He said: "I thought we deserved to win in midweek. The performance was good enough to have won and today we didn't play as well as we did against Lancaster, but you can't expect the lads to play well in every game.
"You've got to give Padiham credit. They've just been promoted into this league and they've got a lot of young lads.
"It's one of the longer journeys and we've played a team who worked hard, they made it difficult for us. They stood up against us and caused one or two problems. Their front men and wingers were quite lively and they had a foothold in the game.
"But our back four, especially Alan White and Chris Hunter, put in big performances, and Mark Bell came for every cross."
The defence stood firm for the most part, while left-back Terry Galbraith had a hand in both goals.
On 14 minutes his long pass was collected by David Dowson, who shrugged off burly centre-back Jack Overson before chipping goalkeeper Sean Davis to make it 1-0.
It was probably his finest goal this season, though his day was cut short due to a hamstring strain and he was replaced by Nathan Fisher, who went on to grab the second.
It is hoped Dowson's injury is not too serious, especially given that he's in good form. Saturday's strike took his league tally to 12 - eight coming in the last 11 fixtures.
"It was a great ball from Galbraith and a nice turn by Dows," said Gray. "He had a lot of work and managed to chip the keeper at an angle. He had a defender on him too, so that was a great finish and an important goal."
Important because it prevented Padiham from gaining a foothold in the game. As has often been the case, teams lower down the table provide stubborn resistance and make Quakers work for their victory.
Hunter had a header cleared off the line by right-back Ashley Carter, though most attacks broke down on the edge of the Padiham penalty area.
Darlington were untroubled until the beginning of the second half when the hosts piled forward.
Bell had to produce smart saves to stop Danny Boyle and Louis Mayers.
Nathan Fisher came off the substitutes’ bench on Saturday and scored his fifth league goal for Darlington
Quakers looked shaky, the 1-0 lead precarious and too many of the team were having an off day.
Little came off for the out-of-sorts Stephen Thompson, while Dale Hopson's confidence drained away with every misplaced pass.
His replacement, Leon Scott, soon firmed up the midfield and not long after his introduction it became 2-0.
Galbraith floated in a free-kick, White knocked it back across and Fisher slammed home his fifth league goal.
Gray added: "We stuck to our task and the longer the game went on, the better we looked. We made a couple of substitutions that gave us more strength and power.
"Leon Scott gave us strength and power in midfield and it was nice to see him back involved. Fisher held the ball up and got an important goal for himself.
"We needed three points and a clean sheet - they were the two things we asked for before the game."
Gray confirmed that Ramshaw's one-month loan from Gateshead is over and the Tyneside club want him back at the International Stadium.
Joe Tait, also on loan from Gateshead, has not been in the squad for the last two matches and his future is unclear.
Gray added: "The games are coming thick and fast. This is a free midweek and after that it gets really busy. We've got to make sure we keep everybody together.
"The players who have been on the bench - Jonny Davis, Nathan Fisher, Gary Brown - it's important that we stay together because it's about the team as a squad. It's important to keep that ethic because that's how players will give their all for you."
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