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Quakers on the way to earning Gray’s approval
After winning five of their opening six games it would be natural to assume that Darlington manager Martin Gray is satisfied with his team's start to the season.
Saturday's 4-0 win over Mossley took Quakers up to second, behind Curzon Ashton's 100 per cent record, with a goal tally of 17.
They could have topped the 20-goal mark had they not spurned so many chances in a game that Darlington dominated once they opened the scoring, Stephen Thompson making the breakthrough on 39 minutes.
His cool effort, passed into the net after an Andy Johnson pass, came not long after Mossley had been reduced to ten men and thereafter Quakers cruised home.
Gray, however, wants more. Pleased he may be, but not satisfied. The manager says there is more to come from his team, whose only blight remains the 4-2 defeat at Farsley.
He said: "We're making progress. We're getting there, but we're nowhere near our best yet, there's more to come.
"We've got to take control better and keep the ball better, rather than being so quick in wanting to get the ball from back to front. We did that in spells and we'll get better at that.
"It was an improvement on last week's performance. I'd have taken a 1-0, but we defended great as a team and we've got goals in our team and that showed.
"The important thing was to get a clean sheet. That was one thing that I stressed after last week's game, after we'd conceded six goals in two away games, we had to get back to a performance like at Bamber Bridge (3-0 win).
"It was what we asked for and what we worked on. If we do better in both boxes you've always got a chance."
Last week's performance, to which Gray referred, was the 3-2 win at Clitheroe, when the defence had been breached too easily and left Quakers 2-0 down at half-time.
On Saturday, however, with Alan White and Leon Scott together in the centre due to Jordan Robinson's unavailability, the defence appeared more resilient, especially so when Chris Hunter moved there due to a reshuffle caused by Paul Weldon's injury, and it was Darlington that led 2-0 at half-time.
There'd been little to separate the teams until Thompson's goal, a strike preceded by Kyle McGonigle being dismissed for stamping on Johnson directly in front of referee John Matthews, and soon afterwards Amar Purewal added his fifth in three games.
It was a tap-in after fine work by Thompson and Johnson, the latter recording his second assist of the day in the first match in which he has not netted since switching from Bishop Auckland.
"AJ could've been selfish in those positions but he set two goals up," said Gray.
Lowly Mossley did not look like mounting a fightback from 2-0 behind and going down to ten men, and they were not assisted by two enforced substitutions.
The second-half was a throwback to some of the emphatic displays of last season when Darlington often romped to three points with a glut of goals.
Except on Saturday they could muster only two more goals, but they were both beauties. Inside 60 seconds of one another David Dowson and Chris Moore both netted for the first time this season with very different, but equally fantastic, finishes.
Darlington’s Andy Johnson gets a toe to the ball during Darlington’s 4-0 win
Dowson's was a crafty back-heel on 70 minutes after meeting Thompson's low cross, and it was followed by Moore deftly lifting the ball over the keeper from the corner of the penalty area.
Dowson's was reminiscent of the England goal scored at the European Championships last year by Danny Welbeck, brother of Mossley's Wayne. However, Wayne endured a torrid afternoon that made it clear he will never partner his brother in attack for England.
"The goals were all good, especially the third," said Gray. "We switched play, Thompson got to the byline and then it was a fantastic finish, flicking it through his legs into the far corner.
"It was a great bit of play and a great finish from Chris Moore.
"I'm pleased for Chrissy and Dowson because they both needed a goal. It should given them that bit of confidence all players look for."
Terry Galbraith hit the crossbar with a free-kick and Purewal headed against the post, as well seeing keeper Russell Saunders save when the striker was through one-on-one.
Gray admitted: "The only disappointing thing was that we didn't score more and Amar is probably frustrated because he could've had four or five goals.
"He was one-on-one a couple of times and he hit the post, but it's not a problem because we've won 4-0."
The 1,133 crowd was also disappointing, another attendance less than last season's average, and Quakers will hope some stay-aways turn up this Saturday, when Harrogate RA visit Heritage Park.
* Darlington are at Harton & Westoe in the Durham Challenge Cup on Wednesday (7.45pm), but it will not be a strong side that Gray selects.
* Darlington's game at Cammell Laird, scheduled for September 28, will be rearranged as the Merseyside club will be playing in the FA Cup after beating Worksop Parramore in the first qualifying round.