Send us your pictures, video, news and views by texting DST to 80360 or email us
Gray demands instant reaction from his team
AN immediate reaction and return to being defensively solid are Martin Gray's demands ahead of Darlington's visit to Lancaster today.
He is in the midst of arguably his most challenging spell so far as the club's manager, with the midweek FA Trophy defeat on penalties making it four games without a win.
Although by no means as lean a spell as some the club have endured in recent years, since the beginning of last season Quakers had not gone more than two matches without enjoying a victory.
A draw with Prescot Cables a fortnight ago heralded the beginning of dip in results and suddenly there are question marks beside parts of the team that do not appear as strong as last season.
While the step up in class from the Northern League has been a factor, the rebuilding of the defence and midfield remains a work in progress while Gray continues to wait for Nathan Fisher's international clearance.
Quakers are now third in the table and have conceded eight goals in their last five games, which is in contrast to four cleans sheets in their previous five fixtures.
"Come Saturday we've got to respond in the right way," said Gray. "That's what we walked about in the changing room after the game on Wednesday.
"We've got a good changing room. Okay, we lost on penalties which very disappointing, but we've got to get a reaction on Saturday.
"We need to get back to being a really solid outfit - hard to beat for 90 minutes.
"It's proven that when we are in form we are a very strong outfit, but we've got to put a solid performance in for 90 minutes."
Gray's fighting spirit is unquestioned, and he added: "You've got to show some desire, that's what life is about.
"You can either stay down after you've been kicked, or you get back up and respond. That's what I do every day of my life and I expect the same of my players."
Buxton won Wednesday's tie despite being 3-0 down at half-time, going on to defeat Darlington on penalties with youngsters Bruno Pilatos and Curtis Edwards missing from the spot for Gray's side.
Gray believes Darlington only had themselves to blame for losing.
He said: "Buxton had a rollicking at half-time, but we didn't start the half well at all. Had we started well we would've put them into a different mindset, because we didn't we gave them something to go for.
"They showed a bit of naveity. We had some young lads out there who maybe don't always understand the importance of winning and how to win a game.
"Without being disrespectful, at academy and under-21 level there's no real importance placed on winning, it's all about how well have I performed as an individual.
"Now they're at the business end and hopefully they'll learn from that quickly, they've got to."
While progression and prize money in the FA Trophy were a priority, Gray was relieved Wednesday's capitulation to Buxton did not come in the Evo-Stik First Division, where Darlington have lost ground on the leaders.
They are now five points behind leaders Warrington, while today's opposition Lancaster are sixth and two points adrift of Quakers.
"I'm pleased it wasn't a league game, said Gray. I said all along that I wanted to progress in the Trophy, but the league is our priority.
"Their manager didn't really want to come to us in midweek. He was desperate to get it out of the way last Saturday.
"The league is everybody's priority."
Quakers were last night hopeful that Fisher would receive the okay to play and the matter has become more pressing as Amar Purewal has been ruled out for at least a week with a groin injury.
In defence, left-back Paul Weldon remains sidelined with a knee problem.
Despite a limp second half display, Quakers could have avoided penalties had they been more clinical in front of goal.
Gray added: "Stephen Thompson had a great chance to make it 4-2 but the keeper made a great save, and a David Dowson shot hit Stevie Johnson on the way into the goal.
"And in extra time Curtis Edwards fizzed a ball across the box to Stevie at the back stick, that was half a chance. Disappointing.
"They were hurting after the game, which I'm pleased about. It was a very quiet changing room."
Comments are closed on this article.