8:00am Friday 22nd November 2013
By Craig Stoddart
Stephen Thompson has been handed the freedom of Darlington and hopes to use it to good effect when Quakers return to Heritage Park tomorrow.
Martin Gray has deployed a new formation in recent games, one that sees Thompson handed a free role behind two strikers and he will be in the same position this weekend when Ossett Town visit the North-East.
The new set-up worked to good effect last Saturday when Darlington enjoyed one of their most convincing performances of the season, a 3-0 win at New Mills, with Thompson scoring twice to take his goal tally to eight this campaign.
He also had a hand in the third goal, teeing up Nathan Fisher, to seal a much-needed result that came following two consecutive losses in the league.
Gray also tested the new shape in a 5-1 cup win over Blyth Spartans nine days ago, which means Quakers have scored eight goals in their past two games.
"The formation is four at the back, three in the middle and then me floating about," said Thompson, Darlington's player of the year last season. "It suits me, it's what I like doing as long as I get on the ball.
"Sometimes in that position you can end up with someone man marking to do a job on you.
"But against Blyth and last week it worked, so it's so far so good.
"It's hard for the three midfield lads because they've got to keep their shape and that means a lot of running around. There's a lot of running for the forwards to keep stretching the defence which creates the gaps for me.
"If I can get the ball I can try to pass to someone in position or score a goal.
"We had a few dodgy results, but we stuck to our game-plan last Saturday and did well. If we keep doing that we'll be laughing."
Thompson might have completed a treble against New Mills had Fisher laid the ball off instead of opting to shoot and score his third goal for the club.
Thompson, though, was not too upset, saying: "I gave the ball to Fish and I thought he was going to give it back, but he's the same as me, he's a forward, so in and around the box he's not going to pass.
"I scored a hat-trick last year against RCA at home. It'd be nice to score another this year."
Due to work commitments, Thompson was not available for Wednesday's friendly with Sunderland, which was postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, but he will start tomorrow as Quakers aim to build on last week's result.
A run of disappointing results mean that Darlington have not won a league game at Heritage Park since October 2, when they put seven past Ossett Albion.
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