8:00am Monday 9th December 2013
By Craig Stoddart
With form for beating the league leaders in their own backyard, perhaps it was not such a surprise that Darlington were able to win at Warrington Town in such style on Saturday.
Last season Quakers showed what they were made of with a 3-1 win at Spennymoor Town and on Saturday made their mark again, this time trouncing top-of-the-table Warrington 4-1.
Not since the Stone Roses announced they would play a surprise comeback gig at Warrington's Parr Hall in May 2012 has there been a such a shock.
The Wire had become accustomed to not losing. After losing the first two fixtures of the season, one of them to Darlington, they had built a 17-game undefeated run in the league.
So a draw would not have been a bad result for Quakers, yet they made Shaun Reid's side look ordinary and the gulf between the teams' respective performances was as big a surprise as the scoreline.
Warrington's only chance of note resulted in an injury-time consolation goal, because in the preceding 90 minutes Quakers had been comfortably in control, scoring twice in each half with David Dowson and Amar Purewal each bagging a brace.
"It was a big performance. We knew that we had to come here and put in a big performance and we did that from start to finish. We dominated the game," said Quakers boss Martin Gray, who made no changes from the XI that won at Mossley last week.
"We knew what they are about because we've had them watched a few times, so the work that goes in has been proven worthwhile.
"They're very physical, they're very direct and they have their style of play.
"I spoke to their manager before the game and he made it very clear what they are about. Everyone's got their own style."
Reid's style appears to be nothing short of aggressive.
Before the game, while the hosts waited for Darlington to emerge from the changing rooms, Reid was heard at the side of the pitch geeing up his team, requesting that his players conduct themselves during the game in a nasty and horrible manner. His brother Peter, who was in attendance, would have been proud.
Presumably this was intended to intimidate Darlington. It's going to take a lot more than a spot of industrial language to scare Quakers, and Gray praised the dominant performance of his midfield trio.
He said: "The pitch was heavy going, they are at this time of the season, but the energy in midfield from Jonny Davis, Jordan Robinson and Leon Scott was brilliant. We outmuscled them and didn't give them a minute on the ball - we were men in there today."
The only thing nasty about Reid's team was the mistake by goalkeeper Josh Cook when he allowed Dowson's shot to trickle under his arm to give Darlington a 20th minute lead.
After Scott won the ball in midfield, Stephen Thompson played a through-ball and Dowson found himself one-on-one and although his shot lacked power, Cook made a hash of the save.
And Dowson doubled his tally six minutes later with a lovely goal, teed up by Davis.
With one manoeuvre, the striker cut inside from the right with a beautiful touch to bring under control then rifled the ball home.
With the defence looking strong, for the remainder of the half Darlington were untroubled with Warrington's closest chance coming two minutes before the break when Ashley Ruane rifled the ball across goal.
Warrington made two changes at the break, but it made little difference and Quakers extended their lead on the hour with Purewal powerfully heading home after meeting a cracking cross by Terry Galbraith, which was one of several deadly deliveries he was responsible for.
Three goals to the good, Gray sent on Dale Hopson and Nathan Fisher as Quakers coasted to the victory, while there was surprisingly little fight from Warrington, who looked anything but a team capable of going 17 games unbeaten.
Darlington won 2-0 when the teams met in August, and they doubled that scoreline when Purewal added another on 81 minutes, making it 4-0 with his second header after a fine delivery by Thompson and good work by Fisher.
Warrington pulled one back in injury time when Ciaran Kilheney lashed home after finding space in the penalty area having received a pass from Craig Robinson in midfield, but the goal could not take the shine off a performance to be proud of.
It was the Darlington's fourth win in a row and while they remain fifth, the hope now is that such form will continue for the remainder of the campaign. They'll certainly believe they can, after all, it was at this stage last season that they began a second coming.
"Warrington are no mugs," added Gray. "You've got to be respectful because they've done a great job, but today is about us and we've done a great job.
"It might send a message to the rest of the league, especially with the scoreline being what it was, but it's only one game. It was an important game, but we move on to the next game now."
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