8:00am Friday 17th January 2014
By Craig Stoddart
AFTER winning their last six games on the road, Martin Gray knows Darlington need a continuation of their fine away form to maintain the pressure on fellow promotion pacesetters.
Gray's side go to bottom-of-the-table Ossett Albion tomorrow in good heart having taken 25 of the last 27 points available.
Last weekend's 2-0 win at Harrogate RA represented the club's eighth victory in their past nine league fixtures, but the equally impressive form in recent weeks of the teams above them means that Quakers have risen only from sixth to fourth and remain nine points off the top.
The last 24 league results of the current top four combined - Curzon Ashton, Warrington, Farsley and Darlington - feature 20 victories.
At least one those four will not win at the weekend as Curzon host second-placed Warrington.
At the same time, Darlington face a team they have already beaten 7-0 this season and Gray is aware of the need to maintain momentum.
He said: "We've had some big wins recently. In the build-up to Christmas we beat two of the teams that were above us at the time - Warrington and Bamber Bridge - which sent out a strong message, but these are the ones, like Harrogate and Ossett, that can catch you out.
"That's when having the right mentality is important, not taking your foot off the pedal no matter who the opposition is. I demand that approach from the players, they know what I'm about and they always give 100 per cent.
"That's what pleased me most on Saturday, the mentality of the players. We had to to grind it out and the quality shone through."
Quakers hope for a less challenging playing surface tomorrow in comparison to Harrogate RA's pitch last Saturday, one that defender Joe Tait later described as "like playing on a travelator".
"The playing surface wasn't great at all, it was really heavy going," said Gray. "We had to do our warm-up off the pitch on a piece of grass behind the goal, so that tells you how bad the pitch was.
"In those circumstances, the players were fantastic. It was a workmanlike performance and it could have been a lot more comfortable - their keeper made some great saves, we kept another clean sheet and we weren't really troubled.
"On a pitch like that you're not going to get chance to get the ball down and pass it through them. You've got to win your battles and play the game the ugly way.
"We've got good footballers in our team, but you can't always play the way you'd like to because of the conditions. We had to be men, we had to make them telling headers, big blocks and tackles."
Ossett Albion have won only three of their 26 league fixtures, the most recent being a 2-0 success last weekend at Clitheroe.
The fixture was unique for the West Yorkshire club because when Adam Rhodes returned from injury he became their fifth different goalkeeper in as many competitive games.
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