10:32am Wednesday 19th March 2014
By Craig Stoddart
MARTIN GRAY has called for a bumper crowd and vociferous support for Darlington’s biggest game of the season this evening.
Promotion-chasing Quakers host top-of-the-table Curzon Ashton at Heritage Park, for a match which has been compared to the crucial fixture a year ago at Spennymoor Town.
Darlington won 3-1 at the Brewery Field in front of a 2,400 crowd, the majority of which were Quakers fans, for a game that put them in the driving seat for the Ebac Northern League title.
“It’s a massive game and we need a lot of support, like we had for the Spennymoor game, which was a big, big win for us,” said Gray, who hopes to make a signing in time for this evening’s match.
“We had a lot of support that night and we need the same against Curzon, a lot of noise because the players really respond to it.
“We’ve got six remaining home games, we want as many points as possible and we want to see as many people there creating a good atmosphere.”
Curzon, though, will remain favourites for automatic promotion even if Gray’s side take three points.
The Ashton-under-Lyne club have a game in hand and hold a healthy nine-point lead over Quakers, who dropped a place to third on Monday when Warrington Town won at New Mills.
“Curzon are favourites at this moment in time, no question about it,” added Gray. “They’re nine points ahead with a game in hand, so of course they’re favourites.
“We’ve got to make sure we put in a massive performance on Wednesday and that is what we’ll do.”
Having spent the past few months putting together a fantastic run of form, featuring 15 win in 18 matches, Darlington stumbled at the weekend when they could only draw at mid-table Northwich Victoria and lost ground on Curzon, who have conceded one goal in seven games.
Gray is out to keep Quakers’ achievements in perspective, however, pointing out that the club has been built from virtually scratch since the summer of 2012.
He said: “We’ve come a long way in a short space of time and sometimes you need to have a look at the bigger picture.
“Eighteen months ago we didn’t have a team – now we’re second in the league above. People expect us to win every week and I want to win more than anybody, but the reality is that we can’t win every game.
“We’ve taken the positives from Saturday’s game, it’s another point towards where we want to be.”
Only the top team goes up automatically from the Evo- Stik First Division, with a four-team play-off deciding the other promotion place.
The teams that end the campaign second and third have home advantage in onelegged semi-finals with the final at whichever team finished highest of the four in the play-offs.
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