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Darlington planning to smarten up their act
A factor in Darlington's promotion push has been Martin Gray's professional approach, and his philosophy has now spread to how his players are dressed when turning up for games.
Starting with today's game with Guisborough Town, Quakers will be wearing their new club suits when arriving for home fixtures after an association with a local company was formed.
Although an unusual step in the Northern League, Gray feels it necessary that players portray themselves in a professional manner, which in theory will have an impact on their attitude during games.
"For me, it's no different to how it was when Darlington were full-time or when I was at Sunderland," said Gray.
"When you go to a game, I don't care whether you're in the Northern League or not, if you've got a suit on you feel as though you're professional and are going to work so you've got the right attitude.
"That's what I'm about and that's what I want the club to be about. If it wasn't, I wouldn't be here."
The suits have been supplied by Just Perfect of Durham, and Gray added: "The players have bought the suits themselves and that'll be the policy whenever new players sign for us, from their first wage packet the suit will be deducted.
"Simon Godding (of Just Perfect) has helped us out massively with the cost, he couldn't have done them any cheaper. But he's a big Darlington fan and he's happy to help the club. It's nice to see someone local step up and do something to help the club."
Godding said: "I have been supporting Darlington for almost 30 years and to have the chance to work with the club is an honour and I am extremely impressed with the way everyone connected with the club has brought it back to life."
Gray may hope that wearing a suit will have an impact on his players' attitude, but there was little wrong with their mindset as they romped to a 6-1 win over bottom-of-the-table Norton on Wednesday.
The goal Quakers conceded, however, irked Gray and he knows such a slip cannot be afforded against Guisborough, who held Spennymoor to a 2-2 draw on Thursday.
"The performance was comfortable," said the manager, who will restore Stephen Thompson to the line-up after serving a suspension in midweek. "I was disappointed with the goal we conceded.
"It put a bit of a dampener on the evening - you'd prefer to win 6-0, not 6-1.
"It was a lack of concentration and communication. That's not us and the players know that."
The goal was the 30th Quakers have conceded in their 34 games, but at the other end they took their tally for home goals to 50, with Stephen Harrison netting another goal of the season contender.
The right-back executed a volley from the edge of the penalty area, which was every bit as good as a belter scored against Whitley Bay on November 3 - Quakers' last Saturday home game.
Gray said: "He's scored some fantastic goals this season, but that one on Wednesday was excellent. The technique needed to do itâ€¦
"I think it was with the side of his foot. What a fantastic finish - if you'd seen that on Match of the Day it would've been challenging for goal of the month - but it won't be!
"It would have been nice to score goals on the night, you always want more.
"The finishing has been great. That's 109 goals now, we do score a few because we are an attacking team."
It was Guisborough, however, who were the more attack-minded when the teams met in September when Chris Hardy's side won 4-1 and inflicted Quakers' first defeat of the season.
Six of Darlington's starting XI that night are no longer with the club and captain Gary Brown was unavailable.
Similarly, Michael Roberts and Nathan Steele, Guisborough's scorers on Thursday, did not play against Darlington.
Hardy said: "It is game that we will go into confident after a well-earned point against Spennymoor.
"With an injury list that continues to grow this will not help our cause, knowing that only a high level of performance would give us a chance of getting any type of result on the day, against a side with quality running through it from 1-16."
Joe Tait will return at the centre of Darlington's defence today, but Guisborough have several injury concerns.
First-choice keeper Ben Escritt, plus outfield players Gary Wood, Lewis Wood, Liam McPhillips, Mikey Roberts, Craig Bishop, Austin Johnson, Liam O'Sullivan and Mark Casey are all carrying injuries, but several of those were also missing versus Spennymoor.