9:00am Saturday 8th March 2014
By Craig Stoddart
Darlington should know by the end of the month whether it is to be automatic promotion or the play-offs as their schedule is about to increase dramatically.
Last week's 2-0 win at Padiham continued Quakers' trend this season of winning their first league game of the month - and they could do with achieving a further seven wins in March to keep up with leaders Curzon Ashton, whose win at Burscough on Tuesday saw them open a nine-point advantage over fourth-placed Quakers with a game in hand.
The sides meet at Heritage Park on March 19, part of a congested period that sees Darlington play three Wednesday evening fixtures at the venue.
The midweek matches, all rearranged after being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch, are part of a glut of games in which the promotion hopefuls will be away from home on three successive Saturdays, starting next weekend at Northwich Victoria.
First up are two matches at Heritage Park, New Mills today followed by Cammell Laird on Wednesday, and with the opposition 17th and tenth respectively, Darlington will be expected to maintain the form which has seen them win 12 of their last 14 matches.
Curzon, though, are on an almost equally impressive run, and Quakers striker Nathan Fisher admitted: "It's frustrating when the teams around us haven't been dropping points, but Curzon are the main threat now and they are not dropping points at all. They're on a run like we are.
"They've got a few teams at the top to play and we've only got a couple of those fixtures, so hopefully they won't win all of those games.
"They will be massive games for us but the lads are confident."
Curzon are proving difficult to catch. While Darlington have taken 37 points from the last 42 available, in the same period Curzon have earned 34 points.
"As soon as we finish one of the lads will get their phone out to see how Curzon have got on," added Fisher. "I wasn't here last year, but the lads say that's how it was when they were chasing the title with Spennymoor. Everyone wants the same thing, everyone wants promotion.
"It just feels like Curzon are doing exactly what we're doing and winning most games."
It was against New Mills and Cammell Laird that Fisher scored his first two league goals for Darlington and he hopes for a repeat performance - if given the opportunity.
He has had to be patient while waiting for a run in the side, with David Dowson, Amar Purewal and Stephen Thompson all being regular scorers in the division's second most prolific team.
Quakers have hit the net 73 times - only Ramsbottom, on 87, have scored more - so Fisher has few complaints about manager Martin Gray's decision to continually select him as a substitute.
Fisher, however, came off the bench to net the second goal seven days ago and he said: "Every player wants to play so it's frustrating, but when the lads are doing so well and the strikers are scoring goals for fun, I've just got to bide my time.
"I haven't really spoken to the manager about it because the lads have been winning. If we'd been losing and I wasn't playing that would be a different story, but that's not the case and it's like any level of football, you've just got to wait for your chance.
"When I first came to the club I was nowhere near fit or sharp. I'm getting there, but there's a difference between training and games."
Fisher replaced Dowson, who limped off with a slight hamstring strain, having put Quakers ahead with his 12th league goal.
Fisher added: "I don't know what the extent of his injury is, but if he is out then hopefully that will be my chance.
"I've scored six, which isn't bad, but I'd like to have a few more. I've hardly played, to be fair."
Rob Ramshaw's loan from Gateshead has expired and he will be replaced in midfield by Leon Scott.
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