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Thompson urges Quakers to match rivals’ desire
The only way to combat an opposition team raising their game when they face Darlington is to do likewise, believes Quakers' Stephen Thompson.
The talismanic forward will retain his position as a permanent fixture in the side for today's visit to South Shields.
Due to last weekend's postponement, Quakers have not played since their Boxing Day win at Norton & Stockton Ancients, but they return to action still top of the table and seven points clear of Spennymoor Town.
That gap would have been greater were it not for a small number of shock results at the hands of some of the division's lesser lights: Guisborough Town, Team Northumbria and Newton Aycliffe have all claimed Quakers' scalp.
Norton could have added their name to that list as they twice held the lead before Darlington completed a 4-2 win.
Thompson, on the scoresheet that day, believes Darlington must also up their game if they are to overcome opposition relishing their 'cup final' with Quakers.
Ahead of today's trip to bottom-of-the-table South Shields, he said: "Against Norton we were away from home and there were 1,000 fans there - no teams in this league ever play in front of that many people.
"The other teams get excited about playing us, they'll think about it for days beforehand and about the big crowd. It's their cup final and we've just got to make sure that it's our cup final as well.
"It's everyone's cup final when we play them so it's tough, but the lads are sticking together.
"At Norton we showed good character to keep on going, especially when we went 2-1 down at the start of the second half.
"We had to stay positive, keep going and believe that we could win.
"We'd gone 1-0 down in the first half, but I kept thinking that if we got a goal before half-time we'd kick on from there. We equalised in the end, so at half-time we said we'll keep going and we'll get the goals we need.
"So when we went 2-1 down it was a kick in the teeth, but the lads kept going and we got our rewards in the end.
"Teams play us and it is massive for them. We've got to make sure it's massive for us too. Every game for the rest of the season is crucial if we're going to win the league.
"We wanted maximum points from the Christmas period, in fact we need maximum points for the rest of the season."
Spennymoor's five games in hand make them favourites for the Northern League title.
A draw between the sides a week before Christmas, as well as wins over Durham and Norton, have helped Darlington recover from back-to-back defeats to Team Northumbria and Newton Aycliffe.
"When we went on that unbeaten run - 13 wins in a row - we were going into games never even thinking that we could lose," added Thompson.
"We've been conceding a few goals and not taking the chances we were at the start of the season.
"I hope we get back to scoring four or five goals a game.
"We're still creating chances, we've just not been taking them and that's down to me and everyone else in the team.
"But I know for a fact that if we keep creating chances then the goals will come again."
Steven Johnson will travel to Filtrona Park and may be on the bench today.
The striker has not played since October due to injury, but he reported no problems after coming through training this week.
Craig Turns is "a week away", according to manager Martin Gray, following his dislocated shoulder.
Craig Gott is certain to play after recovering from an ankle knock.
South Shields have won only three of their 22 games and have conceded 74 goals, though they lost by only a single goal to Darlington at Heritage Park in October.
* Darlington do not have a game next weekend, so today's match is their last until Wednesday, January 16 when Norton travel to Heritage Park.