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Quakers hit four to ease supporters’ concerns
Final Score: Newcastle Benfield 0 Darlington 4
It simply wouldn't be Darlington if there weren't occasionally hints of panic and being in the Northern League seemingly hasn't diminished their capacity for threatening to enter troubled waters.
Friday evening saw the unexpected departure of chairman Denis Pinnegar, following most of the board who have also stepped down lately.
The fact that his tenure, though much longer than initially planned, had come to a halt was met with confusion and alarm.
'Here we go again', was the immediate response of those who feared the worst.
The club explains that the move is all part of the process as the Community Interest Company become the majority shareholders.
But a chairman stepping down midway through a successful season without warning would be enough to concern any set of supporters, particularly those as battle-weary as Darlington's.
So it was against a backdrop of confusion and speculation that they went into Saturday's game at Newcastle Benfield with a sense of foreboding and needing something to cheer.
They got just that as their team strolled to a 4-0 win that was as comfortable as the scoreline suggests.
The hosts made a game of it for the first 20 minutes, but then David Dowson headed a ball into Amar Purewal's path to put Darlington ahead on 22 minutes and it was then business as usual.
"It's nothing to worry about. It's actually going to make things better for the club in the long run," said manager Martin Gray, on the off-the-field issues.
Information from the club is promised this week, which will offer more clarity on the club's immediate future.
Had there been clarity prior to Pinnegar's exit, however, supporters may not have been left justifiably anxious.
There was no anxiety among Gray's team as they had the game won by the break, when it was 3-0.
Man of the match Dowson set up the second, robbing keeper Jake Cunningham as he attempted to pick up the ball, before giving Stephen Thompson the chance to score.
Dowson got on the scoresheet when he coolly slotted home after collecting a Thompson pass for his 14th goal of the season.
"It was a great performance because Benfield have had some good form since Steve Bowey has come in as manager.
"So scoring four goals and getting a clean sheet is excellent," said Gray.
"All three goals in the first half were clinical, the finishing was very good. They were unselfish and put each other into good positions.
"Dowson's work-rate was outstanding again and he's in real good form. He's scoring most weeks and what he gives to the team sets an example for everyone else.
"The three goals killed the game off because it was flat after that.
"We said to the players at half-time to just get through the game and don't get involved in any collisions, there was no need to risk injury.
"They were told not to get sloppy, and they weren't. We could even have scored a couple more goals."
Purewal's strike was the team's 100th of the season and it made for a neat bit of symmetry as it was his brother, Arjun, now at Whitby, who got the first back in August.
A major factor in the century of goals has been an ability to consistently find the net and away from home they have 59 in 18 fixtures.
They had to wait for the fourth until injury-time at the end of a bland second period as Quakers coasted along in second gear.
One of the more entertaining moments was the sight of Benfield's Kevin Leighton being given the run around by a cat that briefly delayed the restart.
The half amounted to little more than a training exercise for Darlington, for whom Steven Johnson had the last word in injury time, collecting Stephen Harrison's long-ball and deftly lobbing Cunningham.
Benfield player-boss Steve Bowey had no regrets about not playing for a point, which is what Darlington's previous opponents, Penrith, were almost successful in doing.
"My philosophy is that you've got to try and win every game," said the veteran former Gateshead striker.
"I've been in the game long enough now and I will never sit back, you've got to take the game to the opposition.
"If you sit back, nine times out of ten your opposition will score eventually, so you've got to push up, squeeze the game and hopefully take your opportunities.
"This was a big test and I thought the lads did well in spells. Mistakes cost you, though, and we gave sloppy goals away.
"Darlington's first goal was a simple goal, but a top team like Darlington will punish you because they've got some great players."