DARLINGTON passed a test of character to keep their winning run going in testing conditions at Kendal Town.
The game passed a mid-morning pitch inspection, but was played in dreadful conditions with a freezing temperatures, horizontal rain and a strong wind, yet Quakers battled back from going a goal down to win 5-1.
It was 1-1 at the break with Amar Purewal equalising and in the second half goals by Stephen Thompson, Jordan Robinson and two from Dale Hopson completed the rout – Quakers’ tenth win in 11 games.
They have also scored 39 goals in that run, putting them in good shape ahead of next Saturday’s crunch clash with Curzon Ashton at Heritage Park.
Kendal hit the bar early on after a long punt up field that had been flicked on, goalkeeper Mark Bell was too slow off his line and Danny Mitchley beat him to the ball, but his chip rebounded off the bar and Alan White headed the loose ball away.
But that chance proved to be an early warning as Kendal went 1-0 up with a 16th minute penalty scored by Warren Beattie awarded after a handball by Joe Tait.
His arm struck the ball following a corner and although Bell almost saved the kick, the ball span off his hands and crawled over the line.
The goal was Kendal’s first successful penalty in six attempts.
Darlington battled to get back into the game in what were awful conditions for both teams, although Kendal had a substantial wind at their backs.
Rob Ramshaw was in the starting XI after joining on loan from Gateshead and he helped earn Quakers’ first corner with a marvellous cross into the danger area.
The midfield player also had a shot, although not with full force, from outside the penalty area that was gathered at the second attempt by keeper Danny MacDonald.
Darlington kept pressing and eventually equalised in the 30th minute with Purewal’s 18th goal of the season, a back-post header following Stephen Harrison’s cross.
Referee Bernard Law earned some praise for playing on, despite Kendal’s Maison McGeechan claiming to be injured and wanting the game stopped. McGeechan was able to continue playing at the restart and did not treatment.
However, the referee lost some brownie points soon after the goal by not awarding a penalty when David Dowson was in goal. Dowson was booked for his vigorous protests.
Kendal’s Danny Coid, a former Football League player with Blackpool, flashed a drive wide of Quakers’ goal just before the break.
The second half began with two saves by Kendal keeper MacDonald, the first a cracker. He leapt to his right to palm away Thompson’s dinked effort on 54 minutes.
The another chance came Darlington’s way, Dowson shot pushed wide by the keeper after a Thompson through-ball.
With the score level came the first change for Darlington, Joe Tait replaced by the more attack-minded Hopson on.
And just as it was turning into a bit of a struggle for Quakers, the scrap being equally fought, up popped Thompson to score yet another long-range goal, his 21st strike in all competitions this season.
Bell’s clearance was chested down by Purewal into Thompson's path and the play-maker did the rest.
Quakers were given some security on 81 minutes with a third goal, Robinson netting his first goal for the club.
After Thompson’s searching pass found Hopson, the substitute rode a couple of challenges inside the penalty area before being tackled and although there were penalty appeals, Robinson picked up the loose ball and rifled home.
There was no let-up from Darlington, who refused to let Kendal off the hook and they added two more goals in the closing stages.
Hopson added the fourth on 86 minutes, running away from the Kendal defence through the centre of the pitch to confidently dispatch beyond the keeper.
The fifth was also scored by Hopson, tapping into an empty net following a pass by Purewal in the penalty area.
Goals: Beattie pen (16, 1-0); Purewal (30, 1-1), Thompson (71, 1-2), Robinson (81, 1-3), Hopson (86, 1-4), Hopson (90, 1-5)
Bookings: Tait (15, handball), Dowson (32, dissent), Robinson (61, foul); Hoctor (70, dissent), Coid (88)
Referee: Bernard Law
Kendal Town: MacDonald, Ross, Smith, Beattie, Bell, Brown, Mercer, Coid, Mitchley, McGeechan (Hoctor 57), Watson (Rushton 63). Subs (not used): Finney, Lloyd, Wilson
Darlington: Bell; Harrison (Davis 77), White, Hunter, Galbraith; Robinson, Tait (Hopson 65), Ramshaw; Thompson; Purewal, Dowson (Fisher 78). Subs (not used): Jameson (gk), Lovegreen