Darlington aim to strengthen place in promotion race

FOCUS: Martin Gray alongside Shay Given, showing him the football Academy at Eastbourn Sports Complex.

FOCUS: Martin Gray alongside Shay Given, showing him the football Academy at Eastbourn Sports Complex.

First published in Sport
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The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Sports Editor

Darlington this evening play their first game at Heritage Park for almost two months and hope to mark it by further strengthening their place in the promotion race.

They recorded an 11th win from 12 games on Saturday at Radcliffe Borough - their fourth away match in a row since beating Clitheroe on home soil on January 4.

Postponements have disrupted Darlington's season and while Saturday's match ended a three-week break there were signs of rust and Quakers will need a better display this evening against play-off hopefuls Lancaster City.

"We know we're far better than we were on Saturday," said manager Martin Gray. "The players know they've been better than that this season.

"They had a decent first half, it was just an indifferent second half and not one of our better performances.

"To win 11 games in 12 you've got to be doing something right. You're not going to be dominating every game for 90 minutes, but what's important is that you grind results out.

"Radcliffe got a goal against the run of play which gave them some encouragement, but we got the three points which is what it's all about. It keeps the run going and puts us in a good position for Wednesday night.

"It's important everybody is focused on Wednesday because it's a massive game for us."

Lancaster are seventh and seven points adrift of Quakers. The teams drew 0-0 in October, since when Darlington won all nine of their away matches.

Leon Scott is available after returning from a trip to USA where he spent last week working - modeling clothes for a fashion label - though Gray is unlikely to immediately pitch the midfielder back into action.

The midfield has been performing effectively with Rob Ramshaw starring in his two appearances after joining o loan from Gateshead and Gray wants to prolong the Chester-le-Street youngster's stay.

The manager said: "Ramshaw was the pick of the bunch on Saturday. He was solid, drove us forward, won us a penalty and has been a big plus.

"He's only 20-years-old but has lots of maturity for a young lad.

"I'll speak to Gary Mills this week. His loan is up on Saturday so he's got two games remaining."

Meanwhile, Gray has had a change of heart over sending Gary Brown out on loan.

Having originally decided the defender would benefit in his recovery from a long-term ankle injury by dropping into the Northern League, Gray now wishes to keep Brown in his squad.

"I'm going to keep him with us. We're tight on numbers," added Gray.

"Leon Scott will be back with us on Wednesday, but we're going to try and keep everybody together.

"We've got 14 games remaining and only 17 players to choose from so we'll keep him with us.

"The idea to send him but would've been great, but we've not got a 20-man squad. Plus, he's a fantastic lad to have around the changing room and he'll be a big plus for us when he's back on the pitch."

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