ON the day that the clubhouse at Radcliffe Borough was offlimits to supporters because of a wedding reception, Darlington returned to action with a victory which maintains the belief that their engagement in the promotion race could end happily ever after, writes Craig Stoddart.
A largely trouble-free 2-1 win against a side that had a player sent off in the second half kept Quakers on the right track, but it’s still early days for any honeymoon plans.
While their relationship with the play-offs is solid having been heavily involved in the top five since before Christmas, a union with the sole automatic promotion place has long been Quakers’ hope.
While they remain some way from consummating the top spot because they are seven points off leaders Warrington, they have narrowed the gap with a formidable run of form that began at New Mills, in November.
Martin Gray’s men have not looked back since. Saturday’s was their 11th win in 12 games.
Last time out, Quakers scored five at Kendal and looked like doing the same on Saturday during a one-sided first half in which chances were spurned with regularity.
Amar Purewal and Stephen Thompson both hit the woodwork, the former missed a one-on-one, and goalkeeper Chris Cheetham made a number of saves with David Dowson among those he denied. Dowson put Darlington ahead on 19 minutes, taking a Purewal pass in his stride before keeping his composure to fire home his 11th league goal of the season.
And it was 2-0 just before the half-hour mark when Rob Ramshaw was tripped in the penalty area by Dave Sherlock and Terry Galbraith smashed home from the spot.
Bevan Burey pulled a goal back for Radcliffe in the 58th minute but then centre-back Mark Ayres was dismissed for lunging in on substitute Nashan Fisher on the halfway line.
Gray added: “Give them (Radcliffe) some credit, they kept chasing and chasing, even with ten men.”
On Wednesday night, Darlington lost 2-0 at Heritage Park to Lancaster City.