Padiham 0 Darlington 2
Darlington made it a perfect ten by recording their tenth successive away league win at Padiham.
Goals in each half from David Dowson and Nathan Fisher ensured Quakers quickly recovered from the midweek defeat to Lancaster City, a result that ended a 12-game unbeaten run.
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Getting back on track today was essential and while they remain fourth in the table, Farsley’s loss means Quakers have closed the gap on third place to one point.
Curzon are now top, six points ahead of Darlington, after they won at Salford while Warrington were held to a 0-0 draw by Cammell Laird.
Padiham started the day fourth from bottom, but they were a spirited side and gave Quakers a difficult day.
It was not the first time Darlington have been given a tough afternoon by a lowly outfit and the hosts’ desire ensured they remained in the contest until late in the game, despite Dowson scoring early on.
After 14 minutes he received a long pass from Terry Galbraith and broke into the penalty area, though he still had plenty of work to do and he held off a challenge by Jack Overson before dinking the ball over the goalkeeper.
The goal was his 12th league strike of the season and just reward for another fine display by the forward.
He was integral when Dale Hopson was put through on goal, chesting the ball down into Amar Purewal’s path and he played in Hopson, but the youngster showed a lack of conviction in his shot from inside the penalty area and the keeper saved.
Chris Hunter had a header cleared off the line by right-back Ashley Carter. Darlington, though, were generally not convincing with most attacks breaking down on edge of Padiham penalty area, although they were untroubled at the back.
Goalkeeper Mark Bell had a little catching practice to engage in, while he also had a routine save to make when Max Jones had a pop from 18 yards.
Dowson limped off ten minutes before the break with a suspected hamstring problem and replaced by Fisher, though it was at the other end of the field in which Quakers were soon to have problems as Padiham started the second period with a real drive to get forward.
Danny Boyle received a diagonal pass that took him into penalty area and although his shot beat Mark Bell it rolled agonisingly wide of goal, and seconds later Bell made an athletic save to tip over Boyle’s dipping effort.
A second fine save by Bell, this time showing fine reflexes and leaping to his right to push wide Louis Mayers’ header after a Boyle cross, kept Quakers in the lead.
Hopson looked to a player lacking in confidence. Within a couple of minutes he lost possession when dribbling towards a back-peddling Padiham defence, and then lofted what should’ve been a simple pass high over Stephen Thompson and out of play.
Thompson was another who endured a frustrating day; most of what he tried did not come off and his day was summed up by putting a corner into the Padiham side-netting.
Leon Scott replaced Hopson and it was not long before Quakers gave themselves some breathing space by scoring a second goal.
Again Galbraith was involved, sending a free-kick into the penalty area when Alan White headed the ball across goal where Fisher stabbed home his fifth league goal.
The 69th minute goal was a relief for Quakers and manager Martin Gray soon made his final substitution, sending on Jonny Davis for Rob Ramshaw, who has played his final game for the club.
The midfielder has now returned Gateshead, who have turned down Darlington’s request to extend the loan.
The closing stages were unremarkable, with Darlington confident enough to keep possession and Padiham unable to muster a last hurrah.
Today’s match was the first of eight Darlington’s fixtures in March and next Saturday they are at home to New Mills.
Goals: Dowson (14, 0-1), Fisher (69, 0-2)
Referee: Barry Lamb
Padiham: Davis, Carter, Morris, Greaves, Overson, Craig, Jones (Sharples 73), Turner, Boyle, Pickup (Jordan 76), Mayers (Blackburn 76). Subs (not used): Parkes, Britton
Darlington: Bell; Harrison, White, Hunter, Galbraith; Robinson, Ramshaw (Davis 70), Hopson (Scott 57); Thompson; Dowson (Fisher 35), Purewal. Subs (not used): Jameson (gk), Brown