Darlington 2 New Mills 0
Two first-half goals by Terry Galbraith gave Darlington victory as they moved up to third in the table.
They have been entrenched in fourth place since before Christmas despite a stunning run of form, one which today’s result means they have won 13 of their last 15 league games.
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The impressive streak of form began with a win at New Mills back in November, but today’s victory came at a cost as Chris Hunter suffered an ankle injury which saw him replaced midway through the second period.
Losing him now would be sod’s law for manager Martin Gray, who has only just welcomed Gary Brown back into the fold following a lengthy injury.
He made his first start of the season, replacing the dropped Stephen Harrison at right-back who was on the bench alongside Joe Tait, while Leon Scott came into the starting XI for Rob Ramshaw who has returned to Gateshead following the conclusion of his loan.
Two excellent chances went begging for Darlington in what was positive start. Stephen Thompson blasted wide a free shot at goal from inside the penalty area inside the second minute and not long later Dowson was wide of the far post after being put through by Amar Purewal.
The game turned scrappy for a spell with too many free-kicks and possession being given away too often for either team to put together a worthwhile attack.
But a good two-handed save by Peter Collinge kept out Dale Hopson, with what was Darlington’s first shot on target following a fluid move with plenty of first-time passes after a quick Galbraith throw-in.
Dowson, Purewal and Thompson were all involved with the latter feeding Hopson whose volley was dealt with by the New Mills keeper.
A half-chance came Quakers’ way after a Jordan Robinson free-kick, flicked on by Purewal, but Dowson couldn’t reach the ball to get a clean enough contact and the shot rolled wide.
The moment came amid a spell in which Darlington were on top without being convincing or giving the keeper too much to do, aside from the save to deny Hopson.
They used their usual 4-4-2 formation, while New Mills played 4-5-1 with two deep-lying centre-midfielders in Ross Davidson and Kiarno Samms while James Hampson.
They tried to nullify Quakers, but created little themselves until striker James Hampson horribly miscued a volley when meeting a left-wing cross and it rolled wide for a goal kick.
Darlington were not at their best – they haven’t been in either of the matches since an enforced break due to postponed – buy they suddenly took the lead on 38 minutes with Galbraith getting the goal.
He rifled home from inside the penalty area after an attack up the right, the ball being fired into the penalty by Thompson and while there appeared to be a handball Galbraith gathered the loose ball to put Quakers ahead.
And before the break Galbraith had a brace, scoring a penalty after Collinge had fouled Dowson, but Darlington felt the keeper should have been sent off.
The build-up saw Dowson dribble into the penalty area from almost halfway, taking the ball past Daniel Caldercott and trying to take the ball around Collinge.
However, Collinge escaped with a booking, hence Martin Gray’s discussion with the referee, Matthew Dicicco, as the teams headed for the dressing rooms.
The second half was a tame affair, uneventful for the most part though Quakers briefly thought they had added a third goal until Nathan Fisher, with his fist touch, saw his celebrations cut short due to a linesman’s flag.
A handball by Caldercott was missed by the referee, the second time the same player has used his hands and not been punished.
A chance on 70 minutes to seal the points was wasted, Thompson missing the target when one-on-one after being played in by Fisher.
It was unlike the forward to miss such a chance, and he has now not scored in four games.
A rarest New Mills chance came on 74 minutes, though it was only a glimpse of goal, Daniel Grimshaw letting fly from 20 yards with the ball hitting the side-netting and soon after Hunter hobbled off.
He had jumped for a high ball and landed badly, requiring lengthy treatment. The centre-back walked off gingerly, replaced by Joe Tait, and the substitution means Hunter’s ever present record is over. He had been the only Darlington player not to miss a minute of league action.
The injury was the only sour note on a day in which Darlington closed the gap on second-placed Warrington to three points with a game in hand, but leaders Curzon won again.
Quakers are next in action on Wednesday at Heritage Park against Cammell Laird.
Goals: Galbraith (38, 1-0), Galbraith pen (41, 2-0)
Bookings: Scott (17, foul); Knight (24, foul)
Referee: Matthew Dicicco (Middlesbrough)
Darlington: Bell; Brown, White, Hunter (Tait 79), Galbraith; Robinson, Scott, Hopson (Davis 68); Thompson; Purewal, Dowson (Fisher 59). Subs (not used): Jameson (gk), Harrison
New Mills: Collinge, Suan, Hewitt, Davidson, Caldercott, Wood, Hopper, Knight, Samms (Fish 71), Hampson (Russell 81), Grimshaw (Nevins 80). Sub (not used): Welsby