BOOS at full-time for their team entrenched in the bottom half of the table, players lacking in confidence and unable to score, and a manager pleading for patience.

These are unchartered waters for Darlington in the Martin Gray era.

Not since their final dark days at the Echo Chamber in 2011-12 has a Darlington side gone seven league games without a win.

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Elder Darlington fans are well-versed in misery – Steve Staunton was picking the team not long ago, and older supporters shudder at the memory of Billy McEwan – but they have grown used to more successful seasons during a steady climb to whence the club once belonged.

This season began in the same vein. But after ten goals in three wins they have now scored only three times in seven winless matches, Saturday’s drab draw against Leamington being the latest disappointment.

It was at least an improvement on the 4-1 midweek mauling at Chorley, but given Leamington’s limitations this was not a point to be proud of.

Before Saturday second-bottom Leamington had lost seven of their nine games, so arrived at Blackwell Meadows with a desire to defend and maybe catch Quakers on the break.

It worked for them. Darlington bossed the possession but lacking the creative nous to break down a team that had previously conceded 20 goals in nine matches, the 0-0 draw leaving Quakers down in 14th.

This is a test of Gray’s management that he has not previously faced, how to get a team firing again after such a barren run, how to restore some belief?

He would like to bring players in, preferably before Wednesday’s home game with FC United of Manchester, to bolster a squad that needs a break – they’ve had ten games in 36 days – and are weakened by injury.

On Saturday centre-back Dominic Collins limped off with a groin strain, becoming the fifth defender unavailable for action, adding to a sick list that already included Liam Marrs, who failed a fitness test, Kevin Burgess, Gary Brown and Chris Hunter.

Their absence saw midfielder Tom Portas used as an emergency right-back where he slotted in very well, before limping off due to a hamstring complaint.

It never rains but it pours.

“It’s the worst we’ve had it with injuries. They’ve all come at once, and they’re all defenders,” said Gray, who could take solace in the composed performance of 18-year-old substitute Jack Vaulks, an admirable replacement for Collins.

“We didn’t have many injuries at all in the Northern League season, for example, but you have periods when things go for you, and right now it’s going against us.

“It is tough. But I’m not going to get upset about it, it’s what we do about it that’s the most important thing.

“We know what we’ve got to do. We’ve three or four days to get on the phone and try to make some introductions to the squad.

“It all depends on players’ agents and whether certain clubs allow them to come.”

On Saturday he reverted to 4-4-2, restoring Nathan Cartman to the starting XI for his first game in Quakers colours this season as one of four changes.

A crowd favourite, Cartman’s name was cheered beforehand, but was largely anonymous due to the team’s laboured forward play being too slow and predictable to hurt Leamington.

A month ago, at York, Darlington were involved in an exciting 0-0 draw, but this was nothing of the sort, a pedestrian performance creating a dour atmosphere.

The best chance in the first half saw Josh Gillies deliver a perfect ball for Mark Beck, but the out-of-sorts striker saw his header blocked by a combination of goalkeeper and woodwork.

For all that Darlington were in control, they did little to test ’keeper Tony Breeden, who was well-protected by a Leamington team who, for spells, had every outfield player defending in their own third.

They showed little attacking intent until the latter stages when Quakers left gaps at that back, and the visitors even wasted the game’s best scoring opportunities: Kieran Dunbar in particular will still be thinking about the free header he did not make the most of.

There were boos at full-time, albeit from a minority, as well as some less than complimentary comments from behind the dugout, and Gray said: “I understand the frustration from fans, I totally get that, but be patient with us.

“We’re trying to do the right things, we’re trying to get players back, we’re trying to get players in to strengthen the squad while we’ve got lots of players missing.

“The proof is that when we’ve had a settled team in the first four games of the season, when we picked up ten points out of 12, since then we’ve lost six players – all defenders.”

A further concern was the attendance of 1,277, the lowest home crowd for a year, and FC United’s visit on Wednesday is likely to be even smaller.

Saturday sees another home game, an FA Cup tie with South Shields, who saw their remarkable 45-game unbeaten sequence end at the weekend, providing a timely reminder that all runs end eventually.

Darlington hope they can begin a winning run of their own on Wednesday.