Darlington hoping to maintain run against Celtic Nation

Darlington aim to make it a Quakers dozen this evening when they go in search of a 12th successive victory - weather permitting.

After recording their 11th win in a row when defeating Ashington on Saturday, Cumbrian club Celtic Nation are the visitors to Heritage Park (7.45) for a game that is under threat.

While the club cleared water from the playing surface, which was waterlogged on Monday, snow and sleet were forecast last night.

An improved forecast for today means that the club, who have covered parts of the pitch, are hopeful of playing and extending their advantage at the top of the Northern League due to Spennymoor Town having a blank midweek.

Their game at the Brewery Field on Monday was postponed and so too has been this evening's match with Hebburn, leaving them with 18 league matches still to play.

Only Shildon, with 21 league games, have a bigger backlog. They were due to host Celtic Nation on Monday, a game that Quakers' boss Martin Gray had planned to watch.

Tonight's match represents the first of Darlington's final ten of the season as they compete with Spennymoor for the Northern League title.

The teams are separated by 23 points, but Moors, who play the first leg of their FA Vase semi-final on Saturday, have eight matches in hand.

The season is due to end in 32 days' time, and Gray said: "It's come around quickly since Christmas. We've now only got ten games to go.

"You look where we started, at Whitby, for our first pre-season game, it seems so long ago.

"We've come a long way in a short space of time, but we've still got a long way to go yet and make sure these next ten games are ten cup finals.

"But I'm not looking too far ahead, I just look at the next game, which is Celtic Nation.

"We've got a game on Wednesday and we can only focus on what we've got to do.

"Whichever team finishes top at the end of the season will deserve to win it."

A key factor in Quakers' run of late has been an improved defence, keeping nine clean sheets in the 13 games since keeper Mark Bell joined.

By comparison, in the previous 13 games before Bell, the team had kept not a single clean sheet.

"The back four have done ever so well," said Gray. "They've become a really solid unit and we build the team on keeping clean sheets and that was another one on Saturday.

"The decision making was good and they never got caught in a race. They had to do the ugly side of the game a lot more because there were two big lads up front for Ashington who were a real handful. They knew that they'd been in a game.

"Credit to the back four. It's alright giving the plaudits to the front men who keep scoring goals, but you're only as good as your defence."

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