THROUGHOUT my time supporting Darlo more time has been spent battling relegation than winning leagues or challenging for promotion. Beyond the last five or six years it has been survival of the fittest, and for the majority of my years we have just about managed it. As fans, we became conditioned to working out how and when we would be safe for another year. With that in mind, I began to get a bit nostalgic when the wonderfully vocal Darlo support started to declare on Saturday that we would be staying up. It’s premature. The job isn’t done yet, but it’s a train of thought that has been pretty redundant for the last five years.

At the start of the day, I was feeling pretty confident that we could head to Bradford Park Avenue and get the points. Yeah, they had thumped Gainsborough in the midweek but that felt inconsequential. With some much-needed confidence flowing through the team, we are finally seeing we have better players than some of the other teams in this division. But what they have that we haven’t for the most of the season is a consistent level. Oh what this season should have been had our players truly believed in themselves as they appear to now.

While it is the players who do the business on the pitch, this current run of fine form is down to some pragmatic decisions taken by Tommy Wright. As most will know, Wright is very much subscribed to the idea of playing three centre halves and yet through actions outside of his control at Leamington, he has come back to what looks like a solid back four which has now kept two clean sheets in a row. Something we haven’t achieved for quite a while. Three of that back four have arrived since Wright took charge and what stands out is that we finally have a bit of pace in the back line, something which has been lacking since we stepped up to the National League North. I hope now we have found four guys who can get the job done, and Wright doesn’t try to tinker further.

Meanwhile, going forward, we have a new verve that was lacking for so long this season. Again, Wright has been pragmatic in recent games. Lacking a genuine second striking option, Wright has turned to Dave Syers to operate in support of Reece Styche and the gaffer has been rewarded with goals. Allowing Syers to float around behind the front man seems to get the best out of him and ensures he’s in the right place at the right time to get goals, something we know he can do on a consistent basis.

Wright has also breathed new life in to our wide players. It was such a shame James Caton missed out due to injury, but that gave Josh Gillies the chance and he took it. For me, Saturday was one of his best games of the season. He knew he could get at their right back and that seemed to give him a much-needed boost. Meanwhile, the rejuvenated Stephen Thompson was excellent yet again. It might be just coincidence but ever since that last manager left Thompson seems to have played with a weight lifted off his shoulders. Under Wright, he has been getting better and better and we are starting to see on a consistent basis what we saw from him earlier in his Darlo career. When he is in his pomp, he is utterly unplayable. He will be a big miss against Brackley when suspended but hopefully, other players will step to fill the void.