A HARD-WORKING Darlington display resulted in a fourth successive win, though they were kept off the top of the table by an injury-time Blyth Spartans goal.

Leaders Blyth won 1-0 at Salford City, meaning Quakers stay second after recording a 2-1 victory against a stubborn Ramsbottom United at Heritage Park.

The bottom-of-the-table opponents made life difficult for Darlington, playing with a lone striker and getting men behind the ball to frustrate Martin Gray’s men.

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His team persevered and finally triumphed, however, scoring in the second half through Nathan Cartman and goal poacher Alan White contributed a fine strike, before the visitors pulled one back in injury time.

“You’re not going to play fantastically well every week,” reflected Gray. “This wasn’t our best performance, it was a hard-working performance, but it’s all about the three points.

“Ramsbottom are in a false position and they made our lives very difficult with their 4-5-1 formation. They were hard to break down, but some harsh words were said at half-time in the changing room. It was needed and in the second half I got the right reaction because the performance was very strong.”

There was some spark in the very early stages of the game. Winger Anthony Bell back-heeled the ball through Philip Edgehill’s legs on touchline and dribbled into the penalty area where his delivery instigated a goalmouth scramble, the ball eventually being cleared for Darlington’s third corner inside the first five minutes.

Edgehill was a late change to the Ramsbottom XI, replacing Andrew Dawson who was injured in the warm-up, while Quakers also made a change to the team sheet before kick-off with Leon Scott replaced by Tom Portas.

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However, that was an administrative error because Scott was never due to play as he was unavailable because of modelling commitments.

But the positive start faded and there was nothing aesthetically pleasing about much of the remainder of the first half though, with Quakers frustrated by the bottom-of-the-table visitors.

Graeme Armstrong had a penalty appeal when shoved in the back by Melford Knight, one of the few noteworthy moments.

Charlie Russell arrowed a shot from 25 yards which whistled wide of the post, though close enough to force Peter Jameson into a full-length dive, then came Quakers’ best moment of the half when Stephen Thompson was played in one-on-one, but his shot was too close to Grant Shenton who made a save.

During the half-time break Gray sent on new signing Ryan Brobbel, in place of the subdued Bell, and he was followed ten minutes later by White and it was not long before Quakers were 1-0 up.

After receiving the ball out on the left from Thompson, Brobbel floated a beautiful ball to the far post where Cartman found space to connect with a glancing header.

Gray said: “Ryan’s got a good background and we know all about him. He cut inside and delivered a great ball. What was even better was Nathan’s movement to find himself space in the box. It was a good delivery and a good finish.”

A goal up, Darlignton began to find more space in the opposition half and stamp their authority on the fixture, Thompson find room to be a threat, and soon it was 2-0 with another wonderful White goal.

Adam Mitchell, who started at right-back ahead of the injured Lewis Gibbons, began the move which led to Thompson delivering the ball to the far post where White’s predatory instincts were displayed, executing a clinical finish which suggested he has been playing out of position for 20 years.

On a night when he broke the England goalscoring record, Wayne Rooney would have been proud to have scored what was White’s fourth goal in 11 days, making him top scorer.

It was a goal warmly welcomed by the bulk of the 1,063 attendance, a good gate for a midweek fixture when England are on television.

“He was a handful when he came on, he got himself into the box and was a difficult person to play against. He finished like a forward,” said Gray.

Ramsbottom changed formation, player-manager Jon Robinson putting himself up front alongside the impressive Lee Gaskell, but Quakers almost scored again. Perhaps inspired by White, Kevin Burgess saw an ambitious volley saved.

Rammy did pull one back at the death though, Gaskell getting the goal his performance deserved, though Quakers felt he was offside.

Gray fumed: “I’m unhappy with the officials because he was five yards offside, there were none of players near him. I can’t blame my players for a bad decision by the linesman.”