STRIKER David Dowson last night left Darlington to join Spennymoor Town.

The shock move sees Dowson bring to an end his three and a half years with Quakers, the high point being the dramatic winning goal he scored late on during last season’s play-off semi-final against Moors.

But he has not started a league game this season, used as a substitute on 14 occasions, and became frustrated on bench duty with Lee Gaskell, Nathan Cartman and Graeme Armstrong all being preferred.

Manager Martin Gray has allowed the player to leave with his blessing, heaping praise on him for his work-rate and positive approach despite not being in the first choice XI.

Dowson was one of the first signings when Gray took charge four years ago, and he was an integral part of the team which won the Northern League title in record breaking fashion during the 2012-13 season.

“He’s been absolutely outstanding, one of the best I’ve worked with throughout my career and I really mean that,” said Gray.

The Northern Echo:

“He’s been nothing but a credit to our club. He’s been with me since day one, and we’ve had a play-off and two promotions since then, and he’s played a massive part of everything.

“There comes a time when things have to move forward. The player wanted to play games and we couldn’t give him starts, so it’s in everybody’s best interests that he moves and he’s really happy with it.

“He’s never been down, he’s always positive at the training ground even when he’s not been in the team.

“We’ve had a few conversations over the season, but he leaves with the highest accolade from myself that I can give him because he’s given outstanding service to our club.”

Dowson first wore Quakers colours in 2009 when brought in by Colin Todd on loan from Sunderland, scoring on the first day of the season away to Aldershot Town.

Since 2012 he has made 133 appearances, scoring 42 goals, the most memorable being against Spennymoor at the end of last season, going down in folklore as one of the most thrilling moments for Quakers supporters in recent years.

Darlington were 2-1 behind until the closing stages, when Gray made a double substitution, sending on Liam Hatch and Dowson. Hatch equalised and then Dowson nabbed the winner, Quakers going on to secure promotion by beating Bamber Bridge in the play-off final.

Gray added: “He scored many big goals, but obviously that one stands out as probably the most important one he got for us and now he’s ended up joining Spennymoor.

“His desire sums up how I like my teams to play. He’s got an abundance of energy, and he’s been a fantastic player to work with.”

It is understood that the Darlington boss is working on bringing in a replacement for Dowson, whose exit means there are now only three players at the club who played in Quakers' first game of 2012-13.

Leon Scott, Amar Purewal and Gary Brown are the others, although Brown this season had a short spell with Shildon before returning to Quakers.

Dowson has signed a two and half year deal at the Brewey Field, and Spennymoor manager Jason Ainsley said: "David is a player I've always admired every time he has played against us.

"He is a fans favourite wherever he goes and his work rate and movement are exceptional. David has been instrumental in Darlington's progress so far and I hope he scores the goals to take us into the play-offs. 

"His signing shows the ambition of the club."

Dowson added: "I enjoyed my time at Darlington being part of two promotions and making many memories, but now I'm looking forward to the new challenge with Spennymoor Town and going for another promotion."