DIFFERENT division, new opposition, same old Darlington.

The character which manager Martin Gray has instilled into his spirited team was evident again on the first day of the season at Altrincham.

Twice a goal down, twice Quakers recovered, with the game reaching a thrilling climax.

Altrincham looked to have stolen a 2-1 victory with an 89th-minute penalty, not long after Kevin Burgess had notched Darlington’s first leveller.

But Quakers kept on coming and deep into injury time Terry Galbraith kept his cool from the spot to make it 2-2 in front of the hundreds of Darlington fans who travelled to Moss Lane.

Their enthusiasm had been rewarded in the dying seconds by a team which embodies Gray’s unyielding determination.

“We showed great character,” said the boss. “One thing I believe that we have in abundance at this club is character. The mentality we have is that we will not die and we will not lie down for anybody and that came through today.

“We’ve always done that. The players have that mentality and as a club we do too – we will not lie down.

“If we’re going to be beaten it has to be by the better team, and today I thought we were the better team.”

Newly-promoted Darlington were better in patches, but Alty had their moments too, the draw a fair result between teams separated by two divisions last season, the hosts having been relegated from the National League.

By comparison Quakers certainly fared better than Curzon Ashton, who were thumped 6-1 by Kidderminster Harriers, another of the relegated clubs.

There were faults with Quakers, however, soft defending costing goals.

Altrincham took the lead on 14 minutes. A swift exchange of passes on Darlington’s right led to James Lawrie making an unchecked run into the penalty area to flick home a glancing header over Peter Jameson.

Someone had switched off and lost their man, a simple error punished harshly.

Only two of Quakers’ new signings started, Liam Marrs at right-back and Josh Gillies just behind strikers Nathan Cartman and Amar Purewal, who were isolated and starved of decent service.

Purewal played as Mark Beck has still not been cleared to play, having finished last season playing for Wrexham on loan from Yeovil.

Quakers expect he will receive international clearance by the time they face Boston United at Heritage Park this weekend, when Gray will have the holidaying Stephen Thompson back in the ranks and his team will have something to build on, thanks to Saturday.

“It was a tough start, playing against a club relegated from the Conference, one that will be challenging at the end of the season,” said Gray.

“It’s a massive point against a team that have just come down.

“Over the first half I thought we were the stronger team and we were disappointed to be losing 1-0 at half-time.

“We had eight corners in the first half, numerous balls into the box and long throws, two or three half-chances.”

Having failed to test keeper Andrew Dawber in the first half, despite Darlington having plenty of the ball, Gillies was not far off with a shot from nowhere early in the second period.

The remainder of the second half saw few clear Quakers chances, but never discount Darlington’s danger at corners, and on 81 minutes came the breakthrough which sparked a frenzied finale.

Galbraith’s inswinging corner was met powerfully by Burgess to power home the archetypical bullet header for 1-1.

Darlington could not hang on though, and with seconds to go they were trailing again, a penalty conceded by Jameson for foolishly tripping an opponent when trying to claim a loose ball.

“Peter came for the ball, he didn’t have to because their lad was going away from goal, but he’ll learn,” said Gray.

“His handling, kicking and dealing with crosses were very good today, he was just being a bit keen when he dived at the lad’s feet and gave a soft penalty away.”

Jake Moult blasted home the penalty, but six minutes into added time so too did Galbraith.

Burgess had been tripped, the captain later hobbling out of the ground with a swollen foot, and Galbraith netted the leveller to send the 600 travelling supporters barmy.

Later still Darlington should have had a second penalty, referee Anthony Tankard too weak to award another injury-time spot-kick despite Tom Portas clearly being tripped.

“Of the two penalties, the one on Tom was the easier one to give,” said Gray.

“It was a good penalty by Tez under a lot of pressure. We had big support today, a lot of fans from Darlington, and Terry had to take that penalty in front of them.

“I’m pleased that we’ve given the fans something to be pleased about and that we’ve given them the message that we’re here to compete.”