FIVE of Darlington’s next six matches are against the division’s current bottom five, starting this evening against relegation-bound Altrincham at Blackwell Meadows.

The bottom-of-the-table visitors’ win on Saturday against cash-strapped Worcester City was only their second of the season, leaving them 17 points adrift of safety.

Altrincham provide the opposition in Darlington’s first evening game at Blackwell Meadows, where Martin Gray’s men lost 3-2 on Saturday to Harrogate Town.

The result means Darlington have now won only three times in 14 league matches.

“These next three are must-win games, all the home games are,” said Gray, whose team have 12 matches to play.

“We’ve got six home games and we’re going to need maximum support from the fans. For us to reach the play-offs we need to maximise our home advantage. If we play like we’re capable of playing we’ll win these games.”

Darlington are seventh, four points behind fifth-top Halifax Town, who have a game in hand, so Quakers can ill afford another slip up this evening at a venue which has yet to become home sweet home.

They have lost three of their five fixtures at Blackwell, a statistic in stark contrast to Heritage Park, where it took Darlington until their 36th match to reach three league defeats.

“The pitch hasn’t been exactly as we would’ve liked,” admitted Gray. “It hasn’t helped. I’m not using it as an excuse, but it doesn’t allow you to play passing football and it means you have to look at certain styles of playing.

“It has become frustrating. We’re not saying it’s an excuse, but we’re having to look at certain personnel and formations because of it.”

Darlington have plans this summer to work on the Blackwell pitch, where rugby has been played since Quakers’ game at the weekend.

Leon Scott will be available this evening, but begins a four-match ban on Saturday for the red card received against Harrogate.

Dismissed for serious foul play, punishable with a three-match ban, it was his second dismissal of the season therefore a further game has been added to his suspension.

After tonight, Darlington travel to Worcester (20th) and Stalybridge Celtic (21st) in consecutive Saturdays before playing mid-table Brackley, after which they conclude a series of fixtures against the strugglers with games against Bradford Part Avenue (18th) and Gainsborough Trinity (19th).