IT is not often an away win comes with a caveat of concern, yet that was the outcome of Darlington’s much-needed victory at the weekend, which they hope will kick-start their season.

They recorded a much-needed three points with a 2-1 win at FC United of Manchester, and any neutrals in attendance got value for money on Non-League Day.

The initiative encourages fans of clubs higher up the ladder to give a semi-pro game a go, so they will have enjoyed the spectacle, but Quakers left Broadhurst Park relieved rather than pleased.

There were goals early on for each side, two red cards for FC United, Quakers’ man of the match Harvey Saunders scored twice for the first time in his career and a frantic finale meant the game’s outcome not settled until the final whistle, which was concerning for Quakers.

FC United are rock-bottom, yet Darlington made a meal of it against opposition without several first-choice players, including top scorer Kurt Willougby, and they finished the match with nine men.

Nobody is kidding themselves that they have turned the corner, and it will count for little if they are unable to follow it up at home to Boston United on Saturday.

Manager Tommy Wright admitted: “I’ve thought we’ve had turning points in the past. You’re only as good as your last game and today we were good but we could be better.

“They created more chances than I wanted them to, I never felt really secure that we would see it through, we needed a third goal.

“I always though United would create something. They’re young and energetic, they’re fearless and they had the crowd behind them.

“They’re bottom of the league and were losing so they had nothing to lose. We exposed them at the back but didn’t punish them.

“They could quite easily have nicked an equaliser at the end and a point wouldn’t have been good enough.”

A point would have been very poor, and Quakers feared the worst when United opened the scoring on 12 minutes from a corner, Theo Brierley making the most of poor defending and firing in from a central position.

A defeat would have underpinned the view of supporters who question whether Wright is the right man for the job, but four minutes later Saunders equalised.

Just don’t ask him to try it again as he’ll never manage it. The recalled Alex Henshall, one of two changes, crossed from the left, a defender got there first but his header hit Saunders and ricocheted into the net after looping high into the air.

Wright added: “Every good coach always says you’ll get your just rewards if you work really hard and the kind of work that he shows means that he deserves a bit of luck.”

Simon Ainge, also recalled, headed wide for Quakers just before half-time. He started in place of Reece Styche and on this showing needs more game time to get up to speed, so it will be interesting to see whether Wright changes a winning team this weekend when Styche is available.

Saunders is certain to start again. He made a nuisance of himself and his characteristic harrying of defenders earned him a match-winning second goal on 48 minutes.

After closing down a defender and then the goalkeeper he poked home his fourth goal in his last five league starts, and Wright said: “The second goal he made all by himself. His confidence has grown and he’s a proper footballer this year.”

It was not long before United demonstrated their disciplinary problems.

A week earlier they had three men sent off, and on the hour Sam Tattum was dismissed, shown a second yellow for a foul on Joe Wheatley. His first caution came in the first half for simulation.

A goal ahead and with a man advantage, Quakers should have been coasting now, but they allowed United to make a game of it, notably when Lewis Mansell was inches away from connecting with a cross by Henry Limpitshi-Bongwamba.

Wright, candid as ever, admitted: “Game management is something the lads have never been great at. They all want to score, they were like rabbits in the headlights, they see a chance and their judgement is sometimes blinkered and they make a wrong decision.

“They were willing to run 50 or 60 yards to try and score and if they could replicate that going the other way then I’d be a lot happier.”

The hosts gambled and sent men forward but Darlington were unable to exploit the space in United’s half, substitute Jordan Nicholson, Stephen Thompson and Ben O’Hanlon all having shots blocked.

United went down to nine men when Mansell saw red with two minutes to go, adjudged to have blocked Jonny Maddison from clearing and earning a second caution, but Saunders then missed a gift for his hat-trick, getting the ball caught under his feet with the goalkeeper out of position.

He went unpunished, Quakers hung on to victory which eases the pressure a little.

“I know everyone was feeling the pressure, especially when we went 1-0 down, but then we got a lucky goal to get back into it and after that we were by far the better team,” said Thompson.

“We need something to kick-start us and hopefully that will be it.”