IT probably says something for how the first half of our season panned out that after having watched an uneventful 0-0 against an average looking Alfreton Town side, I came away reasonably happy with the afternoon’s showing.

All of a sudden, our young side seem to have found a maturity that wasn’t shown before Christmas. While the positives and negatives of the two York games may have balanced themselves out, the surprising level of control shown against Kidderminster was on show once again in Derbyshire.

It may not have made for riveting entertainment for the neutrals, but it was the sort of performance that needs to be seen if we are going to make this season look a bit more respectable.

Alfreton manager Billy Heath has not built his reputation on playing scintillating football. Quite frankly his side is more agricultural than the Great Yorkshire Show. Being on the slightly shorter side of normal, most teams look big to me, but this Alfreton side are particularly enormous. With such physical presence, it is little wonder their style of play is so one-dimensional.

This season we have tended to struggle against sides which physically dominate us, but what was pleasing about Saturday’s showing was our resistance to being dominated. The back three, marshalled by the returning Simon Ainge, stood up to everything thrown at them. With Will Smith growing into senior football with every game and Terry Galbraith looking a bit more like his old self, it has been good to see us looking reasonably solid at the back over the last couple of games. Long may it continue as conceding at the rate we have for most of the season really isn’t conducive to securing a solid position in the league table.

Like the week before against Kidderminster, every player put in a shift. It really does make a difference when there are no passengers. The whole team defended and attacked as a unit and while we weren’t rewarded with something more than the point, what really stood out were our fitness levels.

A lot has been made about the fitness among the squad this season. The introduction of a fitness coach seems to be paying off as it is probably not a coincidence that our turnaround in form seems to have come when the players look more energetic and more likely to last the pace for 90 minutes. By the end of the game on Saturday, we looked markedly fitter than our hosts. Hopefully, we can take the positivity from the last couple of performances and build on them over the next few weeks starting with Spennymoor this coming Saturday.

Spenny are clearly on a high at the moment and possess a lot of quality players. We will need another good team performance to get a positive result but I feel more confident of seeing one now than at any point this season.

Finally, it was with great sadness to read David Johnston’s statement about Liam Hughes’ personal problems. As one of our better performers this season, his absence will be felt on the pitch and also on the terraces. I am sure football is probably pretty inconsequential right now for Liam but I really hope we see him back in a Darlo shirt sooner rather than later.