WITHOUT a game this coming weekend, Darlington have plenty of time to ponder their situation, both on and off the field.

Sixteenth in the table, play-off hopes shelved for another season, they’re able to focus on staving off being sucked into survival fight.

They are six points above the drop zone, most teams beneath them have a game in hand, though performances over the last month or so have been encouraging and results generally okay: three wins and three draws in eight league games.

Saturday was typical of recent fare, a pleasing performance though Darlington were disappointed to draw 1-1 at Curzon Ashton.

They nearly won it, however, having finished strongly but missed opportunities created.

Given they had fallen behind early in the second half, Quakers could take encouragement from Tommy Wright instigating a fightback by changing tactics with half an hour to go, resulting in Tom Elliott scoring a cracking goal.

He said: “Simon Ainge going up front and switching to 4-4-2 had an effect.

“We should’ve come away with three points, so I can’t fault the lads because they gave us everything and pushed to the very end.

“We come away feeling unfortunate not to get three points, but I’m pleased with the character shown to get a goal back.

“There’s been games this season when we would’ve folded at 1-0 and not been able to do anything about it.”

The game provided a distraction from the slight sense of unease generated by the previous evening’s annual meeting for shareholders, who were told next season will see a reduction in the amount spent on the squad.

A heavier reliance on loaning players from the beginning of the season will be implemented, while again there shall be an appeal for supporters to boost the budget.

Concerning, yes, though it’s rarely been any different with Darlington, either pre or post-2012, so their stoic supporters are well used to dealing with such situations.

They are also used to their team not winning away from home, Saturday’s result making it eight in a row since last enjoying a three-point haul on the road.

Statistically their prospects looked bleak by half-time at which point it was 0-0 – the 15th time Quakers have failed to score in the first 45 minutes, and on each of the previous occasion they had not gone on to win.

And so that sequence continued, though Curzon ’keeper Cameron Mason was called into action a couple of times.

After Joe Wheatley hit side-netting in the second minute, Mason saved from Elliott and Jordan Nicholson in a balanced first 45 minutes, Curzon having opportunities too with striker Lewis Reilly missing the best of them.

He atoned, however, in the second minute of the second half, converting at close-range after Elliott had lost a challenge, Oliver Crankshaw then crossing from the byline.

Wright explained: “Tom got caught making a tackle, he won the initial one but the ball bounced back and he lost the second one.

“We then got stretched, we tried to get across but we’ve been done and then you’re looking at your centre-halves to see who was marking their centre-forward.

“It’s a poor goal to conceded, it’s a sloppy one, but other than that we defended well so it’s a concentration thing.”

A goal down, it was time for plan B: Ainge up top, a switch to 4-4-2 and two substitutes in Alex Henshall and Williams Kokolo.

Immediately Darlington looked more threatening and from a Henshall corner Quakers equalised, Mohamud Ali heading to the edge of the penalty area where Elliott volleyed home his second goal for the club.

Allowing Romal Palmer to start in the entre of midfield, Elliott had started at left wingback, and Wright added: “He was excited today because he thought he would get forward more, and in the first half he nearly bent one into top corner.

“We know he can score, but the stats tell you that he won’t score every week.”

In the pouring rain on a grim day in Greater Manchester, the pitch saturated and the players becoming filthier, Darlington’s mucky kit representing a challenge for kitman Gary Smith, what had been a largely even contest saw the visitors finish by striving for a winner.

Ainge’s presence caused issues for the home defence, and he set up Darlington’s best chance for a second goal, playing in Harvey Saunders who should have hit the target.

“We flashed a few shots across the box and we had a lot of opportunities today, Harvey was wide with a shot,” added Wright.

“The ball was bouncing around a wet penalty box, we just needed it to drop for us. We did more than enough to get a point.”

Given that Curzon had won four in a row before Saturday and beat Darlington on the opening day of the season, Wright’s side can take some satisfaction in earning a draw, which means they have two points more than at this stage last season.

It is a year since Stephen Thompson scored a hat-trick in a 3-2 win at Leamington to spark form that lifted the team away from danger, a similar run is needed to alleviate concerns this time around.