STEPHEN THOMPSON’S first-half penalty was enough to give Darlington a 1-0 victory at Blyth Spartans, their first away win since October.

Tommy Wright had not won any of their previous eight away fixtures, a run stretching back to a 2-1 success at FC United of Manchester.

But they ground out three points at Croft Park, rising two places to 16th, now nine points above the relegation zone.

The day saw Liam Hughes make his return to action after a missing a month due to personal reasons.

He lined up in defence which allowed Simon Ainge to return to the forward line with new signing Sam Muggleton at left-back, while Wilson Kneeshaw was a substitute and so too was Harvey Saunders.

Ainge forced former Quakers goalkeeper Peter Jameson into an early save as Darlington made a bright start, while at the other end Jonny Maddison did well to deny Dan Maguire.

Thompson made it 1-0 just after the half-hour mark, the referee pointing to the spot when Jordan Nicholson was fouled.

The penalty, rifled low into the corner, was Thompson’s 90th goal for Darlington and comes as he closes in on his 300th appearance in all competitions for the club.

During the early stages of the second half Thompson volleyed over, and then Maguire missed an opportunity that he will be disappointed not to take, heading over when meeting Michael Liddle’s cross.

As he sought to instigate an improvement in performance, Blyth boss Alun Armstrong made three substitutions by the midway point of the second half, among them striker Bradley Fewster, who almost joined Darlington in 2017.

Fewster felt he should have had a penalty when he went down in the area, but the referee played on during one of the few moments that a blunt Blyth threatened.

Darlington did enough to come out on top, however, showing a resilience sometimes lacking this season, and in added time they almost added a second goal with Jameson saving from Tom Elliott.

Goal: Thompson pen (34, 0-1)

Attendance: 1,579

Blyth Spartans: Jameson, Nicholson, Liddle (Buddle 66), Green (Fewster 72), Laing, Watson, Wrightson (Holmes 62), Oliver, Maguire, Reid, Dale. Subs (not used): Mullen, Horner

Darlington: Maddison; Smith, Hughes, Galbraith; Trotman, Elliott, Palmer, Muggleton (O’Hanlon 90); Nicholson (Wheatley 75); Thompson (Saunders 75), Ainge. Subs (not used): Henshall, Kneeshaw