ALL too often this season the white flag has been waved. Under sustained pressure, our rearguard has crumbled and our midfield has been overrun. Some games, we’ve simply not got going at all. In others, particularly away from home, we’ve gotten ourselves into great positions only to look the proverbial gift horse in the mouth and say thanks but no thanks. Away from home, all those drawn games where leads have been surrendered has left us more interested in what is going on below us in the league table rather than looking up more optimistically.

In taking the lead at Blyth on Saturday, even the most rose-tinted, dyed in the wool, optimistic Darlo fan could have been forgiven for wondering when the capitulation would come. As it was, it didn’t. It was bloody fantastic!

Since our last away win back in mid-October at FC United, we have squandered the lead four times on our travels, three of those occasions being a two-goal lead. Let’s face it, away from home a Darlo lead has been about as safe as a grouse on the Glorious Twelfth. With that in mind, the rearguard action on display at Croft Park on Saturday was a joy to behold.

That might seem a tad hyperbolic, but when you consider how easily we have been rolled over at times, it was great to see a Darlo side stand firm in the face of the opposition, the wind and a referee who seemed keen to punish even the slightest of comings together.

Let’s not pull any punches, this was not a performance of aesthetic beauty. This was a really gritty effort with bodies put on the line for the team’s cause. There have been times this season where it seemed we were happy to have a good spell here or there without really managing a whole game. Playing like Barcelona for five or ten minutes in a game means little when our point tally effectively grounds to a halt. Sometimes, you have to dig deep, man the trenches and protect what you have.

With only three sides having scored more goals at home than Blyth, they were always going to pose a major threat. In Dan Maguire and Robbie Dale, they have two of the most enigmatic players in the division who can, in the glance of an eye, punish you if you give them a slack extra yard of space or if you leave a lazy trailing leg hanging out there. By keeping Blyth to a smattering of half chances our defensive unit showed a maturity and determination that was really good to see. By keeping the middle locked down, we forced Blyth out wide. While Blyth’s delivery from wide positions (and also set-plays) was pretty good, our three central defenders dealt with everything that was thrown at them. With power, poise and some last-ditch resolve, they snuffed out Blyth in a way you could only have dreamed about a few months ago.

Since York humbled us on New Year’s Day, something seems to have clicked with our ability to repel. In five games, we’ve conceded just three, two of which were the Spennymoor Town free-kicks, and kept three clean sheets. It would appear there is a newfound pragmatism about our game.

With results going our way on Saturday, I’m feeling a bit more chilled about our survival. If we can maintain the level of determination displayed at Croft Park, I’m pretty sure we will pick up the points necessary to keep us up.

Coupled with the bottom three looking good to go down, let’s hope we can secure our future in this division sooner rather than latter so we can enjoy a stress-free end to the season.