‘SUPPORT the team, we’re in this together’, is the message from Darlington’s Stephen Thompson ahead of this weekend’s game at Blackwell Meadows, and he admitted the team must “stand up and be counted”.

On Saturday they play host to Chester who are in play-off contention, but with eight games to go Quakers’ concerns are focused on the bottom end of the table.

One win in nine league games has seen Darlington drop into the dogfight in the National League North, their season reaching a low last weekend they lost 4-2 at Hereford despite leading 2-0 at half-time.

Victory would have seen Tommy Wright’s team move to ten points clear the relegation zone, instead they are seven ahead of third-bottom FC United – who play at Blackwell next month – and fans are understandably anxious.

“We’ve all got to pull in the same direction because we all want the same outcome and we all want what’s best for the club – at the start of next season we want to be in this league,” said Thompson, who took his tally for the club to 91 by scoring against Hereford.

“We’ve been dragged in to it. A couple of months ago we were probably safe, but the performances haven’t been good enough.

“Hopefully the fans get behind us for the next six weeks and we get over the line and are safe. The seven years I’ve been here, it has been mentioned numerous times, the fans are like the 12th man when they get behind us.

“When Blackwell is rocking it helps everybody – if the atmosphere isn’t there and you can feel the tension, then it translates onto the pitch.

“Tensions have been running high and the lads probably are a bit uptight. Some lads are probably feeling it and a few of the lads have been getting stick more than others.

“If we’re getting hammered it’s not easy to try and express yourself, which is what we need. We understand the frustrations, nobody is more frustrated than me at the way the season has gone.”

Quakers crumbled in the second half at Hereford, for the fourth time this season failing to win a game in which they had led by two goals.

“When we’re good we can be really good, when we’re full of confidence. But when it goes the other way you need characters,” added Thompson.

“People seem to think we’re younger than we are. We have a few younger lads, but most are mid-20s and you can’t be classed as a kid then. Everyone has to stand up and be counted.”

Darlington had been expected to be among the play-off chasing teams, but they have been in the bottom half of the table since the fourth game of the season, and the patience of supporters has worn thin.

The club released a statement this week backing Wright and saying they intend to strengthen the squad.

Thompson admitted: “We haven’t been good enough and we all know it, but we need to make sure it doesn’t get any worse because if we did go down it would disastrous and the last thing that anyone wants.

“We’ve had tough times over the years, but this season hasn’t gone as we wanted it to and there’s been things off the pitch – getting rid of players because of the budget – that haven’t helped and that has to be taken into consideration.

“I know people have been on to the gaffer, but it’s down to the lads as well. We’ve all got to take responsibility, it’s not about one person, we’re in this together.”