GROWING up in Jamaica longing to one day play in England, it is unlikely Omar Holness’ dreams as a boy included realising his ambition by playing on a dreadful pitch in the second tier of non-league football. Marking the occasion by being sent off will not have ranked high among his ambitions either.

That is the scenario Holness found himself in on Saturday when in the starting XI for the first time in Darlington’s game in Warwickshire away to rock-bottom Nuneaton Borough at the sparsely populated Liberty Way stadium. He can rarely have felt further away from Kingston.

Yet Nuneaton had a man of their own sent off too on a day in which their relegation came closer to reality and Darlington took a significant step closer safety, now on 40 points, ten above the bottom three, after a low-quality but crucial 2-1 win.

“We knew it wasn’t going to be a classic when we turned up and saw the pitch,” admitted manager Tommy Wright.

His team have seven games to play, and he added: “We’ve put ourselves in this, we’ve only got ourselves to blame, we’re not blaming anyone else, it’s our own fault and now we have to get out of it.

“Whether that win today is enough, probably not.”

A win on Wednesday at home to Chester would allow everyone of a Quaker persuasion to breathe more easily.

Holness no doubt felt relieved that his dismissal for two bookable offences did not spoil his or Darlington’s day.

Three points meant some of the post-match focus was on the new signing’s promising first appearance and eye-catching ball that helped create Quakers’ first goal.

A raking pass out to Alex Henshall on the right showcased the technical ability and confidence on the ball that fans will hope to see more of when he’s on a better playing surface.

“It was something we worked on in practice,” he explained. “Alex, as soon as he sees me teeing up he knows where he should be and where the ball is going.

“He did really well to get the cross over and Thommo did very well to get the ball in the back of the net.”

Henshall’s cross was headed in by Stephen Thompson to give Quakers a 13th minute lead, one they relinquished after a spell of Nuneaton pressure culminated in Miles Addison heading home just before the half-hour mark from a corner that Darlington disputed.

Holness, booked for his protestations, later admitted: “I definitely have to work on managing my emotions during the game.

“The referee said it was dissent. I simply went over and shouted at him, telling him it was the wrong decision and I definitely believe that it was the wrong decision.”

Jordan Nicholson, one of four former Nuneaton players in Darlington’s team, took his goal tally for the season to ten when he got the winner, scoring an uncharacteristic back-post header.

It came early in the second half, meeting a pinpoint cross by Thompson, who later put Nicholson in on goal before he was dragged down by Devon Kelly Evans.

Referee Scott Simpson dismissed the Nuneaton offender, but then infuriated Darlington by ruling out Thompson’s terrific goal from the resulting free-kick, halting play just as Quakers’ man of the match struck the ball.

“I don’t know why the game has to stop for a Nuneaton player changing his boots,” said Wright. “The referee blew his whistle, Thommo took the kick and as the ball has gone into the top corner he blows the whistle again.”

Darlington rarely make life easy for themselves, it would be less interesting that way after all.

So soon after Nuneaton’s 63rd minute red Holness was dismissed too, a rash challenge on Rhys Sharpe giving Simpson an easy opportunity to make it ten versus ten.

“Once you’re on a yellow you’ve got to tread carefully and got to pull out of tackles,” admitted Wright.

“He had made a great contribution to the first goal, you could see what he is all about and he made a big difference.”

But Darlington were not unduly troubled in the latter stages, thus gaining revenge against a team they suffered an embarrassing 2-1 defeat to in December.

Nuneaton had sprang a surprise on the eve of the game by signing former Darlington misfit James Caton, released by Wright in January.

No doubt he will have been eager to prove the doubters wrong, yet much like most of his 18 months with Darlington the forward made little impact.

Almost unrecognisable without his bleach-blonde hair and trademark gloves, a noticeably bulked-up Caton’s most notable moment came when trying to take the ball past Simon Ainge and succeeded only in falling over and seeing the ball trickle out of play.

He was not alone, however, in not being at the top of his game.

This was a contest between teams positioned 17th and 22nd in the table and it showed, loose passes littering play on a surface that made the game a challenge to both play and watch.

Wright admitted: “Today wasn’t fluid by any means, it wasn’t easy on the eye, but we have been in some games and still not got the result, so we need to start turning out the wins and climbing the table.”