STEPHEN THOMPSON’S goal ten minutes from time, his 94th for the club, was enough to beat Bradford PA at the third time of asking this season and give Darlington a third win in a row.

Consistency has been Quakers’ problem all season, but they followed up 2-0 wins over FC United and Boston United to make it three wins in succession for the first time this season, and all without conceding.

Having lost 1-0 at home in the FA Cup and drawn 2-2 away, when Thompson had a penalty saved, this was Darlington’s first success against Bradford this season and it takes them up to 15th.

Win the final two games of the season, at Guiseley on Easter Monday at home to Leamington next weekend, and Quakers would match last season’s tally of 55 points.

Manager Tommy Wright said: “In the first half we were a little bit off the pace, and their shape through us off a bit with them playing a back three. They also played it last week, but it’s not how they usually play and we struggled with their width from the wingbacks.

”We adjusted, we got yourselves back in the game and in the second half they changed shape and I don’t know why because I thought they were causing us problems.

“Jake Turner was to thank for making a couple of great saves, again, to keep us in, but if anyone was going to get the winner it was Thommo.

“He’s gone a step closer to 100 and he sent the fans home happy.”

Quakers had a greater grip of the game in the second half, but the first 45 was more even, with Turner making three excellent saves, the first when one-on-one with Bradford forward Lewis Knight.

Knight was a prominent figure throughout the half, the Bradford player most likely to break the deadlock, and Jordan Nicholson fulfilled that role for Quakers.

He was unfortunate to miss the target with a volley from 20 yards, striking the ball sweetly after Wilson Kneeshaw had set up the chance, Darlington’s first of the game.

Kneeshaw had been recalled and Kit Elliott made his first start, both rewarded for their roles in last week’s win at Boston, while Tom Elliott dropped to the bench and unsurprisingly Alex Henshall dropped out of the squad entirely.

There was plenty of goalmouth incident before the break and there was little between the sides.

Quakers skipper Terry Galbraith, yet to score this season, fired in a free-kick that stung the palms of goalkeeper Charlie Andrew, before Turner, on loan from Bolton, made his second top save, tipping wide from Jake Beesley after Knight had crossed the ball back in following a corner.

Then came Turner’s third terrific save, this time leaping to his right to push away a Knight curling effort from the corner of the penalty area that looked destined to nestle inside the far post, only for Quakers’ keeper to deny him.

Just before half-time a piece of trickery on the wing by Kneeshaw saw him take the ball beyond two Bradford players, something Danny East took umbrage to by pulling back the Darlington forward, but he escaped any action further than a talking to by referee Andrew Kitchen.

Darlington had an escape inside the first 60 second so the second half, Galbraith clearing off the line. On a glorious day in the sunshine, Bradford caught them cold, Nicky Clee taking the ball past Simon Ainge before laying the ball off to the right for Knight, and his shot beat Turner but Galbraith hacked clear.

But Quakers recovered and grew in confidence, Kit Elliott hitting a low effort that Andrew dealt with easily enough.

It came after a Quakers counterattack, Kitchen playing advantage when Kneeshaw was held back.

Kneeshaw was clearly becoming a danger to Bradford, something defender Gianluca Havern addressed by hauling down the fleetfooted forward, earning a booking in the process but as a consequence of his challenge the Darlington forward sustained an injury and had to be substituted.

Wright said after the game that Kneeshaw sustained an Achilles problem and will not play in either of the remaining two matches.

Darlington’s Ben Jackson dribbled through the centre of the pitch after blocking an East pass deep inside Quakers’ half, the left-back eventually giving Nicholson the ball, but he fired wide when off balance.

Harvey Saunders, on for Kneeshaw, should have done better when presented with a great a chance six yards out, Kit Elliott having played the ball across, but Saunders’ touch was heavy and his shot was blocked.

Darlington were clearly having the better of the second half but were having trouble turning possession into goals, until Thompson blasted home with ten minutes to go.

It was his second chance inside the 60 seconds, the first one saved by Andrew, the second one giving the goalkeeper no chance.

The goal owed much to Nicholson. He picked up possession inside Darlington’s half and dribbled through midfield before passing to Saunders, and he made the correct pass in giving the ball to Thompson and from 18 yards he smashed home.

Wright added: “Thommo strikes the ball so nicely, he does it regularly in training and it’s something we know he can do.

“Once he gets himself in those positions you just want him to strike it true and he did.

“We had chances after that to extend the lead, but Bradford are big side and when they got free-kicks near the end and set the big men up you fear the worst.

“They’ve got Jake Beesley who has 20 goals, we had to stay alert today and we did.”

Darlington: Turner; Trotman, Ainge, Galbraith, Jackson; Thompson, Palmer (T Elliott 67), Holness, Nicholson; K Elliott, Kneeshaw (Saunders 57). Subs not used: Maddison, Bascome, Burn

Bradford Park Avenue: Andrew; Havern, Killock, Crichlow-Noble; Ross, East (Lewis-Potter 67), Branson, Clee (Spencer 52); Hurst (Johnson 61); Beesley, Knight. Subs not used: Toulson, Nowakowski