COMPARABLE to pre-season friendlies in being devoid of a competitive element, mid-table matches of minimal consequence are commonplace at this time of year, and Darlington versus Leamington could not have felt more worthless.

It ended 1-1, two teams with little to play for other than where they finished in obscurity, essentially it was two bald men fighting over a comb, but this one was unusual due to Tommy Wright’s departure.

Played the day after the night before, when Quakers had made their Wright decision, it made for a strange scenario given that departing managers do not usually stick around for an encore.

Friday evening’s announcement took the sting out of what could have been a hostile close to the campaign with those most eager for change eager to state their case.

Instead, the day became a farewell rally, a chance for everyone to say their goodbyes.

Darlington had initially planned to make the announcement on Sunday, but Wright asked for it to be brought forward so that all concerned knew what was happening before kick-off.

Supporters’ opinion on the manager’s exit has been a mixture of relief and regret, but all are united in wishing him well, and Wright wishes the best for a club towards which he bears no grudge or bitterness.

He has accepted the decision with dignity, saying of his 18-month tenure: “I’ve loved it. It was a job that I wanted because I’ve got fond memories of the place as a player and as a manager.

“I’m disappointed not to be here anymore, but that’s football.”

He joined the players on the pitch after the game in the one of those mutual appreciation moments, and the Tin Shed chanted “Tommy Wright Wright Wright”, the song that was regularly heard during his two spells as a player with Quakers.

“I’m grateful for that,” he said. “I’ve loved representing the club, I’ve done it three times now and I am gutted to be leaving, but it had to happen on the basis that the fans are staying away. When the majority want change you have to accept it and move on. I did my best and it wasn’t to be.”

There were no tears, but he would have needed a heart of stone not to be moved by the reaction, both from the terraces and the ovation in the bar afterwards when a few kind words about Wright were said by former board member John Tempest to those who had stayed behind after what was the most inconsequential of matches.

For the record, Jordan Nicholson put Darlington ahead just before half-time with a rasping finish following a Stephen Thompson pass, his 11th goal of the season and enough to ensure he ends the campaign as Quakers’ top scorer.

Second half, Darlington summarised their season by failing to kill off the opposition, unable to take any of a handful of chances, Thompson and Nicholson both going close with goalkeeper Tony Breeden making several good saves.

Quelle surprise, slack defending led to a Leamington leveller on 78 minutes, unchallenged Colby Bishop side-footed home after good work by substitute Elliott Hodge.

It was the 21st game in which Darlington scored the first goal this season, and then the tenth time they had failed to win.

Wright added: “You can always do more, you can affect games and you be critical of yourself. It’s a results business and there’s been games this season when we were in really a comfortable position but drawn when should’ve won, and if we had than I probably would still be manager.

“But ultimately, the stuff that I’ve done off the pitch has not been enough and I accept it.

“I’ve got no regrets, I’ve got no ill feeling towards anybody and I move on and so does the football club.”

The point means Leamington ended in 13th, their highest position since resurrecting in 2000, but for Darlington their 16th place finish is their lowest since promotion to the National League North three years ago.

That goes on Wright’s record, and ultimately it is league positions and results that define success or otherwise.

Clearly Wright would not have chosen to sell Reece Styche in October, a move made with focus on the balance sheet and not the football pitch, where even with the charismatic striker Quakers’ results were poor. They won three of the 12 games before his departure.

Wright added: “I wanted to manage the team I put together at the start of the season. That didn’t end up happening.

“Ultimately we cut the budget too quickly in October. I think we panicked and that’s something the board have probably learnt from, I think they’d admit that they panicked.

“But we get on with it, I didn’t moan about it, I dealt with things as well as I could and I’ve loved every minute of it.”

When the budget was cut three times, should he have been more forthcoming to supporters in order to make it clear reaching the play-offs was now out of reach?

“If I had done what would it have achieved apart from forging a massive wedge between me and the board,” he said.

Highlights of Wright’s reign include winning at Spennymoor Town last season, beating York City 5-1 and Reece Styche’s hat-trick in the 4-2 win at Brackley, while off the field his coaching transformed Harvey Saunders into a saleable asset, he set up an academy and helped to bring in £170,000 in transfer fees.

He added: “There’s been some good wins and I couldn’t choose a particular highlight because I’ve loved every minute of it and I’ve loved managing this club.

“It was a job that I could never turn down – I accepted the job not knowing the budget or the finances. I came in during the October, in the November there was a board meeting when I wondered what I had walked into to because it was doom and gloom.

“But it meant something to me to be given an opportunity here.

“It’s been a proud time for me. It’s the biggest club I’ve managed and this club has been a big part of my life.

“For the fans to give me that applause at the end meant a lot to me.

“I’m a firm believer in saying whatever happens it happens for a reason and I have always been a positive person.

“Win, lose or draw I’m positive, I take things in my stride and I adjust.

“I will adjust, I will manage again the club will move on and I really hope the club end up back in the Football League because the fans deserve it.”