THE Alun Armstrong era is up and running, Darlington have a point on the board.

The performance last night at home to Gateshead was, similar to Saturday’s defeat at Farsley Celtic in that they improved in the second 45 minutes after being behind at the break, and again they had themselves to blame for conceding.

But this time Michael Liddle’s leveller gave Darlington a draw, a relief for all concerned and Quakers who can now breathe a sigh of relief that the optimism generated in pre-season remains.

“The minimum we deserved was a point,” said Armstrong. “I thought we created enough to win the game.

“The only thing that’s bugging me is that it’s our mistake that’s cost us a goal again. When we made that mistake we went into our shells for 20 minutes.

“The second half, especially the last 20-25 minutes, some of the football was really good again, we created enough opportunities to win.”

Preceded with a booming new sound system, installed presumably to help generate an atmosphere, the match had been keenly anticipated, Darlington’s first at Blackwell Meadows of the season.

Supporters were eager to see their new-look team in competitive action for the first time, while the players wanted to atone for Saturday’s disappointment, but it was a low-key beginning bereft of incident.

Gateshead goalkeeper Brad James punched clear above a clutch of Quakers after Jarrett Rivers swung in the first corner on 11 minutes, but neither team were able to get a head of steam going, it was slow going.

Defences being on top perhaps best described it early on, particularly former Newcastle United centre-back Mike Williamson, who is now Gateshead’s player-manager.

Williamson, 35, spent most of his career at a much higher level than the National League North, and it showed for the most part last night, particularly when casually flicking the ball over Adam Campbell’s foot and calmly completing a pass.

Campbell thought he had the better of his former St James’ Park team-mate when the defender slipped, but Williamson recovered to thwart the striker.

Darlington’s Will Hatfield’s had a half-volley saved after a corner, won following a raking pass out to the right by Omar Holness with Luke Trotman and Jamie Holmes breaking into penalty after exchanging passes.

It could have proved to be precursor to a bright spell, but instead Gateshead took the lead on 21 minutes and, like on Saturday at Farsley, Quakers contributed to their own downfall.

A loose pass by Trotman was intercepted, Gateshead raced forward and a JJ O’Donnell shot heavily deflected beat Chris Elliott gave the Heed the lead.

Darlington took too long to recover, similar to Saturday at Farsley, perhaps feeling sorry for themselves again.

Out of the blue a Stephen Thompson thunderbolt smashed against the underside of the crossbar and away, Darlington inches from an equaliser.

For a big lad it did not take much for Joshua Kayode to go to ground, referee Adam Williamson falling for his act too often in what was a poor performance by the official.

On one of the occasions that the Gateshead striker stayed on his feet he was close to scoring, turning sharply after receiving a throw-in and hitting a volley wide.

Darlington were much-improved in the second half on Saturday and they were looking for a repeat last night.

When Gateshead’s Toby Lees tripped Thompson, and was booked, it gave Darlington a free-kick from the sort of area that Campbell scored from at Farsley, but he floated this opportunity into James’ arms.

James did well to claw away a header from Darlington sub Tyrone O’Neill, the pair who are team-mates in the Boro youth system and sent out on loan in the National League North.

With little between the teams and Darlington labouring, Armstrong took action, withdrawing Holness and replacing him with Justin Donawa whose first touch almost teed up a goal.

His pass into Campbell’s feet presenting a scoring opportunity that the Quakers striker wasted, off-target with a first-time effort.

There were boos for referee Williamson, not believed to be related to Gateshead’s player-manager, when he failed to award Darlington a penalty despite a linesman flagging after Scott Barrow fouled Campbell as he burst through.

“The linesman said it was a penalty as far as he was concerned,” said Armstrong.

“Cam said the defender might’ve got a touch on the ball, but as he come through Cam? We can’t tell, but the referee has told the linesman to put his flag down when the linesman had a better view.

“The linesman made a decision, the least the referee can do is go and speak to him to ask what he saw.”

But jeers turned to cheers with 11 minutes to go when Liddle scored.

The move began with a Thompson pass out wide, Trotman passed to Rivers whose floating ball to that far post found marauding left-back Liddle to fire home.

Late on Josh Heaton, the defender who has retuned to the club after leaving St Mirren, came on for injured Trotman who is a major doubt for Saturday’s home game with Kettering Town.

In injury time James grabbed ball ahead of Campbell after Thompson whipped in an inviting cross, so it ended all-square.