BETTER, much better.

Darlington supporters know that some matches are endured rather than enjoyed, and this was firmly the latter.

After two games of frustration and promise – a defeat at Farsley, a draw with Gateshead - Quakers clicked with a 3-0 win against Kettering Town on Saturday.

Their third game saw three goals and three points after which the only complaint, a term used loosely here, was that Alun Armstrong’s team did not score more.

Stress-free games do not come along often, the enjoyable sort whereby the points are in the bag well before full-time, and the only groans of frustration are after a missed chance when another opportunity to add to the tally has gone begging.

Good football, levels of understanding across the team, a backheeled goal by Jarrett Rivers and a terrific free-kick by Stephen Thompson contributed to the team’s first win of the season, putting them in good heart for Monday’s trip to Curzon Ashton.

“The overall performance was really good from 1-14,” enthused manager Alun Armstrong. “They showed what they are capable of and the only disappointing this was that we didn’t score more. Their goalkeeper pulled off some cracking saves.

“I was chuffed to bits with the lads today and the impact of the subs.”

Fresh from overseeing 90 minutes in which his team displayed the attacking verve he aims for, Armstrong picked an opportune time to ask people to be more measured in their criticism of players on social media.

Not that such reaction has been overwhelming, but last week defender Louis Laing was criticised following the game with Gateshead and, aware of the impact they can have, Armstrong abhors such comments.

It was a subject Armstrong covered in his programme notes, saying: “Confidence is a massive thing in football and with that in mind please be thoughtful in your criticism of the players on social media and forums – if they make a mistake or they have had a bad spell during the season they and their families can be affected, which has an impact on the pitch. They are human and will make mistakes, but with your backing and support they will recover quicker.”

He elaborated after Saturday’s match, during which Laing enjoyed a solid game, saying: “People were ringing me and sending me stuff they’d seen and it’s unbelievable. Two games. Laingy was getting the brunt of it and I was absolutely flabbergasted.

“Things happen off the field to players that people don’t know about, things that I deal with and I look after them.

“I’ve seen what happens to players. I try to tell these lads to stay away from social media, I’ve said to them that it’s my pet hate. Yes, fans have an opinion, but when you see some of the comments…someone said he was abysmal and there is no way that lad was abysmal on Wednesday night.”

The manager added: “I put a lot of pressure on Laingy to play the way we do, because he’s the one that we start and play us out from the back with. He’s going to lose the ball more than others because he’s on the ball more than anyone at the back.

“The reason he was hitting long balls was because there were no options in midfield. He was forced into it, he was hung out to dry by the lads because there wasn’t enough options.

“As a team, you’ve got to look after each other and as soon as he’s on the ball he should have options.

“Judge these players at the end of the season, never mind after five or six games. It’s a long old season and they’re all quality footballers.”

This is not a manager hitting out at supporters, the same supporters who pay the wages, nor would he claim players are above criticism, he is merely asking for patience as his new team knits together.

Some of these players have produced for him before at Blyth Spartans, finishing seventh last season, he knows what they are capable of and can get the best out of them, such as on Saturday.

Albeit against weak opposition, promoted last season, it is worth noting Darlington were without Luke Trotman, ruled out for probably the rest of the season, and Jamie Holmes, who has knee cartilage problem and will be missing for around three weeks.

Michael Liddle switched to right-back where he was equally affective as he is on the other flank, where Jordan Watson came into the side and also starting for the first time were Tyrone O’Neill and Osagi Bascome.

Bermudan Bascome kept it simple in midfield, offering an out-ball to defenders, and Armstrong was pleased.

“I thought Osagi was smashing,” he said. “He looks after the ball and that’s what we needed, someone to look after the ball and to be fair to him he did a lot more of the defensive work than I was expecting, he got himself stuck in.”

It was 1-0 on 18 minutes, Thompson’s free-kick from 21 yards, won after he had been tripped by Michael Richens, was curled over the Kettering wall past Paul White after a high tempo start and a barrage of Darlington chances.

Kettering had brief forays, most notably when Chris Elliott made an important close-range block from Aaron O’Connor after a free-kick, but this was Darlington’s day.

Though they were unable to add a second before half-time, it took less than 60 seconds after the restart to add the next goal with Thompson the provider this time.

He got to the byline after perfectly-weighted cross-field pass by Bascome, and played the ball across for Rivers whose impudent backheel made it 2-0.

And the points were sealed when the excellent Will Hatfield, man of the match were it not for Thompson’s input, played a one-two with Adam Campbell and charged into the penalty are where he was tripped by Joe Skarz.

Thompson smashed home the penalty for his 96th goal for the club, four more needed to match Alan Walsh’s 100.