INCREASED intensity in training and dressing room harmony are two improvements behind the scenes at Darlington, believes Stephen Thompson, that could lead to a better campaign this time around.

While season 2018-19 is better best forgotten, this season kick-started on Saturday with a thumping 3-0 win over Kettering Town with Thompson scoring twice.

He also assisted Jarrett Rivers for the other goal as Quakers recorded their first win of the season, and their biggest since January.

Eight of Alun Armstrong’s summer signings were in the starting XI, two-goal Thompson, Osagi Bascome and Terry Galbraith the exceptions, and Saturday was the first time the team has shown what it is capable of in both halves of a competitive match.

“I love it, it’s brilliant,” said Thompson. “From day once since the gaffer came he has brought the new lads in, we’ve all gelled and they’re all top lad and top players.

“That’s the main thing for me this year, everyone is getting on and you can see that for yourself.

“The first thing is the work ethic, everyone is fitter. We grafted in pre-season with the tempo and intensity that we go into games with.

“It’s not so much the running in training, it’s intensity of it, it’s what the gaffer demands, that we have the same intensity in training as have in games.

“You cannot be sluggish in training because you’ll take that into games. Everyone is on it in training and I think you can see that.

“We made a couple of mistakes in the first few games but we have played well.”

Armstrong was forced into three changes to his starting XI due to injuries to Luke Trotman and Jamie Holmes, while he felt midfielder Omar Holness needed a rest.

Michael Liddle switched to right-back with Jordan Watson coming into the side at left-back, while in the second half Josh Heaton replaced Terry Galbraith with this evening’s match at Curzon Ashton in mind.

Despite all the changes Darlington’s defence was strong, keeping its first clean sheet of the campaign, which is something they hope to repeat this evening.

Thompson added: “The gaffer wants us to be solid at the back, so the four lads up top can express themselves to try and score goals.

“We were tight at the back and didn’t make mistakes. Laingy and Tez were brilliant, Josh did well when he came on, Lidds was brilliant over at right-back and Jordan came in and was solid, that’s what you need.

“There’s people fighting for places all over the pitch which can only bring the best out of everybody.”

Thompson’s brace took his goal tally for Darlington to 96, four more required to match the 100 that Alan Walsh netted in the early 1980s, with the first a free-kick and the second coming from the penalty spot.

No doubt Thompson would have claimed the record long ago had he taken more penalties in his 304 appearances – he took just three of the spot-kicks Quakers were awarded in the four seasons between 2013-14 and 16-17.

Nonetheless, it is only a matter of time before he reaches the century, and he said: “I know how many goals I’m on so I can’t say I don’t think about it, but not when I’m playing.

“Once you score you think ‘right, there’s another one ticked off’.

“It’s four to go, five for the record, I’ll just keep on going and try to get goals whenever I can.”

Thompson’s appearance this evening will be his last until the match at Altrincham on Saturday, August 24 as a holiday means he misses the match at home to Southport this weekend.

As well as Galbraith, Tyrone O’Neill and Will Hatfield were withdrawn on Saturday to save their energy for Curzon, who are unbeaten in their three matches with one win and two draws.

Armstrong added: “I wanted to get Adam Campbell off to conserve his energy, but Will was outstanding, his energy was unbelievable and I wanted him off a little bit earlier if I’m honest. The kid is that enthusiastic he didn’t want to come off.

“I’ve got to try and manage the players. Tez is the only left-sided centre-back now, so I had to get him off, but there will be some fresh legs on Monday.

“It’s a tough place to go, especially on a Monday after playing on a Saturday, but the pitch is great.

“There’ll be no excuses for us about getting the ball down and playing it.

“The lads will be full of confidence after today’s game.