HOW Darlington fare on Monday will dictate how favourably they look back at a Saturday draw that felt like a victory when Adam Campbell equalised in injury time.

Four points over the Bank Holiday weekend would be a good haul and maintain the progress and sense of momentum that has steadily built since pre-season.

Anything less than victory, however, at home to winless Bradford Park Avenue, would be viewed as failure following the mixed emotions at full-time on Saturday at Altrincham.

The fixture fell firmly into the ‘would’ve taken a point before the game’ category, playing a club that were in the play-offs last season and with Quakers having lost both of their previous away matches.

Yet circumstances altered so drastically during the course of the afternoon that it left one wondering what might have been.

Altrincham played more than half of the game with less than 11 men, and by the closing stages had only nine players and were without a recognised goalkeeper.

Alun Armstrong said: “You look at your fixtures at the start of the season, especially your Bank Holiday fixtures, and if you can get four points from the weekend that would be great.

“But then circumstances changed with their lad getting sent off.

“If we’d not got anything from that we’d have had to pick the lads up off the floor ready to go on Monday.

“As it stands it feels like a win because of the way the goal was scored, but it was no more than these lads deserved.

“Hopefully the fans could see that they worked extremely hard in unbelievable heat.

“We passed the ball really well at times. We needed a bit more desire and a bit more awareness, we needed to gamble a bit more across the front and back post, but you’ve got to give Altrincham credit.”

Altrincham will be pleased with the outcome having lost a defender to a red card in the latter stages of an uninspiring first half, one that sprang to life when Tom Hannigan was dismissed for a reckless challenge on Jarrett Rivers

Hannigan could equally have been dismissed for denying a goalscoring opportunity, and Armstrong said: “They would probably say they had cover, but I thought Adam Campbell was through one on one, but the referee didn’t continue to play to see if we would score.

“He stopped play for it being a high tackle, and it was quite high so I don’t think he can have any arguments. The ref should’ve let the game run to see if we would’ve scored, but he said the severity of the challenge meant he had to stop play.”

Dismissed Hannigan left the pitch on a stretcher having injured himself, but referee Sam Mulhall caused confusion by not clearly displaying the red card, perhaps taking pity on the player, a situation lacking clarity and exacerbated by Altrincham making a substitution while the stretcher was carried down the tunnel.

Nonetheless, Alty were down to ten in stifling heat, but Armstrong’s side struggled to break down a side that got men behind the ball, Quakers’ passing not quick or precise enough to create scoring opportunities.

Darlington’s manager said: “They set their shape up at half-time to let us have the ball in front of them, which is what you would do when you’ve got ten men, to try and nick a point and counter-attack.

“Once they got their noses in front I didn’t think it was going to be our day, but some of the football we played was really good.”

Altrincham went ahead with a goal from a John Johnston corner that saw Darlington’s Jordan Watson lose track of Jordan Hulme, who headed powerfully past Chris Elliott.

“It was a poor from a set-piece, Jordan held his hands up, he knew he had made a mistake,” admitted Armstrong, who made three substitutions as he sought to manufacture a positive outcome.

Hulme scored twice when Altrincham spanked Darlington 3-0 a year ago this weekend, a day when the limitations of some of Tommy Wright’s signings came to the fore, but Armstrong has been smarter in his recruitment.

Substitute Justin Donawa made an impact, doing his chance of starting against Bradford no harm with his direct running causing problems, succeeding where Quakers’ patient passing had failed.

The recalled Stephen Thompson had a couple of efforts blocked and Tyrone O’Neill had a shot on the turn saved, but it was not until injury time that Quakers finally struck after Alty goalkeeper Steven Drench had been stretchered off.

Given the misfortune Darlington have had with injuries perhaps another team suffering in such a manner felt like justice, and the equaliser was certainly fair on the balance of play.

Drench’s exit led to winger Johnston donning the gloves, so when Donawa was fouled near the corner of the penalty area Campbell made sure to curl the ball into the top corner out of the stand-in’s reach.

“These lads dug in, they kept playing the way we want to play,” said Armstrong. “I changed it at the end when I put Josh Heaton up top to give them another problem and it was all hands to the pump. The lads thoroughly deserved it and I’m delighted with their work ethic.

“We had to start testing them and getting some shots on goal. Cams has got that quality, I’ve seen him do that many a time, he’s whipped it right into the top bin.”