DARLINGTON’S cup exploits are shelved for the time being as the bread and butter of National League North action resumes, starting tomorrow at home to AFC Telford United.

Such was the progress made in the FA Cup that for the first time since early September Quakers are scheduled to play three back-to-back league fixtures.

After Telford – weather permitting, pitch covers were put in place yesterday – they head to Leamington for a rearranged game on Tuesday before hosting Chester in seven days’ time.

And, having overcome Gainsborough Trinity in FA Trophy seven days ago, in a fortnight Alun Armstrong’s men are at Solihull in the first round, by which time the manager hopes his team will risen from their position of 14th in the table.

Mastering the art of maintaining their standards for a full 90 minutes would no doubt help their cause.

Quakers have lost only twice in 11 games, though in their last two matches - Walsall and Gainsborough - Darlington faded in the second 45 minutes having enjoyed the better of the first half, and it is an issue Armstrong wishes to address.

“As much as I tried to get them going, I knew we weren’t going to get a full 90 out of them on Saturday because of what they had been through in the week,” he said.

“Even if we had won that game against Walsall the energy we had left would only have taken us so far against Gainsborough after the effort that had been put in.

“That’s why I wanted the game put to bed in the first half, and it should’ve been because we created enough chances. We made it difficult for ourselves by taking our foot off the gas. I mentioned it after the game as well.

“It’s not coming from the bench, it just seems to happen and we need to find out what that reason is. It could be because we play with an intensity that we cannot keep up for 90 minutes.

“We could manage games better and keep the ball better, to improve and progress that’s what we need to do.

“But I don’t want to stop the intense football we play when we play with pace and energy.

“In the replay you could see we tired out, the legs gave away a bit. But what I was happy about against Gainsborough was at least I had lads to come on and impact the game, whereas we couldn’t do that against Walsall. It’s crucial to have lads that can freshen things up.”

Among those substitute options was the pacey Justin Donawa, who marked his return from international duty by scoring the winning goal against Gainsborough after coming off the bench.

It was his 17th appearance of the season, all but two of them being as a sub, and Armstrong is aware of the demand in some quarters to put him in the starting XI.

Armstrong explained: “People might say Justin needs to start, but where would he fit in? Look at Jarrett Rivers and Adam Campbell and the work they put in for the team off the ball is phenomenal, they help out in midfield and they help the full-backs out.

“It’s about making sure he understands the other side of the game. We cannot just say ‘he’s scored four goals so he has to start’, there’s so much more to consider, the team is like a jigsaw you’re trying to put together.

“It’s finding the right balance, plus I’ve got to look at next week’s game at Leamington so there might be some changes to keep things fresh.

“If I started Justin on Saturday as a No. 9 we wouldn’t get the same player who comes off the bench for us. That’s not being disrespectful to him, that’s just where he is at this moment in time, he is best coming in from the wing and running onto things.”

Stephen Thompson has played in a more central position since Tyrone O’Neill was recalled by Middlesbrough, where he has now been an unused substitute three times.

Armstrong added: “Justin is such a good attacking player when he’s coming onto the ball. He’s not a back-to-goal player, he’s not a No. 9 who will hold the ball up, Stephen Thompson isn’t either but he can do it and understands the game, he’s played the position.

“I played Justin against Bradford and we didn’t have the same impact from him – playing with your back to goal is totally different to coming onto the ball.

“That’s the kind of player that we’re missing.”

Armstrong continues to look for additions to the squad and may make a couple of loan additions next week.

Telford narrowly missed out on the play-offs last season, Bradford PA squeezing them out by virtue of scoring one more goal, but they have started this campaign poorly.

They are 16th with two wins in their last ten games in all competitions, both against Guiseley.

“They had a great result last week against Guiseley but they’re not where I expected them to be in the table when you look at the players they signed in the summer,” added Armstrong.

“Aaron Williams came in and they already had Marcus Dinanga. They lost Daniel Udoh to Shrewsbury, but they got Williams from Harrogate Town and I remember him being a real handful when he was at Brackley.

“They’ve got enough quality players there but haven’t found the form that they’re capable of.”