MUCH-IMPROVED Darlington overcame third-placed Chester and a floodlight failure to record their first win in five league matches.

This was a contrasting performance to the sloppy defeat at Leamington of last Tuesday, with the players giving more than everything, and they deserved the standing ovation at the end of the game.

But everyone’s hearts were in their mouths when the floodlights kept going out during the first half, and there was a high risk that the referee would abandon the game unless six of the eight pylons illuminated for the second period, which they eventually did after some coaxing.

“Everything seems to be going against us at the moment, and that’s the way it seemed at half time,” said delighted manager Alun Armstrong. “I thought we deserved to be 2-0 up because we’d played well in the first half. Chester are a good team, they’re big and physical. It was about digging in and helping each other out instead of standing back and watching.

"I could sense that we were going to win the game because the players were blocking shots, and helping each other out constantly – we never had that in the second half against Telford or at Leamington.

"We’ve got to make sure that we perform like that every week. We’re all trying to fix things, but I think it’s all down to confidence."

Despite being forced into changes, with Terry Galbraith injured, Stephen Thompson rested and Will Hatfield suspended, Quakers looked pretty confident in the opening stages and took the game, particularly on the left through Jarrett Rivers, to Chester in the opening stages.

It was from a right-wing cross by Ben Hedley that nearly got the breakthrough, but Jack Lambert headed straight at Chester keeper Russ Griffiths.

Quakers always threatened with their pace and tempo when they went forward, and they deservedly took the lead on 28 minutes, when the outstanding Justin Donawa nodded down a Liam Connell free kick for Omar Holness to control and neatly flick over Griffiths for his first league goal of the season.

Chester, who didn’t look like a team that had lost only once away this season, missed a couple of half chances to get back into the game, and they had a let off when Adam Campbell couldn’t quite get on the end of another Hedley cross.

With the light fading in more ways than one, the home side’s all out effort gained a deserved second in first half stoppage time.

Rivers found Liddle on the left, and the stand in captain struck a low cross-cum-shot that Griffiths fumbled, and Donawa kept his feet well to tuck the ball in.

However, there was plenty of apprehension during a 45-minute half time interval. One attempt to light all the floodlights failed, and the referee agreed for six of the eight to be lit, which eventually happened – but clearly they need to be serviced before Quakers’ next home game.

“The game was very close to being abandoned," admitted Armstrong. "I thought at one point it was going to be, because the ref said that he wanted all the lights on. We knew that one was broken, and I was really worried at that point because we didn’t want to play again on a Wednesday night.

"The lads put themselves in a great position at 2-0, then all of a sudden they might have had to replay – it would have killed us. Mentally, it would have been tough to deal with, it was tough enough as it was in that changing room during the delay to keep them switched on. I’m delighted that the assessor and referee saw sense, and we got the game done."

After the resumption, unlike last week against Telford when Darlington lost 3-2 after leading 2-0 at the break, Quakers stayed solid. Indeed, Rivers nearly made it three with a free kick from way out on the left that just went past the post.

Quakers’ defending was probably their best of the season, with several players outstanding. Joe Wheatley shielded the back four well, while Alex Storey got in some tremendous blocks, especially late in the game.

Akwasi Asante, scorer of a hat-trick last season against Darlington, put a header over the bar from close range, sub Matty Hughes headed just wide, and Connell touched another Hughes effort wide.

But at the other end in the last minute Thompson got away and was denied his 100th goal by Griffiths’ legs.

Nevertheless, Quakers were good for the three points, which sets them up for this Saturday’s tough Trophy game at Solihull, and the subsequent league games against York, Spennymoor and Blyth.

Armstrong added: “I was chuffed to bits with the lads, their work ethic was superb, but why aren’t they doing that every week? Sometimes they don’t have enough self-belief. I want them to do things that they’re good at, and not what they’re not good at. They’ve got to believe in themselves a lot more; when we’ve got that belief, some of the football we play is really good. I couldn’t fault any single lad out there. I wasn’t bothered about anything else except getting the result, and if we played some football then great – and instead we got a bit of both.”

Goals: Holness (28, 1-0, Donawa (45, 2-0)

Booking: Wheatley

Referee: Kristian Silcock (Liverpool)

Attendance: 1,210

Darlington (4-2-3-1): Connell, Hedley, Laing, Storey, Liddle, Wheatley, Holness, Lambert (Watson 85), Rivers, Donawa (Bascome 90), Campbell (Thompson 76). Subs (not used): Holliday, Bell

Chester (4-4-2): Griffiths, T Roberts, Taylor, Livesey, Grand, Stopforth, Jackson, Glendon, Dudley (Hughes 62), Asante, Ngwatala (Elliott 62). Subs (not used): Morgan, G Roberts, Waring