ON what was a dreadful playing surface at AFC Telford, Darlington manager Alun Armstrong reckoned his players produced their best performance of the season.

Quakers expected the pitch at New Buck’s Head wouldn’t be at its best because of drainage problems – shades of Feethams 1998 - but Telford weren’t prepared for what hit them from a rampant visiting side, who produced an excellent performance.

The playing surface was described as “dangerous” by Armstrong. It was heavily sanded down one side, and boggy in one large area near a corner.

Nonetheless, the win keeps Quakers’ play off hopes alive, now ninth in the table four points below Gateshead.

“Overall, that was our best 90 minutes full performance of the season,” said Armstrong.

“The pitch was horrific, the worst I’ve seen in my time in football to be honest. There were three or four inches of sand, Louis Laing twisted his ankle in the sandpit. I told the lads that they couldn’t use the conditions as an excuse and it was the same for both teams. They went on the field, and showed people that they could do the ugly side of the game. We out-battled, outfought, out-thought and outplayed them.

“I think some of the football was exceptional on a bad pitch. If we’d finished five or six, nobody would have complained. That’s my only bugbear, we’re not scoring enough goals. Adam Campbell was devastated at half time for missing a couple of chances, but I was delighted for him that he scored in the second half. I was frustrated that we conceded because we had possession of the ball again, and annoyed at half time that we weren’t in front, but the lads rolled their sleeves up in the second half.

“We’ve got to put games to bed a lot earlier. Nobody could have argued if we had scored five or six because we had good chances. It’s been one of my bugbears this season, but I’m sure we’ll get it right. It will come, the dressing room is buzzing at the minute, and so it should be."

Once again it was midfielder Will Hatfield who masterminded the victory, and was behind almost everything they did.

He gave Quakers took the lead on 12 minutes, receiving a tempting pass from Joe Wheatley on the left, taking a touch, the defence backed off, and he hit a right foot beauty past debutant keeper Russ Griffiths in the Telford goal.

It was his fourth goal of the season, all away from home, and Armstrong said: “You can’t give Will Hatfield that much space on the edge of the box because we know what he’s capable of – what a strike from him again."

It was soon almost 2-0, Omar Holness hitting the bar with a dipping effort, then Campbell dragged an effort wide after a poor headed back pass put him in the clear.

Darlington were well on top, so it was a surprise when Telford equalised. Holness’ cross-field pass was intercepted, allowing Daniels to break up the left as Louis Laing slipped on the sandy surface, and set up Adam Walker to cross for Marcus Dinanga to turn home.

Telford could not find an answer to Jarrett Rivers on Quakers' left in the second half. He found Holness on the overlap and crossed for the recalled Stephen Thompson, his diving header being blocked by a defender.

Quakers deservedly went back in front on the hour, when Laing played a delightful 30-yard ball over the top of the Telford defence for Campbell to control and slot into the corner for his 14th league goal of the season.

There have been times in recent weeks when Quakers haven’t consolidated their lead well enough, but they killed time nicely in the closing stages.

Armstrong added: “Laingy has the ability to penetrate a defence with his passing quality when he has the time, and the weight on his pass for the second goal was different class. It was great movement by Cams, and he rolled the ball into the net with the calmness that we know he’s got.

“I decided to kill the game off and thought back to the previous game against Brackley when maybe I should have brought Atky on and seen the game through at 1-0. I learned from that, brought him on, and managed the game out. I think it was the first time that we’ve managed the last five minutes of a game ever so well.

“Everything is coming into place at the right time. I’ve been there before with Blyth, I know what it takes to get on these runs. Hopefully I’ve got these lads believing in it. All of a sudden, we’ve gone from five without a win to four unbeaten. The timing is good – last season at Blyth we went ten unbeaten – and if these lads can replicate that form, then I’m sure we’ll be there or thereabouts.”

It was Darlington's first league win at Telford since David Corner scored the winner in 1990.

Goals: Hatfield (12, 0-1); Dinanga (34, 1-1); Campbell (59, 1-2)

Bookings: Lilly; Holness

Referee: Sam Mulhull

Attendance 1,103

AFC Telford: (4-4-2): Griffiths, White, Lilly, Sutton, Streete, Walker, Barnett (Stenson 73), Deeney, Daniels, Dinanga, McQuilkin (Williams 62). Subs (not used): Royle, Knights, Jones

Darlington: (4-2-3-1) Elliott, Hedley (Watson 89), Laing, Galbraith, Liddle, Wheatley, Hatfield, Rivers, Holness (Atkinson 71), Thompson (Donawa 74), Campbell. Subs (not used): Reid, Martin