DARLINGTON are clawing their way to safety, continuing to show enough improvement to pick up the points that are seeing them climb away from the relegation zone and into mid-table.

They remain 13th after last night’s 0-0 draw at Tamworth, which means they have now lost only once in nine games.

The result, though a slight disappointment given Tamworth had not won in nine matches beforehand, it was not a bad point given the lengthy journey to what was a midweek away game, and was a fair reflection of a game in which each side spurned several chances.

It was Tamworth, fighting against the drop, who had the better of the first half, and Quakers on top in the second after firming up their defending.

“I do back us to beat anybody, but Tamworth are scrapping for their lives, they were desperate for a win and have some good players,” said Quakers boss Tommy Wright.

“With Stychey and Mills playing against their former club is always going to be a heated occasion and it wasn’t to be tonight.

“There were some really clear chances missed, but I’m happy with a clean sheet and happy with a point.

“We had more of the clear chances in the second half, but overall either team could have nicked it and both sets of players will be content to walk away with a point."

It was Quakers’ fourth clean sheets in six matches - they had managed four in their previous 30 fixtures – and a key difference has been the arrival of Aynsley Pears on loan from Middlesbrough.

The goalkeeper made a number of saves last night to maintain parity, particularly in the first half.

He made the first save of the evening, diving to his right to keep out Darryl Knights, the Tamworth forward having shown a sharp turn of pace after cutting inside from the left.

Initially it was end-to-end, each side eager to make an impact. Thompson had a speculative long-range shot saved by Dan Jezeph, before Tamworth striker Akwasi Asante twice went close within minutes, rolling a shot narrowly wide from 20 yards having not long brought a save out of Pears.

Tamworth have struggled since Reece Styche left to join Darlington in November, and he was inches away from scoring on his return to The Lamb.

Fellow ex-Lamb Mills cut out a poor pass in the Tamworth defence by Joel Kettle, raced forward and played a pass across goal but it was just out of Styche’s reach.

Mills was up front alongside Styche and one of three changes to Quakers’ team with Jack Vaulks and Josh Gillies also recalled, while Josh Heaton, Mitchell Glover and James Caton made way, and again there was no place for Joe Wheatley.

Wheatley has been dropped due to a drop in performance in both the last two matches and training, says Wright, while Heaton had a family engagement that had been booked before last night’s game was rearranged having been postponed ten days ago.

Quakers lacked control in midfield, struggling to make inroads in the opposition half, and Tamworth took control for the remainder of the half.

A good effort by Connor Taylor, a volley after an error by Ben O’Hanlon, was parried by Pears, who again denied the home team with a fine save just before the break.

He tipped wide an Asante effort wide when the striker was one-on-one at the end of a counter attack which began when Styche gave the ball away, a moment that came soon after Vaulks almost scored an own goal when a header back to Pears beats his team-mate but bounced wide.

Darlington were a lot better in the second half, however, a Dave Syers volley was saved within 60 seconds of the restart.

Gillies had a free-kick saved by Jezeph, and from the resulting corner Rhys Sharpe headed the ball off the line, Darlington looking more threatening, showing more purpose in their play.

Styche was off target after Luke Trotman pass, but Quakers continued to press and Thompson saw a hopeful effort caught by keeper Jezeph.

Trotman was alert to divert danger for Darlington, the right-back getting a foot in before Tom Shaw was about to pounce on a loose ball six yards from Darlington’s goal, but that was a rare Tamworth glimpse of goal.

Mills was poor most of the game, his evening summed up when he and was guilty an awful miss, unable to turn the ball home at close-range when Syers blasted across goal.

Styche has now gone four games without a goal, late on twice going close to ending his dry run, both missed greeted by cheers from the home fans.

Fans of both sides were given cause for bewilderment when James Caton, attired in base layer, gloves and tights, was incorrectly booked by referee Sam Hulhall in the closing stages for simulation, despite clearly being fouled.

It was a dreadful decision that deserved derision, and at this stage Quakers knew it was not going to be their night.