DARLINGTON are staying up, and the club is looking up too after finally shaking off their relegation worries.

A hard-earned 2-1 victory on Saturday at FC United of Manchester ended concerns about being dragged into the drop zone, which have lingered like a bad smell for months.

While Quakers have put a good run of results together since January and risen to mid-table, the stench of the Evo-Stik Northern Premier League lingered until Saturday, when goals by Josh Gillies and Reece Styche at Broadhurst Park secured safety with four games to go.

Though a notable success, given the opposition’s excellent record – only one defeat in their previous 13 home league games – there was no more exhilaration than could be expected after any other away win.

Tommy Wright is the first to admit avoiding the drop with Darlington hardly counts as an achievement. After all, the team were 12th when he took over in October although in the midst of a slump, and they are in the same position now.

Saturday’s fourth away win of the season is simply part of a longer-term process, with the aim being a place in the play-offs next season.

They are out of reach this time – mathematically it’s possible, yet realistically it is simply not going to happen – so the closing straight of this season is about mustering momentum to take into this summer.

“We’ve achieved the minimum requirement, but it’s not an achievement,” said Wright, on securing the club’s status in the division.

“We’ve got four games to go, four really good games too.

“Two are at home and we’ve also got a local derby and we finish the season at arguably the biggest club in this league.

“It’s four good games for the lads and I want to finish on a high.”

They will finish lower in the table than last season’s fifth place, yet this campaign is ending on a more upbeat note.

Seatgate dominated proceedings a year ago, but 12 months on the seated stand at Blackwell Meadows has been built, the Boost the Budget appeal has had a good response, the new academy is starting, while on the pitch a number of key performers have signed new contracts.

Results, however, dictate the mood like nothing else, so Saturday’s win put a smile on everyone’s face, and it was a major improvement on a lacklustre performance seven days previously, when losing 2-1 to Boston United.

Darlington created and wasted numerous first-half chances against a surprisingly poor United team, who came into the contest 15th and level on points with Quakers.

After Styche was involved in a handful of missed chances, it was a Gillies goal that put Darlington ahead on 26 minutes, and it was a collectors’ item too, the winger scoring a header for the first time after good work on the right by the recalled Luke Trotman and a cross by Stephen Thompson.

Wright said: “It was put on a plate for him, but we have seen players miss them. He got on the end of it and I thought Josh was our man of the match today.

“He was very creative, his delivery was good at set-plays and his performance in the game was very good.

“The first 15 minutes I thought United were the better team and we grew into it,” said Wright.

“We should’ve been 3-0 up at half-time, we played some good stuff. I don’t think it was perfect by any means, but it was a lot better than last week.”

Quakers should have been out of sight by the break and inevitably paid the price for their profligacy in the final minute of the half.

United’s Scott Kay scored from close range following a corner, though Wright said: “I was a bit disgruntled with the referee about what had happened in the build-up to their goal – I think it was our throw-in and our corner – and then the ball ends up in our net.

“I was probably a bit frustrated that we weren’t three or four up at the time, and all of a sudden it’s half-time and it’s 1-1.”

Darlington did not work up a head of steam in the second half, unable to create the same number of chances as they did in the first, but they did not have to as United effectively gave them a goal in the 65th minute.

Goalkeeper Lloyd Allinson raced out of his penalty area to intercept Thompson’s long ball, but misjudged the bounce and in nipped Styche to score in an empty net, the easiest of his 22 goals this season.

“He’s been making unbelievable saves all season, but he has got that clanger in his locker,” said Wright of Allinson. “That’s part of being a goalkeeper, learning the game.

“Reece gambled on him making a mistake, it took a big bounce over the keeper’s head and you’re almost smiling before the ball bounces because you know it’s a goal.

“He deserved his goal. He was disappointed to miss two chances in the first half.”

With safety assured, finishing as high up the table as possible is the aim. Four wins from four would achieve that, with first up being a trip to Spennymoor Town on Thursday evening.