DARLINGTON fans were optimistically singing “We’re going to Wembley” after two second half goals put them into the last qualifying round for the first time as a fan-owned club.

Some Leamington fans scoffed at their visitors’ choice of song, perhaps unaware of the significance of what is a big step forward for Quakers, who until this season had won only one FA Cup tie in five years.

There has been growing optimism courtesy of recent results and performances, and that’s because manager Alun Armstrong has steadily built a solid team that the fans can be proud of and identify with.

Striker Tyrone O’Neill and substitute Justin Donawa both scored top quality goals, and new goalkeeper Liam Connell made a big difference with his reactions and command of the area.

Quakers’ away form has been transformed over the course of three Saturdays. After going five league games on their travels without a win, they have now won three in a row on the road, two of them in the FA Cup to collect £18,000 in prize money, and at least another £6,250 in the next round – but hopefully instead £18,750 for winning that tie and reaching the first round.

The draw for the next round is early on Monday afternoon and Armstrong is hoping for a tie at Blackwell Meadows on October 19 to “get the town buzzing”.

“We’d like a home game now to be honest,” he said. “The fans were outstanding and never shut up all game. I was really pleased for them, because it’s been tough over the last few years in the FA Cup and the club has been through the mill a bit. That win was for the fans, so hopefully we can get a draw at Blackwell. Hopefully we can get a few more fans in and give the town a lift. It’s great that we’ve got these three games under our belts and given the fans something to shout about. They’ve been our 12th man.

“It was a real backs-to-the-wall job. Liam Connell kept us in the game with three outstanding saves. It’s great when you’ve got that, he’s come in and given everybody a lift.

“He made those saves, and you could see them lifting the lads. They dug in, it wasn’t the perfect performance, but it’s what you do away from home. You can’t expect to play nice pretty football all the time. They put us under a lot of pressure with long high balls, and they were really difficult to deal with."

Quakers nearly opened the scoring early on with a half-volley by Will Hatfield that went just wide, but Leamington had more of the play in the first half.

Connell, who showed some good handling early in the game, pulled off a good point blank save from Callum Gittings, then was relieved when Reece Flanagan headed over the top.

Quakers' new goalkeeper, who signed on loan on Friday from South Shields, made an excellent reaction save from a Jack Edwards header from a corner on 32 minutes, and Quakers thought they should have had a penalty soon after when Adam Campbell’s shot seemed to be blocked by the arm of a defender.

Quakers took the lead on 64 minutes, when Campbell chipped the ball forward to O’Neill, who controlled the ball well on his chest, swivelled, and fired across Jake Weaver into the net.

Terry Galbraith was inches over the top with a header soon after, before Connell produced his third excellent save, palming away a low shot by Flanagan that came at him through a crowd of players.

Armstrong put on centre half Louis Laing to strengthen the defence for the closing stages as Quakers were pushed back, but it was game over with two minutes left when O’Neill flicked the ball on for Jarrett Rivers, who slipped the ball across for Donawa and the Bermudan managed to turn and fire into the bottom corner.

“The lads did exceptionally well, they did the jobs that I expected from them," added Armstrong. "We only had a couple of opportunities in the first half. It was very much like last week at Alfreton. They were difficult to contend with, but I think we coped a lot better physically. I told the lads to stay in the game for an hour, and that would allow me to bring the subs on and change our game.

"They did exceptionally well when we did. I thought about bringing Justin on a little earlier, but Tyrone scored an outstanding goal. He took it lovely on the chest, turned and he hit a sweet shot across the keeper. “The kid has got quality. He’s done wonders for us since he’s been here. He’s learning, and he’s finding it tough being up there on his own sometimes. But he works extremely hard and uses his body well.

“We reverted to a back five and brought Justin on for his pace – it’s great to have those options. He has the ability to change the game in an instant. He’s that quick, it was a great finish.

“I couldn’t fault the players for the way they defended. They picked the second balls up, they cleared their lines properly – that’s what you have to do. It’s not perfect football sometimes. Yes, you want to play the perfect games, but these are the ones you enjoy a little bit more because your back is against the wall, and then you come up with two quality goals.”

Goals: O’Neill (64, 0-1), Donawa (88, 0-2)

Bookings: Donawa

Referee: Dale Wootton

Attendance: 605

Leamington (4-4-2): Weaver, English, Gittings, Hood, Lane, Mace, Taylor (Walters 72), Flanagan (Shamsi 86), Anderson (Keane 81) March, Edwards. Subs (not used): Dunbar, Mussa, Nicholson, Newey

Darlington (4-3-2-1): Connell, Hedley, Storey, Galbraith, Liddle, Hatfield, Wheatley, Holness (Laing 77), Rivers, Campbell (Donawa 77), O’Neill. Subs (not used): Elliott, Bascome, Bell, Holliday, Watson