Defender Jake Cooper scored at both ends as Darlington won on their first ever visit to Latimer Park.

The on-loan Rotherham youngster had a day to remember – he put Kettering into the lead in the first half with an own goal, and after Jack Lambert equalised he then put his side into the lead in the second half before winning a penalty for the third.

The result puts Quakers two points below the play off positions, and manager Alun Armstrong thought it was a “fantastic” performance with several very good individual displays on an uneven surface.

“Considering the state of the pitch, then to play the football we did and score the goals that we scored, was outstanding,” he said. “We had them on the ropes at half time, and once we got the equaliser, I knew we would win.

“I knew that Kettering would tire after 60-70 minutes because they haven’t played for nearly three weeks. We know from our experience with Covid earlier in the season what that’s like.”

Armstrong had sympathy for Cooper, who headed the ball over his stranded keeper Tommy Taylor early in the game.

“People forget that Coops is still only a young lad and learning the game.

“I was gutted for him when he put through his own goal. He did what he had to do to head the ball back, but these things happen in football. He recovered well from it.

“What I loved more than anything was the character from the group. They could have crumbled like they did at Southport when we lost 3-0, but when I looked at what I had in midfield, I was confident that they wouldn’t this time.

“I thought that was our best midfield performance of the season. Danny Rose showed why I brought him in. His experience, his positioning, his dealing with the ball under pressure and his passing were superb.

“I thought it was Will Hatfield’s best performance of the season. We know what we can get from him, but we’ve only seen glimpses so far.”

Just like the 3-0 Southport away defeat, Quakers started slowly and were 1-0 down after eight minutes.

The ball was hoisted forward by the Kettering defence, and Cooper headed the ball over goalkeeper Tommy Taylor, who had perhaps advanced too far in his own box.

The home side, who hadn’t played a competitive game for over a fortnight, nearly added a second when Callum Powell turned and put a left foot shot wide.

Luke O’Neill also forced Taylor into a fingertip save from a 25-yard free kick awarded for a foul by Alex Purver.

Quakers steadily got back into the game, and levelled on 35 minutes. Will Hatfield was fouled 25 yards out and Jack Lambert blasted the free kick around the wall and into the net off the post with keeper Jackson Smith beaten.

Lambert enjoyed another excellent game, and Armstrong added: “Jack has got the ability to unlock doors, and he’s got good delivery which a centre forward dreams of.”

With the score 1-1 at the break, Quakers dominated the second half. Lambert’s low corner went right across the six yard box without anyone getting a touch, then Danny Rose put another effort on the roof of the net.

Darlington deservedly took the lead on 64 minutes, when Rose floated a corner in perfectly from the right for Cooper to charge in and head into the roof of the net for his second goal in as many games.

And Quakers made sure with four minutes left.

The ball was worked in from the left hand side for Cooper, up looking for another goal, to be brought down by Kyle Perry as he turned quickly, and Hatfield scored from the spot for the second week running.