Darlington moved into the play-off positions with a goalless draw at Alfreton Town, but missed a golden chance to go one place better because of two missed penalties.

They’ve now lost just once in 11 league games and are seventh, but wasted spot kicks by Jake Cassidy and Junior Mondal meant that they failed to go sixth above Boston.

Manager Alun Armstrong admitted: “I’m absolutely gutted. We had three great chances to win the game. Cass (Jake Cassidy) knows he missed a glorious opportunity to put us a goal up, but the keeper tipped his shot on to the post.

“I expected him to smash the penalty down the middle, but it didn’t happen.

“I told the players at half time that if we got another one, then to leather it down the middle because the keeper is always going to dive. I was fuming when the second penalty was missed.”

Quakers have conceded just two goals in five matches, and Armstrong added: “The one big thing to come out of the game, is the character of the players. Those players we had previously would have crumbled and been bullied against Alfreton.

“I can honestly say that Tommy Taylor never had a save to make, and he didn’t even get muck on his elbows. I thought Jake Lawlor was outstanding.

“I can’t fault the lads for their effort, but the quality wasn’t there. I loved the work ethic in there, there is a willingness to not get beat which wasn’t there at the start of the season.”

Alfreton, as ever, adopted a direct style of play and in the first half hour Conor Branson clipped the top of the Darlington crossbar with a header from a free kick, and the giant Matt Rhead, the target of many long balls, also put a header from a Dayle Southwell corner over the bar.

But with Jake Lawlor getting to grips with Rhead, Quakers slowly got into the game, although they were perhaps fortunate to keep 11 men on the pitch.

With David Wheater injured and Danny Ellis testing positive Covid, Alex Storey returned but was lucky not to be shown a red after pulling back goal-bound Yusifu Ceesay.

Referee Matt Corlett showed a yellow, presumably as he thought Lawlor was in a covering position, but Armstrong admitted: “Maybe we got away with one there.”

Quakers had a good spell before half time and should have taken the lead.

Good play by Alex Purver saw him slip the ball through Jake Cassidy, who beat a defender and fired against the post, and soon Jack Lambert was upended in the box.

But Cassidy’s spot kick was pushed away low to his left by goalkeeper George Willis.

Cassidy stepped aside when Quakers got another penalty just after the hour mark, this time after Mondal chased a through ball into the box and went to ground.

But Mondal’s poor penalty was far too close to Willis, making an easy save for the keeper.

That is now four penalties in a row Darlington have missed following Will Hatfield against Hereford and Kevin Dos Santos against Southport.

Darlington almost won it, when Storey headed just over – which really would have upset Alfreton - and they thought they should have had a third penalty when Mondal went down again, but the referee waved play on.

Armstrong said: “It bugs me, because we missed a penalty at Hereford and had to settle for a draw, and we missed two more on Saturday that cost us another two points. So, there are four points and we would have been higher in the table.

“We had three big opportunities to win the game, and we’ve got to take them. I hope it doesn’t come back and bite us, but having said that, four points from two tough away games at Leamington and Alfreton I would have taken before they were played. There’ll be lots more twists and turns yet.”

Quakers are at home to Curzon Ashton on Friday, and they’ll be hoping for a bigger than average crowd to back them.