JOSH GOWLING was proud of his Darlington players as they deservedly won their first game under his control against Farsley at the Citadel.

Quakers won a league game at the sixth attempt under Gowling, and nobody could begrudge the visitors the three points as they controlled nearly all the game with some clever play, and showed more passion, togetherness and determination than the home side. They’re still bottom of the table, but won’t be for much longer if they maintain this improvement at Peterborough Sports on Tuesday night.

However, after taking a 2-0 lead, they missed some good chances to make the game safe, and that caused some nervous moments later in the game after ten-man Farsley pulled a goal back.

But Quakers’ defence, which has been criticised several times this season for some clangers, held itself together in determined style.

“We got there in the end, because the lads stuck to the game-plan, “said Gowling, who caught Farsley off guard by playing four at the back instead of three. “We felt that when the ball was in transition, we could get the ball into pockets and really hurt them, which is what we did for the first goal.

"We showed the players a few clips in training and then the goal came from Jacob Hazel picking the ball up in that area, and then Cameron Salkeld’s finish was really pleasing.

“I thought Haze and Cameron won us the game, although it was a great team performance. Their endeavour and work rate were unbelievable. Cam stretched the lines - he was a nuisance down the middle and his goal gave us a platform to build on.

“If you look at the chances we created, the game should have been dead and buried. It should have been 2-0 and cruising to a comfortable victory, but when it’s 2-1, you don’t know what’s going to happen. Credit to the lads, they dug in there and won their duels. It’s so long since we’ve had a win, I was so pleased to get it any way we could.

“To a man, I’m proud of the players. I know how much they wanted to win the game, and how much they worked. They’ve taken a bit of flak over the last few weeks, but all I can say is that these boys care and they want to win. They want to get the club into a better position than it is now.”

Quakers grew in confidence as the first half progressed. Tom Platt got into the area and set up Salkeld, and the ball nearly went in off a defender.

They nearly scored on the half-hour, when Will Hatfield sent Hazel racing clear, and his low shot was touched around the post by Farsley keeper Zan-Luk-Leben.

But Quakers got their noses in front – a pretty rare feeling this season -- when a Farsley attack was broken up inside the Darlington area, and the ball was played quickly by the impressive Hayden Lindley and Hazel to speedily set up Salkeld, who kept his composure to slot home his first goal for the club into the bottom corner.

A looping header by Jake Lawlor was also saved under the bar by Leban as Quakers went looking for a second.

The only real chance that Farsley had in the first half was from former Darlington full-back George Smith, but keeper Tommy Taylor, on his return to the side, pushed the ball around the near post.

Quakers gave themselves some breathing space three minutes after half-time. Johnny Ngandu was fouled 30 yards out, and Hatfield drove the free-kick across the keeper and into the corner of the net for his fourth of the season.

It was nearly 3-0 a few minutes later when Lindley’s shot was blocked, and the ball dropped for Kallum Griffiths, whose volley was deflected just wide, then Hazel put a bicycle kick just over from Hatfield’s left-wing cross.

There were a couple more opportunities wasted before Farsley nearly pulled a goal back when Conor Branson headed against the crossbar, but then they were reduced to ten men when full back Connor O’Brien was dismissed for his second yellow, a foul on Hazel.

But that didn’t stop them scoring when Branson headed Ryan Watson’s free-kick into the bottom corner.

Quakers should have made the game safe. Sub Jim Simms had an effort cleared off the line, then the dangerous Hazel cut in from the left and fired just wide of the post.

They had a better chance when Salkeld broke down the right and crossed for Simms, who couldn’t beat Leban.

The final whistle was met with mixture of delight and relief – and real belief now that they can climb away from the bottom four.