DARLINGTON manager Steve Watson has told his players they must be "bolder and braver" in tomorrow’s away game at Brackley.

After producing one of their best performances of the season to beat Hereford last Saturday, Quakers were nowhere near the same standards at Banbury on Tuesday night, with the 2-1 defeat leaving them in second bottom place, seven points adrift of safety.

“I need the lads to take the game by the scruff of the neck and be bold, to be brave and to be ruthless in the final third of the field,” said Watson, who was disappointed with his team's failure to create more scoring opportunities in midweek.

"We had five chances in the final third at Banbury, and we turned them all down. We didn’t take a risk.

“What we really need are the 11 players who start the game to be at it and keep those shirts. They need to be impossible to drop, but instead we’re shuffling them about because we haven’t quite found that balance.

“Looking at our five games so far, we could have said that we could have drawn all five games.

“We played Tamworth, a top of the league team, and it was a very tight game decided by a scrappy goal. We played Hereford, a team in the top six last week, and we were very good and deserved the win.

“When we’ve played teams around us, it’s been really tight. When we were 2-0 down the other night, we kept going and we dominated the second half. We had more possession than them in the game. Teams aren’t opening us up, they’re not peppering our goal, but that said, we’ve got to do more going the other way.”

Quakers haven’t won at fifth-placed Brackley since 2018, and they’re up against a team who have a reputation for being well-drilled and not giving many goals away. They’ve conceded just ten goals at home this season, while Quakers have scored only eight on their travels.

“Brackley are on a great run and been doing really well," added Watson. "They don’t make many changes to their team, and that’s a sign that a team is doing really well. We know what they’re about but we don’t fear anybody.

“We’ve not been outplayed by anybody in my five matches, we just need to do one or two things better.

“Do I think that we’ve got a good enough group of players to beat the drop? Yes, I do. Do I think we need a little bit of help to win games? Yes, we need two or three to give us different options and variations.”

Watson is working hard to bring in new players to strengthen his squad, but the team’s league position doesn’t help.

“It’s really hard to try and convince people, especially from other leagues, to make the drop into our league," he admitted.

“We have to keep working on them, but we need more from our players going forward. I do think that there’s more to come from them, they’re not a bad group of players. They’ve been beaten up a little bit this season, but now it’s up to me and Terry Mitchell to get the best out of them.”

Defender Scott Barrow has overcome an illness which has kept him out of the last two matches, but he’s unlikely to start, while everyone else is expected to be fit.