STEVE WATSON says he hasn’t given up hope of National League North survivial despite his lacklustre Darlington team losing at home to Alfreton.

Quakers’ position is looking more and more hopeless after they suffered their seventh home defeat of the season, leaving them nine points adrift of safety because of Southport’s win over Brackley.

They showed how fragile they are when they conceded a soft penalty just after half-time, and then struggled to get back into the game. The visitors had a man sent off near the end, but Alfreton kept their composure to score a second. Quakers didn’t have enough character to get back into the game, unlike Southport who came back from a goal down to win.

“All defeats are disappointing, but it was the manner of the things that happened that makes it really tough to take,” said Watson.

“We knew it was going to be a battle in certain areas. We started really quickly and were on top in the first ten minutes, but when we didn’t take the lead, we took a step back and fizzled out towards half-time. We just didn’t play for the rest of the half.

“The first goal wasn’t good enough - you can’t give referees a chance to give a penalty. The second goal was a crazy thing to do, throwing the ball to them.

“We need as many brave players as we can before the end of the season. Not just brave on the ball, but brave in tackles and brave in the situation in which we need a massive amount of leaders on the pitch.

“If it means that footballers with more talent are left out because they haven’t got the qualities to get us through this, then that will be a decision that Terry Mitchell and I will have to take.


“Ultimately, we have to have strong characters to get us over the line in games. We need as many leaders as we can before the end of the season.

“We need players who are injured out on the pitch, it’s all hands to the pump. I’m gutted and I’m angry, but while there’s hope and 15 games left, we’ve got to believe we can do it.”

Darlington nearly got the start they badly wanted in the first minute. Scott Barrow, back in the side after illness, crossed low from the left for Ben Liddle to put in a good diving header that Alfreton keeper George Willis just managed to palm away. Cedric Main tried to chip in the rebound from a tight angle, but the ball bounced off the top of the bar and was cleared by a defender.

Quakers went agonisingly close on eight minutes. Main won a corner on the right, and the ball was perfectly curled in by Liddle into the six-yard box where Cardo Siddik could only head the ball wide with the goal at his mercy.

Alfreton nearly grabbed the lead with a long-range effort from the halfway line by Dwayne Riley that looked to be going in, until keeper Tommy Taylor just managed to fingertip the ball away, crashing into the goalpost in the process and causing himself some discomfort for the rest of the game.

Matty Cornish, who looked lively playing behind Main, was unlucky to see a left-foot shot go just wide after he picked up a pass from Ben Hedley on the right, then Alfreton’s George Cantrill was just off target at the other end.

But Darlington heads dropped at the start of the second half, when Siddik unnecessarily tripped Kennedy Digie in the area, and Gerry McDonagh converted the penalty.

Quakers created a couple of chances, but as has become characteristic of them this season, didn’t take them. The hard-working Cornish set up Barrow, who fired over, and Main had an effort palmed over the bar by Willis.

Sub Mitch Curry had the ball in the net but he was flagged for offside, then Cornish beat a defender in the box but his shot was blocked by Willis.

Alfreton had midfielder Cantrill dismissed for a second yellow card after tangling with Will Hatfield, although the referee didn’t realise he had already shown him one yellow until he was alerted by Darlington players.

But it was Alfreton who reacted better, and sub Jake Day picked up a poor throw-in, charged downfield and beat the injured Taylor with a low shot.