DARLINGTON manager Steve Watson has stressed the importance of belief ahead of Saturday's trip to South Shields.

Quakers desperately need to win their fifth away game of the season to keep their lingering hopes alive of avoiding the drop.

Their defeat at home by Alfreton last week, coupled with Southport’s win over Brackley, left Quakers nine points adrift of safety, and effectively needing something like eight wins from fifteen matches to get anywhere near a possible safety figure.

“The belief of the players is going to have to be huge between now and the end of the season,” said Watson, who clearly hasn’t given up hope.

“The players have to believe, the same as my assistant Terry Mitchell and I do, that we can win more games than we lose.

“Inconsistency has been our biggest problem, not the effort and the will to try and win games, but the players’ belief in themselves and their confidence.

“Every game is a must-win game for us. Every game that goes by when we don’t achieve that, then winning becomes more important.”

Shields are currently ninth in the table three points off the play off places, and they lost for the first time in four matches on Tuesday when they were beaten at Alfreton. They changed their manager at Christmas with Elliott Dickman replacing Julio Arca

“Shields are very different to what we’ve faced recently. They’re quite different to Tamworth, Alfreton and Banbury, in that they do try and play football, and play out from the back. They’ve got a lot of pace up top, and they’ve been successful doing that.”

Watson believes that his team mustn’t switch off otherwise they’ll be punished.

“I thought last Saturday’s game against Alfreton was an example of how fine margins don’t go our way. I thought in the first half was fairly even and we had twice the number of shots that they had, but we gave away a penalty when we switched off for a split second and were punished. It never seems to happen the other way --- we have to keep our focus for the full 90 minutes.”

While they’ve only conceded eight goals in Watson’s seven games in charge, they’ve only scored four at the other end, and that’s a problem they need to solve.

“We’ve got to find ways of scoring goals. We don’t go route one, we don’t put lots of air on the ball because we don’t have the personnel to do that, so we need to drag teams around from back to front, and side to side.

“I think we’ve got the squad and the players that can cause Shields as many problems as they can cause us. Let’s hope on the day that we get the rub of the green, that we create more chances than they do and we’re ruthless when we need to be. To win will be fantastic.”

Keeper Tommy Taylor is a big doubt with a rib injury sustained in the first half of last week’s defeat to Alfreton, and the club was looking for cover yesterday. Defender Jake Lawlor will probably be missing with a back injury.