DARLINGTON are still alive and kicking in their fight against relegation after claiming a patient victory over North-East neighbours South Shields at the First Cloud Arena.

Most fans had just about written off Quakers’ chances of avoiding the drop after they were beaten 2-0 at Alfreton last Saturday, but where there’s life, there’s hope as Quakers carved out a morale-boosting victory.

They scored four times in the last 20 minutes to give them their fifth away win of the season - they’d only scored eight times previously - along with a huge measure of belief that they can get out of the bottom four. They’re now seven points behind Southport with 14 games remaining.

The players certainly responded to the half-time advice of the management team of Steve Watson and Terry Mitchell, who told them to stay patient against ten-man Shields, who didn’t really look troubled until the 70th minute.

“Even though Shields had a man sent off after ten minutes, they still kept the ball well and made themselves hard to break down,” said Mitchell.

“We had to be patient and keep moving them about.  You’ve got to hand it to Shields, they defended well. We had loads of efforts, but until the 60th minute we didn’t have any on target.

“We told the players at half-time that Shields would tire and we would have to bide our time. It all came good in the end.”

Even though he didn’t score, midfielder Matty Cornish was at the heart of everything that Quakers did and Mitchell said: “Matty worked his socks off and created a lot for us. He weighted his passes well in and around the box, that’s the sort of detail that we need.”

Nothing much happened in the game until the 12th minute, when Cedric Main chased the ball with last-man defender Robbie Briggs out of Darlington’s defence. Main’s pace gave him a yard advantage, and in desperation Briggs pulled him down, giving the referee an easy decision for a red card.

But Shields were hard to break down, and Quakers could only muster efforts from outside the box from Main and Scott Barrow that went wide. There was the nagging feeling that the ten men were going to be organised enough to frustrate Quakers for a draw.

After Watson sensibly took defender Cardo Siddik off at half-time as a precaution after he picked up a yellow in the first half and almost a second on the half-time whistle, Quakers pushed forward and got the ball out wide more in the second half, with Cornish causing plenty of problems.

Cornish drove the ball wide from 12 yards, then he set up Ben Liddle who pulled his left-foot shot wide of the post from the same distance. Kallum Griffiths was also off target, while Quakers also had a penalty shout turned down for a push on Lees.

Mitch Curry came on as sub, and his first touch was a first-time volley just wide of the right-hand post from a Griffiths pass.

Finally, Darlington's perseverance and patience paid off on 71 minutes, Cornish was involved in the build-up when he set up Liddle, whose shot deflected off a defender and looped into the air for Will Hatfield to nod into an empty net.

Four minutes later, they had a stranglehold on the game when Cornish pulled the ball back for Main to swivel and fire his first goal for the club into the bottom right-hand corner.

Their confidence now high, Liddle headed straight into Boney’s hands, and Cornish harshly had a goal disallowed.

Shields then had their second dismissal, Will Jenkins, for an over the top tackle on Cornish, which allowed Quakers to score twice more in the time remaining.

Cornish popped up on the left after 90 minutes to set up Griffiths, and the full-back planted a right-foot shot from the edge of the box into the bottom corner.

And deep into stoppage time, Curry, who had missed a good chance a few minutes earlier, turned quickly in the box and fired a right-foot shot across the keeper into the net.

Quakers gave a debut to 17-year-old keeper Matty Young on loan from Sunderland – and he’ll be wishing every game he plays in senior football from now on will be as quiet as this one for him, as he didn’t have a direct shot to save.