DARLINGTON’S sequence of games against promotion-chasers is over, but their fixtures do not get any less important, with a match today against a fellow club at the wrong end of the table.

Alfreton are 17th, a point ahead of Darlington, who slipped into the relegation places this week, leapfrogged by Nuneaton Town, the club Quakers are at home to on the penultimate weekend of the campaign.

By the time his former club visit Blackwell Meadows manager Tommy Wright will hope his team are well clear of the drop zone, but to do so they must turn around their awful run of results.

Darlington have secured just one three-point haul in Wright’s ten-game tenure, though the fixture schedule of late has not been kind, with back-to-back matches against full-time clubs Harrogate, York City and Salford.

Next week Quakers face Chorley, currently tenth, and the following Saturday travel to 15th-placed Leamington, before a formidable February: four fixtures against teams currently in the top seven.

Of more immediate concern, however, is today’s match in Derbyshire, and Wright admits Darlington are “desperate” to record a victory against another team fighting for survival.

He said: “We want to win, but if we lose we won’t go down on Saturday, and if we win that doesn’t mean we’ll be in the play-offs. But we are desperate for a win.

“I’m not overly concerned at this point, there’s probably still six, seven or eight teams in the mix, but we’ve got to stay in the pack.

“I don’t want a mountain to climb and have to win five or six games back-to-back just to have a chance.”

While results of late have been poor, Darlington were unfortunate to lose to Salford City, who created more chances than Wright’s side but did not dominate the match but scored a late winner.

Buoyed by the display, Wright was eager to take the positives from the match, saying: “The last thing you want to be doing is pointing the finger and digging people out on and off the pitch, telling people how bad they are at football, because ultimately it wasn’t that bad on Wednesday.

“We lost the game and we’re in the relegation zone, so it’s not great, but that wasn’t a bad performance.”

Greg Mills scored his first goal for the club when he equalised against Salford, the forward finally enjoying a productive evening and showing why Wright signed him from Nuneaton.

He too is trying to remain upbeat, and said: “Against York and Salford, two teams with big budgets, we have probably matched them, if not done even better than that.

“One long ball killed us at the end on Wednesday, we know that as a team.

“There’s no point being down in the dumps about things. For large spells we felt we were the better team, we can take confidence from that.

“We’re disappointed to have conceded the goal but we can take positives from the game and if we can take the work-rate into Saturday then I’m sure we’ll get a win.

“If we can start picking up a couple of results and becoming more confident as a team then who knows what will happen?

“Alfreton is a massive game now and we know what we’ve got to do.”

Wright will make at least one change today as defender Dom Collins is out for the foreseeable future with a hamstring problem sustained on Wednesday.

“It looks a bad one, he might’ve pulled the hamstring off the bone, it’s as bad as that,” explained Wright. “It’s a serious one and I imagine he’ll be out for a long time.”

Tom Portas performed well at right-back when he replaced Collins, who is the only Darlington player to have started all 25 league matches so far.

“We either stay with the same shape or we adjust to what we did in the second half on Wednesday,” said Wright, who has this week been trying to sign a midfielder who is currently with another club in the National League North.

“Luke Trotman might make a recovery in time to play wingback, Terry can play centre-half, so we can reshuffle it but we’ll pick a team and a system that suits the players that we’ve got available to us.”