Padiham 1 Darlington 3
Two late goals saw relieved Darlington return to the top of the table with a 3-1 win at struggling Padiham that puts the promotion-chasers in a healthy position.
They are now ahead of Salford City thanks to a much better goal difference, but have three games in hand on their promotion rivals as well as third-placed Northwich Victoria.
The scoreline, however, does little to reflect a match in which they were made to be patient after missing a succession of first-half chances.
Only the most pessimistic of followers would not have expected a Darlington win against the division’s bottom side, Padiham having lost 23 of their 30 matches before last night.
Ten of those had been at home, yet they took the lead and although Quakers turned it around, it was not until the 84th minute that the points looked safe when Stephen Thompson grabbed Darlington’s third goal.
Nonetheless, an eighth away win puts Martin Gray’s men on top of the table ahead of this weekend’s trip to play-off chasing Harrogate RA.
“I was always confident,” said Gray, who had taken the opportunity to leave Chris Hunter on the bench and also give David Dowson a rare start.
“We started the game really well and had a lot of chances. We could’ve been two or 3-0 up before they’d even scored what was their only clear chance of the game.
“I was disappointed with conceding a goal when we were on top, but the reaction of the players was really positive. I don’t think the fact we could go top of the table was a factor.
“We stayed patient and eventually broke them down. The second goal took the wind out of their sails.”
Craig Stoddart, Northern Echo