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Darlington secure National League North survival in style

Darlington’s miraculous National League North survival was confirmed in their final home game of the season in front of a bumper crowd.

Darlington fans celebrate as the full time whistle blows.

In a precarious position in the relegation zone in February after a slow start to the season, a run of 10 wins in 14 since – kickstarted by their 4-0 win over South Shields – now ensures that the Quakers are mathematically safe from the drop with a game to spare.

A packed Blackwell Meadows housed 2261 supporters who cheered their team over the finish line. In a classy touch after the full-time whistle, the squad and staff returned to the pitch to complete a lap of appreciation, thanking the Darlo faithful for their continued support.

The gratitude for the fans continued post-match by assistant manager Terry Mitchell, who said: “Absolutely brilliant feeling. Since the lads have come in they have been absolutely outstanding, but without the fans backing us when we came in and to help us get a couple more players in to add to a fantastic group of players.

“They’ve proved that they’re a really good football side, and it’s a great day to see us stay up; it’s not really something that we celebrate, but from where we’ve come it feels like winning when we were so far behind.”

With the fans on the pitch after the final whistle, the victorious sentiments of Mitchell were echoed by club chairman David Johnston, who took to the clubhouse balcony to deliver a speech to the fans.

“What a season, it feels like we’ve won a trophy today up here. It’s like being on the balcony at Wembley. When you look at where we were, we were dead and buried; if you look at the league from when Steve and Terry took over we’re fourth in the league and that is an incredible achievement.”

Darlington players give their fans a lap of appreciation after the full time whistle.

On the pitch on Saturday afternoon, Darlo dictated the majority of play throughout the first half but failed to truly test Farsley shot stopper Zan-Luk Leban – though he wasn’t able to totally rest on his laurels as the hosts looked to break the deadlock.

They had a great chance relatively early on as Matty Cornish floated a beautiful cross in the direction of Cedric Main, but the forward mistimed his jump and saw his tame header easily collected by the Everton loanee in between the sticks.

Main’s influence was the main threat throughout the opening 45, turning provider on a couple of occasions. Firstly, it was a delightful dink over the defence for Cameron Salkeld to run onto, but his effort trickled wide – as did Ben Hedley’s in the latter stage after he cut inside from the right.

After the interval the pressure continued, and it wouldn’t be long until Darlington got their just reward when Scott Barrow curled a free kick from the left towards the back post where Jake Lawlor lay in wait to power his header home to open the scoring.

Often not one to be left out where goals are involved, there was seldom a seat in use as Aidan Rutledge delivered a piece of magic to get the crowd on their feet. Shifting inside onto his left foot, the Gateshead loanee smashed home an unsavable effort from the edge of the area straight into the top corner.

Farsley made a late surge to secure a point, managing to half the deficit to begin to inspire a potential comeback. A cross was half-cleared and bounced invitingly for Ryan Watson to hit – his half-volleyed effort was deflected into the path of Ben Atkinson who rolled his effort beyond Matty Young to silence the crowd.

The hopes were short lived though as Darlo caught them on the counter, Rutledge was found running in acres of space and forced Leban into action. Another effort was then headed off the line by Isaac Assenso, but only into the path of Main who got his well-deserved goal to re-extend the lead to two.