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Darlington Looking To Build Momentum Says Gray

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Top of the table Darlington may be, it's where they are at the completion of the campaign that matters most and with that in mind Martin Gray says he is only focused on facing Harrogate RA today.

Today's fixture against a team hoping to be involved in the play-offs is typical of Quakers' remaining 16 games, among which there promises to be several tricky contests.

Away trips to sides in the upper echelons of the table lie in wait amid a fixture list that contrasts sharply to Salford City's upcoming games. Their next three matches, for example, are against the current bottom three.

Salford dented Darlington's momentum two weeks ago, but Gray hopes another good run is underway having won the two matches since – 5-0 at home to Ossett Town and 3-1 at Padiham in midweek.

"It's about momentum now," said Gray, who has signed Andrew Cartright from Sunderland. "We've got a game on Saturday at Harrogate and we're not looking any further forward than that.

"We know about them now more than we ever did thanks to Nathan being with us. We'll get the full rundown on them off him before Saturday.

"The pitch isn't great, we know that, so it'll be a case of horses for courses in terms of what personnel we select and what formation we start with. It's a pitch that does not allow you to play and pass through midfield and I'll be very conscious of that come Saturday.

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"Wednesday was the same. The pitch looked better from the stand than it actually was. It was bobbly and lively, but we got the game on and that was the most important thing."

Uneven the pitch at Padiham may have been, Darlington dealt with the conditions, eventually, to record a 3-1 win after two late goals, one by Graeme Armstrong.

He is likely to return to the starting line-up today with David Dowson most likely to make way having been handed a rare start in midweek.

Gray said: "We made one or two changes to freshen things up. David Dowson put in a real good shift for an hour and it's great to be able to make those changes when you've got a strong, healthy squad.

"Places like Padiham are hard to go to, especially in midweek when lads have been grafting all day and then have a bus journey before playing, so it's important that the mental side of the game is right.

"Padiham have got three or four players that are quite useful, so they could easily take points off teams. Playing against them is a banana skin."

Armstrong will resume his partnership with Cartman, who is looking forward to facing his former team for whom he scored 36 goals this season.

He has netted once in four appearances so far for Darlington, from the penalty spot last weekend, so is still to score from open play, but Gray retains full confidence in the January recruit.

"I'm not worried about that, he's a goalscorer," said the manager. "He scored last Saturday and he will go on to score goals, I've no worried about that because he's a top forward.

"He's always in and around things when they happen, which is a good thing, he's there when there's a chance.

"The kid's a good player. He's strengthened our squad and is a little bit different to other forwards in our squad.

"I was delighted he got his first goal on his home debut. He had threatened to score with three or four chances beforehand.

"He's a great addition to the squad and hopefully he can help us progress to where we want to go to."

Ian Watson is expected to return from injury at left-back, while Cartright comes into the side at right-back – 32 years since his father, Peter, made his Darlington debut.

Peter played for Quakers in the early 1980s after leaving Newcastle United and quickly made a name for himself by scoring in a 2-1 win against Hartlepool United at Feethams in only his third game.

Craig Stoddart-Northern Echo

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