Flexibility key to Darlington's winning run, says Alun Armstrong

Joe Leesley has been on loan to Darlington from Boston United. Picture: STEVE HALLIDAY <i>(Image: Steve Halliday)</i>
Joe Leesley has been on loan to Darlington from Boston United. Picture: STEVE HALLIDAY (Image: Steve Halliday)

Darlington manager Alun Armstrong believes that the flexibility in his team is key to winning results.

After enjoying exciting victories in their last three matches against Telford, Kidderminster and Alfreton, Quakers have climbed above Brackley to the top of the league on goal difference, but Saturday's visitors AFC Fylde – who will include former Quakers Luke Charman and Will Hatfield in their squad – will be another big test.

“This will be another very tough game for us, especially as Fylde had a night off during the week when their game was postponed,” said Armstrong.

“This will be a totally different game to Tuesday. Fylde will have long spells of possession so we can’t be frustrated, and we’re going to need the help of the fans.

“Our lads have the bit between their teeth now, they know what’s required to win a game. If you look at Tuesday, they dug deep when Alfreton pulled a goal back, and rode the storm.

“We’ve got to do what we do best, which is concentrate on ourselves. That’s what we’ve done in the last three games instead of concentrating on the opposing side – so let Fylde deal with us.

“We’re not at our best yet, there is still more to come. If I’d had a full 90 minutes of the first half against Alfreton, then I would have said yes.

“I’ve got the flexibility now to change things if I have to with the people on the pitch, and it’s a long time since I’ve been able to say that, if at all. People being able to play in multiple positions is massive and that’s shown as we’ve grown as a team and a squad – and we’ve still got players to come back in.

“We’ve got a good squad, we’ve just got to be really lucky on the injury front and keep working with the same intensity as we showed on Tuesday.”

Armstrong had mixed feelings about Tuesday’s table-topping performance against Alfreton.

“We made hard work of it on Tuesday, we should have been 5-0 up at half time. It was one of our best performances in that first half, along with the Brackley first half earlier in the season. I think Tommy only had one save to make in goal for us.

“We played with the intensity that I wanted. We were winning balls back, pushing high up the pitch, and passing and moving well.

“But then in the second half after giving the players information, they never put it into practice. They dropped 20 yards deeper. Sometimes I wonder if they listen to me! I was the most animated I’ve been in the second half for a long, long time, because I was so annoyed that they keep doing it. If they don’t listen, then they’ll drop points.

“Jack Lambert said to me after the end of the game that he couldn’t understand why we were so good and so bad in the same game.

“The lads need to understand what they’re doing to play well and just maintain that. They’re such a good side.”

Saturday will see the last game of Joe Leesley’s loan. He has shown what a versatile player he is in his six games since joining from Boston United, and it is understood he wants to stay with Quakers.

Armstrong said: “Joe has got some great quality in his left foot, but he is also very good at talking and organising other people. He’s a voice that we haven’t had before.”

Armstrong’s selection is limited, as defenders Kallum Griffiths and David Wheater remain unavailable, but Jake Lawlor came through Tuesday’s game against Alfreton without any ill effects after his back injury.

Fylde, who were one of the pre-season promotion favourites, are in 11th place, but that’s mainly because they’ve fallen behind in their fixtures.

Midfielder Hatfield signed for them from Quakers in March, and Charman, who left Quakers in the January transfer window, signed for Fylde from Rochdale just a month ago.