AMAR PUREWAL continued his remarkable return from injury by blasting Darlington to a fourth successive win tonight at Brighouse Town.
Since his return at Ossett Town 11 days ago, however, Darlington have risen to second in the table and won four matches in a row with Purewal scoring in each game.
He’s netted seven times since his return, and took his tally for the season to eight with a first-half brace in last night’s 3-1 win in West Yorkshire, with all of the goals coming in the first half as Quakers recovered from falling behind in only the second minute.
It came after goalkeeper Peter Jameson dashed out of the penalty area to head the ball clear, but it fell to Daniel Naidole whose powerful shot was blocked by the outstretched leg of right-back Gary Brown, but striker Barrie Frankland was on hand to smartly tuck home the loose ball and stun Darlington.
Quakers quickly recovered, however, and it was not long before they levelled, Purewal evading slack marking to stretch out one of his long legs and level the scores.
It came on nine minutes and saw Mitchell provide his first assist of the evening, the winger’s free-kick won after Purewal had been fouled, teeing up the equaliser.
In a compelling match in which chances were created at both ends, Darlington continued to attack with some fine periods of passing football.
Ian Watson cut inside and fired in a shot parried by keeper Jacob Giles and in the melee that followed Mitchell saw a shot blocked on the line.
Watson started on the left of midfield in a reshuffle to the team that defeated Padiham on Saturday.
Stephen Thompson suffered a hamstring strain in that game so was unavailable, leading to Jordan Robinson being recalled to the centre of midfield and Leon Scott moving to left-back.
Mid-table Brighouse were not to be underestimated. They were quick and dangerous on the counter-attack and after one such move striker Ernest Boafo saw Brown block a shot and then blast the rebound over the bar.
It was a reminder to Darlington that they needed to keep pushing for a second goal and it came ten minutes before the break. Again, Mitchell was involved, though the goal owed something to Brighouse's desire to play the ball from the back.
A pass by Tyrone Gay, the Brighouse centre-back built like an outhouse, left diminutive left-back Leon Henry short and he was dispossessed by Mitchell, the ball then rolling to Graeme Armstrong who returned the ball to Mitchell before it was pulled back from the byline to Robinson who side-footed home from a central position.
And the crucial third goal came shortly before half-time with in-form Purewal scoring yet again.
This time he struck after good build-up play and a series of passes involving Robinson, Tom Portas and Mitchell, though it began with Gary Brown’s long pass up the pitch.
The ball was eventually fed to Purewal in the penalty area where he turned his man and fired his eighth goal of the season.
Gay almost cost his side a goal on the hour. His pass was intercepted by Portas who strode forward and unleashed a low shot tipped wide by Giles.
A fourth goal would have been harsh on a game Brighouse side who gave a good account of themselves.
Right-winger James Hall impressed in patches and it was from his cross that the hosts almost pulled one back, the ball reaching the far post when Jameson smothered Shaquille Clarke-Adams’ close-range shot.
Jameson was kept occupied during a second half in which the hosts pushed forward and the keeper pulled off his best save of the night when leaping to his right to push away James Burke’s dipping free-kick.
That kept the score at 3-1, though Purewal was inches away from extending the advantage, firing just wide.
In the closing stages Terry Galbraith made his return from injury, but it was Jameson who took centre stage, three times being alert and racing from his line to block at a Brighouse player’s feet.
The victory was Darlington manager Martin Gray's 75th in 100 league games in charge and he was pleased with his side’s response to falling behind so early.
He said: “They caught us out early on after a mistake and punished us, but maybe we needed that to wake us up because the reaction from us good. You never want to go a goal down after a minute and a half, but the positive thing was how we reacted.
“The forward play was good tonight, especially in the first half. The front two, Purewal and Armstrong, combined well, the delivery from defence was better quality, the midfield two dominated the middle of the park and formed a good partnership.”
On Purewal’s goalscoring streak, Gray added: “He should’ve got himself another hat-trick tonight, he’ll be frustrated about that.
“But his two goals were smashing, well-worked goals, the ball wasn’t just lumped forward.
“It was very good positive football and Amar’s full of confidence at the moment.”
Darlington are now on 24 points from 12 games, a point better off where they were at this stage last season.
On Saturday they travel to Prescot Cables, who have drawn al four home league games and are 19th.
Match report courtesy of the Northern Echo.