A STEPHEN Thompson-inspired Darlington extended their unbeaten run to eleven games after outmuscling Kendal with a powerful second-half display.
The Mintcakes led through Warren Beattie’s penalty – Kendal’s first successful spot-kick in six attempts – before the prolific Amar Purewal levelled matters before the break.
Thompson gave the visitors the lead as a Jordan Robinson strike and a late double from substitute Dale Hopson ensured the Quakers left Parkside Road with an emphatic win.
Dave Foster made a solitary chance to his line-up from Kendal’s last match against Cammell Laird with the fit-again Danny Mitchley coming in for Callum Hoctor.
The first chance of the game fell to Mitchley in the sixth minute after a long clearance from Danny MacDonald caught the wind and evaded the Darlington defence.
In the clear, the former Blackpool forward fired past keeper Mark Bell only for his effort to strike the underside of the bar, with the rebound cleared off the line by Alan White.
Kendal’s bright start to the game continued and the home side opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 16th minute after Joe Tait handled Danny Coid’s corner.
Despite Bell guessing correctly, the ball spun off the former Blyth Spartans stopper into the opposite corner of the net – Beattie’s third goal since returning from a knee injury in December.
Conditions were making free-flowing football extremely difficult with Darlington, playing into the wind in the first-half, struggling to make much headway in the attacking third.
However, against the run of play the away side levelled on 32 minutes as Purewal headed home a deep Stephen Harrison cross the right flank.
A minute later, Ricky Mercer crashed an effort into the side-netting from Colin Watson’s pull-back after he and Mitchley – who remains the league’s top scorer with 20 goals – combined on the right.
Darlington were a different proposition after the break with Kendal enduring the worst of the conditions, MacDonald producing a superb finger-tip save from Thompson’s clipped effort.
Thompson – who started his career at Middlesbrough before moving onto Port Vale and scoring twice in 17 appearances – was having an ever-increasing influence on proceedings.
With 20 minutes remaining, a neat move saw Coid find Beattie, with the skipper’s deflected effort from the edge of the area drawing a save from Bell.
Moments later Darlington were ahead as Thompson’s angled drive from the left corner of the penalty area found the net – the 24-year-old’s 18th goal of the season.
Martin Gray’s side made the game safe in the 80th minute with Thompson once again the attacking influence as he picked out Hopson on the right wing.
The substitute cut inside only for his progress into the box to be halted, with Robinson on hand to drill a low shot across MacDonald and score his first goal for the club.
With Kendal changing to a more attacking formation in a bid to reassert themselves in the game, Darlington took full advantage in the final stages to add gloss to the scoreline.
Hopson’s storming run from just inside the Kendal half saw the substitute surge through the Kendal defence before rounding MacDonald and slotting home.
And deep into injury time, Nathan Fisher and Purewal combined to set up Hopson who tapped home a well-worked fifth for the visitors.
High-flying Darlington now trail league leaders Warrington Town by seven points, with Kendal having the opportunity to do their north east rivals a favour this weekend when they travel to Cantilever Park.
Kendal Town: Danny MacDonald, John Ross, Jack Smith (Lewis Finney 81), Warren Beattie, Will Bell, Kevin Brown, Ricky Mercer, Danny Coid, Danny Mitchley, Maison McGeechan (Callum Hoctor 57), Colin Watson (Mike Rushton 62). Subs not used: Ross Lloyd, Rob Wilson
Darlington 1883: Mark Bell, Stephen Harrison (Jonathan Davis 77), Terry Galbraith, Alan White (c), Chris Hunter, Jordan Robinson, Rob Ramshaw, Joe Tait (Dale Hopson 65), David Dowson (Nathan Fisher 78), Amar Purewal, Stephen Thompson. Subs not used: Matthew Lovegreen, Peter Jameson