The Ebac Northern League’s top two sides meet this evening, though it is a cup encounter and not the much anticipated first league fixture between Darlington and Spennymoor Town.
They meet at Heritage Park in the second round of the League Cup and, with the league very much the priority, Darlington will make a number of changes to the side that lost at West Auckland on Saturday.
That defeat cut Quakers’ lead on second-placed Moors to four points and manager Martin Gray hopes to return to winning ways in the league when his side plays at Celtic Nation on Saturday.
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Regarding tonight’s game, he said: “We’ll be playing the lads that haven't played recently and youth team players so it'll be a weakened team.
"Not many of the players that played on Saturday will start. Our focus is all about the league.”
Striker Steven Johnson has had a hamstring strain recently, but he hopes to start as do Jack Norton, Arjun Purewal, Clark Keltie and Shaun Reay. Carl Jones, a defender who has signed from Blyth, is also in the squad.
Darlington have signed teenage striker JJ Hooper on loan from Newcastle United.
The 19-year-old, who is on work experience which means his stay is open-ended, goes straight into the squad for this evening's game.
Despite being red-carded at the weekend, Darren Richardson is available as his suspension will not begin until 21 days until after his offence.
Spennymoor also had a men sent off on Saturday as Lewis Dodd saw red during their 3-2 win at Marske.
Manager Jason Ainsley said: “I felt for Lewis as he is not the type of player to stand on someone on purpose, but as he tried to ride the tackle, which, incidentally, was a foul on him, he landed on their lad. I can see why the ref gave the decision to send him off.”
Spennymoor are expected to field a strong side in what is the first of two cup games in succession.
They are at home to Newcastle Benfield in the FA Vase on Saturday, and Ainsley added: “We have a full squad to choose from apart from Kallum Griffiths who is another four weeks away so we will prepare well for both games and hopefully come away in the next round of both competitions.”
Midfielder Marc Ellison hopes to involved for Spennymoor, having begun the season with Darlington and playing the first 11 league and cup games.
Tickets are £8 and £4 with turnstiles opening at 6pm. Car park season tickets are valid while there shall be an overflow car parking available behind the March Hare pub, priced at £3.
Gate receipts will be split 50/50 and Quakers supporters are reminded that season tickets are not valid this evening.
Meanwhile, Northern League chairman Mike Amos has voiced his concerns over the behavior of some Quakers’ supporters.
He was at Saturday’s match against West Auckland and, on the Northern League website, he said: “It seems to me that the language and chanting of a small group of Darlington fans needs to be addressed. Certainly it’s inflammatory, manifestly it’s unpleasant, arguably it’s racist.”