DARLINGTON manager Martin Gray insists tonight’s derby at Spennymoor’s Brewery Field is no different to any other Evo-Stik League game.
The Quakers and the Moors meet for the first time since their Northern League decider 18 months ago, with crowd in excess of 1,000 expected.
Quakers’ game against Warrington last Saturday prematurely ended in uproar, with the visitors refusing to continue when Quakers led 2-0 after the referee was carried off injured and unable to carry on, while Moors had a solid 2-0 win at Padiham.
“The game will be no different to us,” said Gray. “We will treat it just like any other league game, no matter who we’re playing. We will prepare for it properly and professionally.
“Yes, there’s going to be a big crowd, but we play in front of big crowds every week.”
Gray was hoping that midfielders Stephen Thompson and Jordan Robinson would be free to play tonight after serving a one match suspension, but the Warrington debacle has put paid to that idea.
But Gray insisted: “The squad is strong enough that we’re ready for any team, even if we’ve got players suspended or injured. We seemed to play well enough last Saturday in the first 32 minutes without them.”
Darlington officials have submitted their report about Saturday’s abandoned game, but the league hasn’t yet received all the reports from the parties concerned.
Moors manager Jason Ainsley is almost certain to field an unchanged team tonight.
They hit the ground running with an excellent 2-0 opening day win at Padiham, and with no injuries reported, Ainsley will keep faith with his starting line up, even though one of his star strikers, Gavin Cogdon, is available again.
“Gavin could possibly return to the squad, but it would be hard to leave anybody out of the 16 given the hard work the lads put in,” Ainsley explained.
Regardless, Moors go into the game full of confidence.
“There are going to be lots of hard games this season, and they don’t come any harder than Darlington.
But after Saturday’s performance, we won’t be lacking in confidence, but we will still respect them,’’ he said.
“I think it will be a tight game, and it will boil down to who takes their chances.”
Last time the sides met in the Northern League, there was a packed Brewery Field of over 3,000, but there will probably be less than half that figure tonight.
“Two years ago, I thought it was the proverbial game of two halves,’’ he said. “We were the better side in the first half, Darlington were very good in the second and we had no qualms about the result.
“This sees two good teams having a go at each other. But it’s not about Spennymoor v Darlington as a title decider this time.
“We’ve got another 40 games after this one, and it’s about who can show the most consistency over the season as we chase a promotion spot.”