JAMES CATON has become Darlington’s second summer signing, and more may follow before the season starts on August 5, says Martin Gray.

The 23-year-old former Dover forward’s arrival was confirmed yesterday morning, signing a two-year-deal before playing in last night’s friendly at The Northern Echo Arena against Newcastle United under-23s.

Despite Caton’s early glut of goal attempts – three in as many minutes – he was unable to prevent his new team-mates slipping to a 2-1 defeat.

Loading article content

Also in Darlington’s starting XI was Dom Collins, a centre-back who has joined from Fylde, and another new defender is in Gray’s sights too.

The player in question played last night, one of several trialists, and Gray says more are likely to appear in Darlington’s three remaining friendlies, starting at Bishop Auckland on Friday.

He said: “We’ll be looking at one or two if they’re the right ones. We’re still looking.

“We need a bigger, stronger squad this year to make sure we can compete, and we’re looking to bring the right players in. We’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

He selected a strong starting XI with two trialists – a former Middlesbrough youngster in midfield and an ex-York striker up front – but it was the Magpies who took an early two-goal lead.

Sean Longstaff put them ahead with a neat finish after good work by Ivan Toney, who proved a handful to deal with and he scored himself two minutes later, making the most of poor Darlington defending.

Quakers were crumbling at this point, Newcastle penetrating at will.

Goalkeeper Peter Jameson pushed wide a Toney free-kick, the keeper then blocking Kyle Cameron’s follow-up, before Darlington worked their way back into the game, Phil Turnbull playing a pivotal role in midfield.

Team-mate Dave Syers had a shot saved down low by Nathan Harker, a moment which came after a triallist midfielder showed some nice touches, the former Middlesbrough prospect playing in Nathan Cartman who teed up Syers.

Jameson prevented it becoming 3-0, saving Toney’s penalty to atone for fouling the striker, and within moments it was 2-1 as Quakers countered quickly.

Cartman tore away up the right, eventually spotting a triallist in space and he slotted home nicely.

He looked very lively and Gray will surely be interested in offering him a contract.

Gary Brown, Arran Wearmouth and Leon Scott were among a raft of Darlington substitutions early in the second half, with more trialists among them.

One of them, a former Hartlepool United player, made a good impression in midfield, showing some neat touches and he ‘scored’ too.

However, after his free-kick from out wide bounced past several static bodies inside the penalty before landing in the back of the net, it was ruled out after a flag was raised by assistant referee Helen Conley for offside.

It was one of the few moments of note during an otherwise poor second half, the game becoming something of a farce with so many unidentified substitutes involved.

Harvey Saunders is no stranger to Quakers fans, however, the ever-willing forward having caught the eye last season and he did likewise last night in bright green boots and an eagerness to make an impact.

He dispossessed Magpies’ dallying goalkeeper, but was unable to force home the loose ball from a tight angle as Quakers finished the game stronger but were unable to equalise.

Darlington: Jameson; Hunter, Collins, Galbraith, Ferguson; Triallist A, Syers, Turnbull, Caton; Cartman, Triallist B. Subs: Marrs, Scott, Triallist C, Saunders, Wearmouth

Newcastle United under-23s: Harker; Williams, Good, O’Connor, Cameron; Ben El-Mhanni, Hunter, Barlaser, Smith; Toney, Longstaff.

Attendance: 1,775