IT COULD be crunch time for those hoping to earn a contract with Darlington who step up their pre-season preparations this evening when Leeds United visit the Arena.
Although manager Dave Penney will look to field a strong side, he has handed several trialists the chance to impress in recent weeks and is keen to see how they fare against stronger opposition.
In their three pre-season games, all against Northern League opposition, Darlington have featured free agents Paul Evans, Paul Robinson, Jason Bradley and Luke Guttridge, plus others.
Penney intends to run the rule over at least one of those in Darlington’s remaining three home friendlies, the other two games being St Mirren on Saturday and Middlesbrough in seven days’ time.
If striker Robinson has recovered from a head wound sustained against Billingham Town on Saturday he is likely to play this evening and Penney said: “We’ve been having a look at a few players and games against non-league teams are perfect for that. Whether they get involved against Leeds is a different matter.
“We’ve been looking at Robbo and he has shown some great glimpses and then he’ll try to do too much because he maybe hasn’t got the sharpness as he’s been out of the game for two years.
“He’s got a little bit of something, whether it’s enough we’ll have to see. It’s alright playing these games against Northern League teams, it’s when he plays against the pro teams that it matters.
“This trial is probably his last chance and he probably knows that as well. I don’t whether that will spur him on, but it would with me.
“He asked for a chance so we’ve got him fit and we’ll see what he can do against pro teams.”
Sheffield Wednesday’s Bradley, a bustling centre-forward, has played in two of Quakers’ friendlies and Penney admits the striker is not dissimilar to Tommy Wright.
Wright will join Aberdeen once his knee has passed a medical and Penney said: “Jason’s got all the markings of Tommy. He’s a big one, probably bigger than Tommy.
“He’s only 19 so I wouldn’t say he’s ready to come straight into the team but we like the look of him.
“If Tommy’s leaving then we’re going to be a striker short. And Pawell Abbott’s not fit and Gregg Blundell’s not yet recovered from his ankle operation.”
Tonight’s game, as with all of Quakers’ midweek home games from now on, kicks-off at 7.45pm. Admission is £10 and £5.