Brown reminded of Darlington's status

First published in Darlington FC News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Deputy Sports Editor

After a week in which Gary Brown has been reminded of the status he now carries as Quakers' captain, today he'll receive a stark reminder of two of his darkest pre-Darlington days.

The centre-back will lead the team out at Ashington as a Darlington side brimming with confidence look to make it 11 wins in a row.

For Brown, though, the trip represents a return to a place that holds painful memories for the 25-year-old.

"I've been there twice and didn't reach half-time in either game," recalled Brown, looking to record a ninth clean sheet in 13 games today.

"The first time, I got two yellows and was sent off. I got the first one after about 25 minutes after a penalty had been given. For some reason I argued and argued - this was in my hothead days when I was playing for Shildon - so he gave me another yellow.

"And the second time I went up there I got knocked out and had to come off after 15 minutes. I was playing in midfield. I'd pushed on, the ball came into the area and I went for a diving header, but the keeper came out and hit me with his knee.

"He caught me on the side of the head and I was concussed. I couldn't even remember driving home, which I shouldn't have done anyway because I was on my own and could've blacked out. My mam went berserk with me."

On Wednesday Brown was part of the side that enjoyed a tenth successive win, against his former club Shildon, and 24 hours earlier he had appeared at a packed fans' forum, when he was reminded of the level of interest in Quakers, something he and his team-mates are experiencing for the first time.

Supporters gathered at Blackwell Meadows in Darlington to hear about the latest developments and Brown received warm applause.

"It was unusual for me. It was the first time I'd ever done anything like that so I was a bit nervous," admitted Brown.

"I was more nervous about that than I have been before playing in big games because I was out of my comfort zone.

"I'm just an engineer and a pub footballer. I've been brought up to never let anything go to your head so I try to be as modest as I can. It is overwhelming when people are getting behind you like they did at the forum."

Brown admits, though, that being a Darlington player in the Northern League can lead to unwelcome comments from some outside the club.

"The other night against Shildon there was a player saying to the ref, after he'd given a decision: 'You've only given it because it's Darlington', but anybody who slags us off is only jealous. They'd love to be part of this and get the treatment we get.

"All of us players have got to embrace what we're experiencing here because it probably won't happen again.

"There's been Chester FC and FC United, but in the Northern League it's not happened before and it's brilliant being here, it's a good place to play football."

Manager Martin Gray hopes Jonny Davis will be available today, despite suffering a calf injury on Wednesday.

He limped off midway through the second half, but Gray says the midfielder has responded well to treatment.

Craig Gott hasn't quite recovered from his ankle complaint and while Amar Purewal was rested in midweek, he should return against sixth-placed Ashington, who Quakers beat 6-1 in October.

Gray said: "Hopefully he'll come back into the squad for what's going to be a tough game because Ashington can beat anybody on their day.

"We've got 11 games to go and Saturday is another massive game."

Ashington have scored in each of their last 16 games and won their two most recent fixtures 5-3 and 8-1.

Assistant manager Perry Briggs said: "Darlington are flying and they've got an extra quality. But we're going into the game with a little bit of form, we've scored 13 goals in our last two matches because we've got our forwards back from injury. We must tighten up defensively though. We've given away some poor goals in recent weeks."

Ashington strikers Phil Bell and David Molloy are ruled out through injury, defender and skipper Liam Atkin is working and midfielder Andy Dugdale will have a fitness test.

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