MARK COOPER is set to bolster his squad with the acquisition of midfielder Joe Clarke from Blue Square Bet North outfit Solihull Moors.

And the Darlington manager’s rebuilding programme won’t stop there, with Cooper on the trail of a couple of defenders to ensure he has sufficient cover for what he predicts will be a tough campaign that kicks-off today against newly-promoted Newport County.

Clarke had his agreement with the West Midlands club cancelled yesterday to allow him to make the switch to the Northern Echo Arena, where he will offer competition to the likes of Paul Terry, Gareth Waite, Michael Brough and Jamie Chandler.

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Solihull club secretary Robin Lamb said: “It’s come out of the blue really, we weren’t aware of Darlington’s interest until we heard they’d offered him a deal.

“Joe only joined us at the end of last season from Redditch United. He’s looked very good in pre-season and was going to be a big player for us this season.

“But the offer from Darlington is too good for the lad to turn down and we won’t stand in his way. It’s a big step up for him but he’s strong in the tackle, a good passer and has pretty much everything you want from a midfielder. I expect he’ll do well for Darlington.”

Paul Arnison and Kevin Austin are expected to fill the full-back slots this afternoon but Cooper is concerned about his lack of options should either player pick up an injury and he’ll step up his recruitment efforts in the next few days.

Cooper said: “We have had one or two that we have been looking at this week but nothing concrete has happened yet. We still need maybe a right and left-sided defender.

We are short with having only five defenders. With all of the games that we have coming up we would be struggling if we got any injuries.

“If we get a couple more in that would take us to 22, which is an ideal number. We have quite a few young lads in the squad and if they aren’t going to play we might need to get some of them out on loan to toughen them up.”

Newport come into the game on the back of a promotion season secured courtesy of a Blue Square South record 103-point total. Cooper, who led Kettering to similar success in 2008, wants Quakers to quickly pick up the visitors’ winning habit.

“I was manager at Kettering and we won the Conference North, we absolutely murdered the league by 17 points, and when you’re in that position you feel as if you’re never going to lose a game. I’m sure Newport feel the same.

“They’ll have that momentum and they’ll come to Darlington on Saturday and believe that they’re going to win, and rightly so with the season they had last year.

“But we’ve got to make sure we impose our own style and system on them and send them back to Wales emptyhanded.

It’s important that we get something out of the game because we then go to Altrincham and Kettering.

“I think the players have been so fed up losing games now is the time for change.

We’ve said to the players that whatever it takes to win a game of football you need to be prepared to do it.”