Mark Proctor believes the return to fitness of skipper Neil Maddison could not come at a better time as Darlington aim to seal their place in the play-offs.

Maddison has missed Quakers' last seven games with a niggling back injury. However, the former Middlesbrough midfielder has resumed training and is back in contention for Saturday's visit of Rushden.

With seventh-placed Quakers occupying the final play-off spot in League Two, Proctor insists Maddison's battling qualities will be vital.

"At this stage of the season we need all the commitment we can get and Maddo is one player we know will give that," said Proctor. "He's had a torrid time with injury lately but he's training and it will be great to have him back.

"He's the kind of player every club would love to have because you know what you get with him, which is 100 per-cent effort."

Joe Kendrick is doubtful for the weekend after picking up a calf strain in training, while Jonjo Dickman is available after a hamstring injury.

On-loan Middlesbrough defender Matthew Bates will have a second blood test today. There were fears the 18-year-old glandular fever, although results yesterday were negative.

l Hartlepool's youth team finally got the better of Darlington at the fourth attempt this season.

Gavin Parkin scored his 21st goal of the season to give Quakers a second-minute lead but Pool levelled through James Brown, netting after David Foley hit a post, before Brown put Pool in front just after the break with a solo effort.

Darlington coach Martin Gray said: "We fielded a very young side but I was really pleased with the way we played.

"Gavin got another goal for us and we really should have had the game won by half-time."

Darlington: Norton, Casson, Pattison, Mason, Janes, Craig Hughes, McLeod, Tait, Wilkies, Parkin, Davies

* Darlington's football in the community scheme is running a 'matchday experience' package for youngsters. There are 50 places available for boys and girls, aged 6-14.

The package includes match-day admission, a training session, a McDonald's meal and the chance to play on the pitch during half-time.

For more information ring Kevin Stonehouse on 01325 387019.

l Following the high of last Friday's performance against Sheffield Wednesday, Chris Westwood insists there will be no slacking off from Hartlepool United.

Pool go to Doncaster on Saturday when, with only three games remaining, three points would go a long way to securing a play-off berth.

Westwood and his team-mates are in fourth spot and the defender admitted: "Doncaster are not out of it and while there is still a chance they are going to try their hardest and go for it.

"But we won't go into any game more confident than we will on Saturday.

Read more about the Quakers here.