Craig Hignett immediately became a hero with his late header for Darlington at Rochdale - but he may not have even been at Spotland had he not been persuaded otherwise this summer.

At 34 the former Middlesbrough playmaker left Leicester City at the end of last season and after 16 years and almost 450 appearances since making his debut, Hignett admits his thoughts turned to retirement.

Having enjoyed a successful career, that started with his Crewe debut in 1989 and has since taken in spells with Aberdeen and Blackburn, Hignett considered hanging his boots up and going into coaching having already taken his UEFA B badge.

There's not many forwards around with more experience under their belts - Scunthorpe's 38-year-old Peter Beagrie is something of an exception - and Hignett said: "I could've stayed at Leicester and the manager Micky Adams said he'd keep me if I cut down on the travelling, but I couldn't really because I've got family commitments.

"So after leaving them I did think about packing in.

"When I was wondering what to do next I spoke to loads of people in the game and they all told me to play as long as I can.

"As long as I feel alright then there's no reason I shouldn't.

"I know Peter and he has done very well for himself to keep playing at this age. He's a fit lad but I'm a bit chunkier than he is!

"But I still felt great and felt as though I had a lot more to offer, so when I got a call from Leeds I went there straight away.

"I did all of pre-season with them and thought I'd have a contract there but it didn't happen.

"I'm a scouser, so I'm a down to earth lad, and didn't think twice about coming to Darlington when it didn't work out at Leeds.

"I'm not too proud to playing in this division, I just wanted to play football and Darlington offered me that chance so I'm grateful to David Hodgson and Mark Proctor."

After signing on Wednesday Hodgson threw Hignett straight into the team and his strike at Spotland means his last two goals have come at opposing ends of the football spectrum.

There was something similar about each of them, but the circumstances couldn't have been more different.

He found the net with just 180 seconds to play at Rochdale to earn a 1-1 draw while his goal for Leicester in December 2003 was also a late, late leveller to earn an unlikely point from a game that ended 1-1 too.

But that's where the similarities end as the Leicester goal came in front of over 32,000 - against Arsenal.

As the Gunners marched towards the Premiership title last season in the midst of their now 48-game unbeaten run, Bergkamp, Campbell, Keown and Co were denied victory at the Walkers Stadium by Hignett's 90th minute strike.

But fast forward nine months and instead of facing the likes of England left-back Ashley Cole and French wing wizard Robert Pires, Hignett was up against ex-Grimsby full-back Tony Gallimore and former Barrow hitman Grant Holt.

Hignett said: "For my last goal James Scowcroft headed a cross down into my path, I made a run into the box and shot past Jens Lehman. I suppose scoring past Rochdale is a bit different to Arsenal - but they all count!"

Hignett, who did his bit for his club to be when he starred in the charity games at the Williamson Motors Stadium in January, added: "It was difficult on Saturday. The manager was fuming at half-time and quite rightly so because we didn't play at all well.

"All the lads were disappointed at half-time but we showed good team spirit and in the second half got ourselves out of the situation.''

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