KEVAN Oliphant is planning to play for Darlington Mowden Park again next season following what he hopes has been a successful knee operation.

After three years as a player/coach, the former West Hartlepool fly half said at the end of last season he wanted to enjoy playing for one final season without any coaching responsibilities.

"I still do," he said yesterday. "It was only the fourth game of the season when I was injured and I've missed it. It has made me realise you should play as long as you can without embarrassing yourself.

"I waited five months for the operation because the specialist thought the ligament damage would heal itself. But there was another problem, which hopefully has now been cleared up.

"It's getting easier every day, but I would be foolish to try to play again this season."

Oliphant went to watch West Hartlepool in their shock win against Chester last week after Mowden's match was postponed, and some of the players asked if he would fancy taking over from John Stabler as coach.

"There has been no official approach," he said. "I wouldn't rule it out, but if they are relegated again the first question would have to be how many players are staying?

"They have some good players but they need strengthening. You can't build a successful team overnight by developing young players.

"I don't think I need to get involved in coaching Mowden again because they seem to have that sorted out. The work we did there pre-season in strengthening the squad has paid off and they have done tremendously well considering all the injuries.

"I was never worried because I knew the fixtures got easier after Christmas and now they have more confidence they are playing well."

Another of Mowden's former player/coaches, Anthony Elwine, is now expected to be available for the rest of the season and will partner Nick Wainwright at centre in tomorrow's match at home to Broadstreet.

The Coventry-based club quickly agreed to fill a vacant date for both clubs when their coach broke down near Nottingham last week.

Elwine replaces Jonno Wilson in what is otherwise likely to be an unchanged team, with Soa Otuvaka still not recovered from his twisted ankle.

Darlington, who entertain Driffield, hope West Hartlepool can do them another big favour at home to North One leaders Cleckheaton. After virtually removing Chester from the promotion race, West know it will be tougher against John Bentley's men, who beat them 51-12 in West Yorkshire.

But the visitors have shown signs of cracking recently, possibly through losing a couple of players to Rugby League. West have a doubt about centre Allan Milne, whose starring role was ended by a hamstring strain last week.

The second of the delayed first round ties in the Durham Cup takes place tomorrow when Stockton entertain Durham City.

The draw for the semi-finals will be held after the game, although it seems unlikely that the Mowden v Darlington tie will have been played by the scheduled semi-final date of April 5.