Darlington yesterday completed their first signing of the summer when defender Matt Clarke put pen to paper on a one-year contract.

The 21-year-old has been released by Halifax Town after making 34 appearances last season.

The Leeds-born centre-half faced Darlington twice last campaign, including Quakers' 5-0 Feethams win in April which relegated the Shaymen to the Nationwide Conference - a game when he was sent-off for deliberate handball after conceding a penalty.

Both Matt and his twin brother Chris spent a trial at Manchester City last season before Chris joined Blackpool in February.

Matt, a former Wolves trainee who started his career as a striker, was one of a handful of players kept on at The Shay, after the club was relegated, in the hope of recouping a transfer fee, but he was freed last month by the club's administrators.

Darlington boss Tommy Taylor revealed he first tried to sign him in April.

"I liked him last season when I saw him," said Taylor. "I tried to get him at the end of the season, the same time I tried to sign Paul Harsley.

"He'll give us balance at the back because he's a left-footer and I'd rather have him than some right-footer coming across the pitch and having a swing at it with his left."

Clarke replaces David Brightwell, who was given a free earlier this summer, but his vacancy would have been filled by Stuart Whitehead if personal terms could have been agreed.

The Carlisle centre-back held contract talks with Quakers on Wednesday but returned to Northumbria still a Carlisle player.

Taylor explained: "We wanted to sign Whitehead. We couldn't agree on wages, that was all."

Quakers are hoping their new kit, which will again be manufactured by Xara, will be on sale by the end of this month.

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