DARLINGTON yesterday received some heart-warming news ahead of tonight's derby at home to Hartlepool when it emerged Craig Liddle's latest injury isn't as bad as first feared.

He will have an afternoon fitness test on his right ankle with a view to playing tonight.

Otherwise he should be back for Saturday's home game with Torquay.

Liddle would have missed Saturday's 4-2 defeat at Mansfield through suspension, but a cracked ankle bone raised fears he could be sidelined for up to six weeks.

However, the influential skipper has declared himself ready for action and fellow central-defender David Brightwell, who has been out with a calf injury for just over a month, has been declared fit.

Gary Pearson is out and Mark Ford is suspended.

Manager Tommy Taylor says he's expecting a battle in the last Feethams derby. He envisages a stormy encounter between the sides placed tenth and 12th.

He said: "We all know it's going to be a big game, everyone at the club does.

"For me, Carlisle was a derby and that was a really physical battle so God knows what'll happen!"

The 3-1 win at Brunton Park a fortnight ago was littered with crunching tackles, one of which resulted in Simon Betts being carried from the field with a severely gashed leg.

His replacement tonight will be Neil Maddison, who aims to fulfil many a supporter's dream by scoring against his club's fiercest rivals.

Before beginning his professional career at Southampton in 1988, Maddison, close friends with sidelined Pool midfielder Tommy Widdrington from their days at The Dell, was a regular at Darlington matches, both home and away.

Although he featured in Quakers' 2-1 win at Victoria Park in August, the former Middlesbrough midfielder was substituted in the first half with a groin injury.

Danny Mellanby scored the winner in that game, and Maddison is hoping to repeat that feat.

He said: "Whenever people have asked me who I support I've always said Darlington because I'm from the town.

"I've been to a few derbies and I've seen some good ones. I remember seeing Alan Walsh score a few goals against them.

"I'd love to score too, I've not got a goal this season so I'm due one.

"I think it'd make my day if I got one, in fact it'd make my season!"

Although he'll find it harder to score from right-back than from his more accustomed midfield role, Maddison admits he can't wait for tonight's game.

He said: "At the moment Hartlepool are playing well but derbies are tough games the tackles will be flying so I'm looking forward to it.

"It is the massive one for everyone but we've got a few injuries so it looks as though we'll have another makeshift side.

"All then fans want is to beat Hartlepool and if we can do that they'll be happy, and then we'll try and go as far as we can in the League."

l The game is not all-ticket for home fans and supporters will be able to pay at the gate with Quakers expecting a crowd of around 5,000.

Pool have around 200 of their allocated 2,000 tickets remaining and they are on sale at the Pool club shop until noon.

Quakers (from): Finch, Maddison, Reed, Brightwell, Liddle, McGurk, Heckingbottom, Wainwright, Campbell, Atkinson, Rundle, Convery, Harper, Clark, Mellanby, Conlon, Sheeran.

Pool (from): Williams, Barron, Lee, Westwood, Robinson, Smith, Humphreys, Tinkler, Coppinger, Boyd, Henderson, Hollund, Easter, Stephenson, Arnison, Clarke.

Read more about Darlington FC here.