Darlington midfielder Mark Ford has given the seal of approval to Barry Conlon, and he believes the striker's physical presence will be a key weapon in Quakers' Third Division campaign.

Signed in the summer from York City, it is hoped Conlon will go some way to solving the forward problems of a club which last season used several different strikers as Gary Bennett seeked to fill the void created by the departure of Marco Gabbiadini a year ago.

Ton Kaak, Gary Williamson, Paul Beavers, Lee Nogan and David McMahon and were among those who failed to make an impact at Feethams during a desperate season So it is with relief Ford has welcomed Conlon's arrival.

He said: "We needed Barry, someone with a bit of presence about him and I think Neil Maddison will make a big difference and there's still a couple of other players to come back like Hecky Paul Heckingbottom who is a good player and so is Martin Gray.

"Teams are scared of playing against a big presence at this level. We always seem to come up against a big striker and it's what you need in the team. I know Barry is only young but he's played for a few clubs and he has scored goals in this division so he'll do well.

"He has scored goals at this level so let's hope he gets the chances because we didn't create a lot at the end of last season and that's the difference because strikers thrive on chances and if we play with wing-backs we'll be pushing a bit further up the pitch and that'll change things as well."

Darlington travel to Prudhoe tonight hoping to finish their pre-season schedule on a high. Kick-off is at 7pm.

*Gary Bennett last night attacked two of the region's Big Three for not playing a pre-season match at Feethams.

Speaking at the fans' forum at Newton Aycliffe, Bennett explained that Newcastle would have been playing at the ground but for Inter-Toto commitments yet criticised Sunderland and Middlesbrough for travelling all over the country during their pre-season programme.

"The clubs up here should be playing up here, not in Torquay, Plymouth and Exeter (Sunderland), " he said.

"Middlesbrough have done the same; playing at Preston and Mansfield."