Darlington have been hit by the news that Martin Gray has now been ruled out for the rest of the season.

Gray hasn't kicked a ball for Quakers since he played in the 2-2 draw at Lincoln in January because of a back injury, and a specialist has now recommended that he has an operation on a hernia problem.

"I'm absolutely gutted," said Gray. "It's a massive blow to me. I thought I was getting over my back injury, but I've been told to have three weeks' rest instead, so we decided I might as well have the hernia sorted out.

"I really wanted to help the team in the run in - it was bad enough watching them the other night at York."

Gray has been playing with hernia trouble all season, and was hoping to sort out the problem during the summer until his back injury came along.

His absence might not be the only blow for manager Gary Bennett, as Paul Heckingbottom and Brian Atkinson might not be seen in a Darlington shirt again this season because of their groin injuries.

"I don't think we'll be getting any of them back this season," said Bennett. "Brian is out for at least another two or three weeks, and then he'll need games under his belt."

To add to Bennett's problems, on loan full back Olivier Bernard missed Saturday's game at Kidderminster, and is a doubt for this weekend's Scunthorpe game.

"He's gone back to Newcastle for treatment," said Bennett. "He picked up an ankle injury at York, and could hardly walk afterwards."

Full-back Phil Brumwell came off on Saturday with a hernia problem, and is also a doubt for the Scunthorpe game.

"We can't use the injuries as an excuse," said Bennett. "We must battle on."

On the plus side, Bennett is to hold talks with youngster Mark Kilty about a new contract. He made an immediate impact in the centre of defence alongside Craig Liddle, but has played the last three games in midfield.

"I can't sing his praises highly enough," said Bennett. "He's been brilliant over the last three games."

l Darlington's reserves are at Sheffield United on Wednesday evening, and Quaker fans are reminded that Saturday's game kicks off at 1pm because of the England -Finland World Cup tie.