Darlington have opened contract talks with star defender Craig Liddle - and are optimistic aabout the outcome.

Manager Gary Bennett, who is hoping to tie the defender to the club for two more years, said: "Craig is on contract with us until the end of the season.

"The positive thing is that we're in negotiations with him and we've got something to work at.

"We have to bear in mind that it's a big step in Craig's career and we've told him to take his time and weigh everything up.

"He's a local lad and he's happy in his play at the moment."

Quakers want the fans' favourite to stay beyond this season and are trying to avoid a situation in which he could leave the club for nothing in June. Several clubs have already expressed an interest in him, with First Division Sheffield Wednesday and Barnsley among the front runners.

Chairman George Reynolds said; "We are trying to establish a squad which knows each other's play. We already have several players who are on two-year deals."

Bennett, meanwhile, believes that a couple of goals will make a big difference to Quakers, who are averaging just less than a goal per game this season.

"It's the only thing that's missing. The overall performance, the passing are brilliant. It's all there but we've still got to put the ball in the net. Once it starts going in then we're off and running."

Bennett was delighted with Tuesday night's performance against Bradford City, which still gives Quakers a chance of progressing at Valley Parade on Monday.

"We created a lot of chances and didn't get on the end of them. The only disappointing thing in the game was that they scored from our throw-in inside their half.

"We're looking forward to Bradford. If they take it easy, then they might be in for a shock. People thought that Bradford might wipe the floor with us on Tuesday but they knew they'd been in a game."

Meanwhile, Quakers have injury problems for the televised trip to Macclesfield tomorrow night.

Midfielder Paul Campbell came off with an ankle injury at half time on Tuesday and defender Paul Heckingbottom followed him in the second half with a slight groin injury.

The Feethams pitch, which was heavily criticised last season for its poor condition, came in for praise from both camps.

"I thought the pitch played very well," said Bennett.

"I think the chairman has sorted it out.'