WHEN David Hodgson takes his place in the visiting dugout at Wrexham this afternoon the Darlington manager will be taking a step into the unknown.

As definitive as Hodgson's approach to football management is, when it comes to all things Darlington, there are few assurances on offer from the 45-year-old.

Hodgson may have every intention of returning from North Wales with maximum points this evening, but, by his own admission, the outcome at the Racecourse Ground remains open to much conjecture.

With none of Quakers' five league wins so far this season being recorded back-to-back, Hodgson's men have failed to build on their successes.

But, despite that worrying trend, after 15 games, ninth-placed Quakers lie just one point outside the play-off zone after last week's 3-1 win over Cheltenham Town.

"I don't know what we're going to get tomorrow," admitted Hodgson. "It's frustrating, it's upsetting - it's all those things rolled into one.

"We train excellently from Monday to Friday. However, when they go on to that pitch I really have no idea which team is going to turn up. There are players I know what to expect from and there are others I am not so sure about. It's the latter who are letting this club down at the moment.

"If nine or ten players work their socks off then I'm in a position to say we can win the game."

Hodgson also accepts that constant changes to shape and personnel have been a contributing factor to their shortcomings this season.

At the beginning of the campaign Hodgson vowed not to tinker with his side in the opening six games. But, due to injuries and suspensions, in 17 games in all competitions, the boss has adopted no fewer than four formations - five if you include last week's diamond midfield in a 4-4-2.

It was only after reverting to an orthodox four across midfield in the second half that Quakers fought back from a goal down to beat Cheltenham with three late goals.

"We got it wrong in the first half," admitted Hodgson. "We didn't have any fluency until we changed things around in the second half.

"I would love to be able to put out an 11 in a system and keep that system every week.

"I wanted that at the start of the season, but I didn't think the football was fluent and injuries dictated otherwise. I don't like tinkering, but we have been left with little choice."

Hodgson has hinted at five across midfield today with a lone striker - a system deployed in the draw at Northampton and defeat at Bury. "We will go with a system tomorrow which enables our players to be creative," said Hodgson. "I'm putting out a line-up I can change at any given moment."

Hodgson will make at least one change from the side that returned to winning ways seven days ago. Nathan Jameson, who made his full debut against Cheltenham, has been dealt a major blow after breaking the metatarsal bone in his foot. The former Walsall midfielder faces up to six weeks on the sidelines.

Stephen Thomas could replace Jameson against the club he made 127 appearances for.

Due to a calf problem, Phil Stamp's Darlington debut remains on hold. Stamp has yet to make an appearance for Quakers since joining the club earlier this month.

Brian Close and Clark Keltie are available, but neither player will come into consideration at the Racecourse Ground as they are still short of full fitness.

However, David Duke and Matty Appleby could figure after recovering from injury.

Carlos Logan misses his fifth consecutive game with an Achilles problem, meaning Ryan Valentine will continue on the left against his hometown club.

With Logan facing another fortnight on the sidelines, Hodgson is hoping to strengthen his left-sided options next week.

The Quakers boss has also targeted a striker and could push through two loan deals.

However, neither player will be eligible for next week's FA Cup first-round tie at Barnsley.

"I've paved the way for two signings but there isn't much we can do before the Barnsley game," said Hodgson.

"We've got a little bit of time on our hands and hopefully we will see one or two new faces in the next week or so."

Wrexham, managed by former Sunderland manager Denis Smith, have won five of their seven home league games this season.

However, Smith has been dealt a triple blow, with recent loan signing Juan Ugarte (knee), Paul Warhurst (groin) and leading scorer Mark Jones (suspended) all ruled out this afternoon.

Former Sunderland keeper Michael Ingham, who made three loan appearances for Quakers during the 2002/03 season, continues in goal.

Read more about the Quakers here.