DARLINGTON’S hopes of achieving a fourth promotion in five seasons look to be over due to concerns over the standard of facilities at Blackwell Meadows.

The Quakers are set to be refused a place in the National League North play-offs due to a lack of covered seats at the ground they began playing at less than four months ago.

Following Saturday’s 3-2 win over Tamworth, the club sit in fifth place in the table – the final play-off spot – with just four games remaining.

A top five finish should have given Darlington a real chance of going up a division – an achievement which would have left the club one promotion away from returning to the Football League for the first time since 2010.

However, the Football Association has confirmed Blackwell Meadows falls short of ‘Grade B’ ground grading requirements, scuppering their chances of competing in the National League next season.

Such a ruling would be a hammer blow to the Quakers, who only months ago returned to the town after a four-and-a half year absence.

To qualify for promotion to the National League and to participate in the North and South divisional play-offs, clubs must have at least 500 seats under cover.

The FA confirmed these seats may be in two stands, with no stand having less than 100 seats.

Currently, Blackwell Meadows only has around 280 seats under cover.

According to FA rules, all ground improvements must be completed by March 31 “in the year the club seeks promotion”.

As a last resort to salvage their season, the FA confirmed Darlington could appeal against the ruling.

Last night, former Manchester United defender and joint owner of Salford City Gary Neville tweeted his support for the Quakers.

Despite previously criticising Darlington fans for allegedly causing thousands of pounds to Salford’s ground, former England international Neville urged the FA to “let them play”.

“Big recent history between our clubs but seriously, who cares whether they have a turnstile or tarmac or 300 more fans,” he said.

A club spokesperson told The Northern Echo they were unsure when a final decision would be made, adding “how long is a piece of string”.

A statement published on Darlington’s website said: “The Board of Darlington FC is aware of rumours concerning whether Blackwell Meadows meets the grading requirements to allow the club to complete in the National League playoffs.

“Discussions are continuing with the National League and fans will be informed as soon as a decision is taken by the League.

“The club will make no further comment until then.”

A £1m project funded largely by loyal supporters secured the club a new home in the town last December after years of planning.

Thousands of jubilant fans attended the first game on Boxing Day when Darlington beat Halifax Town 3-2, but it now appears the ground the club was so desperate to play at will delay its progress through the divisions.

Last week, manager Martin Gray told supporters the club was “ready” for the play-offs and promotion.

Speaking after his side’s win over Tamworth, he said:  "We’re going for promotion and nobody wants it more than me."

“What you have got to remember, what this team has achieved this season after being promoted is outstanding.

“The mentality in the changing room is that we are going for it - the fans want it and we are ready for anybody.”

A spokesperson for the FA said: “The rules apply in both circumstances - whether a club finishes in an automatic promotion place or whether they finish in the play-offs.”