A FOOTBALL club is preparing to officially open a new part of its ground.

Darlington Football Club’s new covered stand at Blackwell Meadows will be in use for the first time on Saturday when the Quakers play their National League North fixture against Curzon Ashton (kick-off 3pm).

The new stand will mean Darlington would be eligible to take part in the National League North play-offs, should they finish between second and seventh.

Not having enough covered seats meant they were excluded from the play-offs last season, despite finishing fifth in the table - dashing their hopes of achieving a fourth promotion in five seasons.

John Tempest, director at Darlington Football Club, said he was "pleased" to draw a line under the situation.

"I have been a director for two years and the target has always been the fan base," he said.

"We have a lot of fans over the age of 40, so getting more families back is key.

"Under elevens can now attend the matches for free, and we have an extra 300 seats because of the new stand."

The extension, which cost around £150,000 and was completely financed by Quakers' fans, takes the total capacity of the stand to almost 600, which is 100 more than the target of 500 which is required to compete in the play-offs.

"It is starting to look a lot more like a football ground," said Mr Tempest.

"There is a fair bit of work still to do, but there will definitely be more atmosphere in the ground."

Chris Stockdale, chair of the Darlington FC Supporters Group, said; “The completion of the new stand extension is an important milestone for our football club.

"Not only will it enhance the matchday facilities at Blackwell Meadows and improve our offering to families in particular, it also means that the ground has now reached the standard required to be eligible for promotion to the National League.

“This development has been fully funded by our fans and I’d like to thank everyone who has contributed, from our large community share investors to the supporters throwing their coins into the buckets on a matchday.

"It is a fantastic achievement that we should all be rightfully proud of. Darlington fans have raised over £1m since taking ownership of the club in 2012.”

Darlington returned to play their homes fixtures in the town on Boxing Day 2016 after a four-and-a-half year absence.