DARLINGTON have swooped to sign striker Simon Ainge from Harrogate Town.

Ainge, who had a year to run on his Harrogate contract, has signed a two-year deal with Darlington and has moved for an undisclosed fee, which has been paid for by the Boost the Budget (BTB) initiative.

Earlier this year fans raised £86,000 – £6,000 more than the target that had been set by the Darlington FC Supporters Group – and today’s signing has been funded by the BTB kitty.

The transfer successfully completes a move that Tommy Wright had been working on for weeks, and he is looking forwarding to pairing him with striker Reece Styche.

Ainge scored 34 goals in 2017 and netted 14 times last season before finishing the campaign on loan at Wrexham.

He converted from a defender two seasons ago, but Wright is signing the 30-year-old as a forward.

“We felt his experience and knowledge of this league as well as his goalscoring stats over the last two season since he declared himself is exactly what we needed,” said Wright.

“This is the kind of signing I promised the fans at the fans’ forum, it’s also what their hard-earned money has paid for with the Boost the Budget scheme and I can’t thank them enough.

“Also, a big mention must go to the board of directors for making this deal happen. They are matching my ambition all the way and I want to repay the faith shown in me.

“This signing is a huge statement of intent and I can’t wait to get working with him and integrating him into the squad.

“He will be the perfect partner for Reece Styche and with Harvey Saunders now showing his promise we now feel we have enough strikers at the club.”

Ainge was better known in non-league circles as a centre-back or right-back for clubs as such as Guiseley, Luton Town and FC Halifax Town, while he has also appeared for England C.

But midway through the 2016-17 season Shipley-born Ainge reverted to playing as a forward, having previously played there as a youth at Bradford City, and enjoyed a remarkable four-goal haul in one match against Alfreton in January of last year.

The following month he netted twice at Blackwell Meadows, when Harrogate won 3-2 against Quakers.

He ended the calendar year with over 30 goals, but by the middle of 2017-18 was out of the Harrogate team due to a groin injury, and on his return to fitness found opportunities limited due to being behind Dominic Knowles and ex-Quaker Mark Beck in the pecking order.

In January this year he was the subject of a transfer deadline day bid from Barnet - Harrogate turned down a five-figure offer, but several weeks later loaned him to National League Wrexham.

“We turned down the Barnet bid because they didn’t meet our asking price, and I don’t regret it as it was the best decision at that time,” explained Harrogate boss Simon Weaver at the time.

But just two games into his Wrexham move Ainge saw manager Dean Keates leave to take charge of Walsall. He went on to make one start and nine substitutes appearances without scoring.

Ainge becomes Darlington’s second summer signing following the arrival of midfielder former Cambridge United midfielder Liam Hughes, and a goalkeeper is next on Wright’s agenda.

He added: “A goalkeeper now becomes the next priority and an announcement could be made soon.”

* Greg Mills has joined Stourbridge. The 27-year-old forward left Darlington at the end of the season, his contract was mutually terminated following a disappointing few months with Quakers.