TOMORROW is a new dawn for Darlington, the season will start at home to Curzon Ashton with a new-look team including a strikeforce that few defenders will relish playing against.

Simon Ainge, one of seven summer signings, has joined from Harrogate Town and will partner Reece Styche, the pairing expected to provide a physical presence in the National League North.

The pair are both seasoned players in non-league and Ainge is glad to be on Styche’s side having had to mark him during his days a defender before being converted to the striker he is now.

“We’ve got a few good strikers here but hopefully it will be us two playing and we will start firing straight away,” said Ainge.

“I’ve played against Reece a lot over the years, I remember being up against him when I was a defender. I’ve got to be honest, what I remember most is him trying to wind people up, but then you get to know him and he’s a completely different guy to what he is on the pitch.

“Off the pitch he’s a really nice guy, but on the pitch you might think something else! I’m glad he’s on my team now.”

Having spent pre-season getting to know his new team-mates, Ainge aims to form a partnership with Styche as well as get back to scoring regularly.

A groin injury hampered him last season. After recovering from a five-month lay-off, during which time Harrogate brought in Mark Beck from Darlington, Ainge ended 2017-18 on loan with Wrexham, but did not score in his time there.

It was in contrast to a prolific 2017, a year in which he scored 35 times including two in a game against Darlington at Blackwell Meadows.

He said: “I scored 35 goals in six months from February 2017 until the end of August, and there were a couple of sendings-off in there so I missed a few games. It was a period where everything I touched seemed to be a goal.

“We had good players who were putting crosses in, we were strong on set-pieces and they played to my strengths, they put the ball in the box for me. We’ve got players here who can do the same.”

He added: “I started last season with 12 goals in seven games, and then I had my injury. It was my adductor, and that kept me out until February.

“It was the first injury of my career so it was a frustrating period. I went down to Wrexham and this summer I’ve had a lot of time to get myself back fit.

“I kept getting little niggles, but hopefully I can go from strength to strength now and get back to where I was.

“I’m confident in my own ability and feel I can get back there. I’d had the injury for six months before, it wasn’t new, I was carrying it when I was scoring the goals and kept playing because my confidence was high. And then the injury really happened.

“I’ve got no restrictions now, whereas before I couldn’t really run enough to get tired in the first place!

“Am back fit now and can’t wait for the season to start.”

Aside from sitting out the Legends game on Sunday, Ainge played a full part in pre-season, a time spent getting to know new team-mates.

“When I first signed it was a bit quiet in the changing room, but it’s a good set of lads, we’ve gelled together and the weekend in Eindhoven did us some good,” added Ainge.

“We were sat on the plane next to people you might not normally be sat next to, you get to know people on a personal level, we had a few drinks, spent a bit more time than we normally would with each other.

“The football was important too. It was on a massive pitch, it was a lot of running in 30 degrees heat against a team that passed all day, so for fitness it was really good, but we had the socialising too, which you don’t usually get when you have to get back home to see the Mrs.

“We’ve got a good squad here, some strong characters, so it’s looking good.”