DARLINGTON’S focus has been on fitness and lifting morale during the past fortnight in which time they have been preparing for Saturday’s game at FC United of Manchester.

There have been no games for Quakers since losing 1-0 at home to Stockport County, on September 29 a result that saw Darlington drop to 19th in the table with a quarter of the season gone already.

This was a season that was intended to herald a play-off push, yet Quakers have won only one of their past nine matches and not scored in each of their last three games.

Supporters hope the team’s situation begins to improve this weekend, and having trained five times over the last fortnight the team have had ample opportunity to prepare for a trip bottom-of-the-table United.

“We trained on Saturday and then me and Whitey went to watch FC United’s game,” explained Quakers manager Tommy Wright.

“We’ve put the work in with five sessions and in that time there’s been two really hard fitness sessions where they did a lot of running, a lot of fitness work.

“It’s been a good two weeks, a case of getting smiles back on faces, doing a bit of tactical work and having a bit of a thrash with the fitness. As we’ve not had games we’ve gone a bit overboard with the running.

“It’s hard to replicate how hard the lads work in a game compared to training, so we pushed them. You need to do specific runs to get that match fitness up, so that’s what we did, we gave them a good blasting.

“The players bought right into it, they enjoyed it. Running is horrible when you’re doing it, but it’s rewarding afterwards when you’ve got it in the tank.

“It’s been a positive fortnight.”

Reece Styche is on international duty with Gibraltar, with Simon Ainge likely to replace him up front, while midfielder Joe Wheatley is expected to start despite an ongoing hernia problem.

Dom Collins is unavailable. He is hoping to have surgery to overcome longstanding foot and ankle issues.