DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong is a relieved man after hearing that key midfielder David Atkinson has avoided breaking a bone in Saturday’s friendly.

Atkinson was substituted after just nine minutes of the match with Halifax Town after being involved in a crunching 50/50 challenge, and left Blackwell Meadows on crutches.

However, an x-ray on his ankle at Darlington Memorial Hospital indicated there has been no break, so Quakers are optimistic that he will be available for the season-opener at Farsley Celtic on August 3.

“You could see the difference as soon as he went off the pitch, he holds us together in the middle of the park and allows Will Hatfield to play his game,” said Armstrong, whose side lost 2-1 on Saturday after conceding a 90th minute goal.

Atkinson will not be involved on Tuesday evening when Darlington play at Northallerton Town, and their next hope is that the former Blyth Spartans ace has not sprained his ankle, which has swollen considerably.

Despite losing the match and seeing Atkinson limp out of the action, Darlington could be encouraged by their performance against the National League outfit, who had four trialists in their starting XI, having controlled lengthy spells of the match and played some attractive football too.

Adam Campbell put Darlington ahead in the fifth minute after good work by Stephen Thompson and Luke Trotman, whose pass into the middle picked out the striker to score his first goal in Quakers colours.

Armstrong said: “Some of Adam’s play today was a different class. He links the ball up really well.

“We started like a house on fire, they couldn't live with us and some of the football was really exciting, exactly what I’m looking for.”

Darlington were affected by Atkinson’s early exit, his place in midfield being taken by Osagi Bascome, and Halifax then had a good spell in which Quakers goalkeeper Chris Elliott had to be alert.

But he had no answer to Tobi Sho-Silva’s shot, Halifax having gained possession when a Bascome pass inside Darlington’s half was intercepted.

Fellow Bermudan trialist Justin Donowa again looked useful and he threatened to score from outside the penalty area with a powerful effort that goalkeeper Sam Johnson saved as Darlington finished the half strongly and almost scored again, this time Johnson stopping a Thompson thunderbolt.

Quakers were easily the better team in the second half, with periods of attractive passing football cutting through the Halifax defence but their play did not lead to another goal.

Bascome was better on the ball in the second half than he was in the first 45 minutes, and almost found the net but his shot from 20 yards hit the crossbar.

Sho-Silva also rattled the woodwork too, but just when the match looked like it was heading for a draw the Shaymen snatched a winner when Quakers switched off when defending a 90th minute free-kick.

Before it was taken there was a short delay while Darlington made their final substitution with Rhys Armstrong – the manager’s son – sent on, but Quakers were sloppy when the ball was sent into their penalty area, and Harry Freedman scored from close-range.

“I think the performance in parts was very good,” said Armstrong.

“There was a lapse in concentration and I don’t think the free-kick should’ve been taken because the linesman was stood with me after the substation when it was taken.

“But we should’ve switched on better, everyone was still trying to organise what was going on.”

Quakers had been without Terry Galbraith due to illness and Jarrett Rivers, who has a thigh problem, while Jamie Holmes is on holiday.

Also on Saturday a Darlington XI lost 2-1 at Richmond Town, with Joe Wheatley playing most of the match on his return from a hernia problem.

Mitchell Glover came off the bench and Jonny Burn completed the entire match.

Goals: Campbell (5, 1-0); Sho-Silva (24, 1-1), Freedman (90, 1-2)

Referee: Glen Hart

Attendance: 549

Darlington: Elliott, Trotman, Laing, Watson, Liddle, Donowa (Bell 67), Atkinson (Bascome 9, Scott 72)), Hatfield, Thompson, Campbell (Armstrong 90), O’Neill (Holness 67).

Halifax Town: Johnson, Hanson, Triallist, Staunton, Brown, Triallist, Triallist, Allen, Sho-Silva, King, Triallist. Subs: Freedman, Appleyard, Duckworth, Earing, Clark, Maher