ALUN ARMSTRONG has only been in the job 153 days and already brought a feelgood factor to Darlington, a club that had been in the doldrums.

After missing out on the play-offs in 2016-17 due to not having enough covered seats, two unenjoyable seasons followed with mediocre teams producing underwhelming performances without a hint of a cup run.

While Armstrong’s tenure remains in its early stages and he maintains this is a rebuilding year, after five wins in a row and three in the FA Cup supporters are jubilant and buzzing with anticipation ahead of this evening’s draw on BBC2.

Sunderland, Ipswich Town and Hartlepool United will all be in the hat alongside Quakers, who are in the first round proper for the first time since becoming a fan-owned club 2012, yet despite having good teams and promotion-winning seasons in that time progress in this competition has been as calamitous as Brexit.

Finally supporters are again experiencing the thrill of a cup run, they are able to dream of what could lie ahead, while a generation of younger fans for the first time have witnessed Darlington navigate their way through three rounds.

Armstrong has become the first Darlington manager to win three FA Cup ties in a season since Brian Little in 1989-90 when Quakers beat Runcorn, Northwich Victoria and Halifax Town.

His men have overcome Trafford, Leamington and on Saturday they saw off Tamworth 3-0 with clinical finishing crucial, Tyrone O’Neill (2) and Omar Holness with the goals while goalkeeper Liam Connell saved a penalty at 1-0.

“I’m delighted for the club and the whole of Darlington because this has been a long time coming,” said Armstrong.

“Hopefully we’ll get the whole town on board now. I think the fans are starting to come back now and they’re buying into what they’re doing, they’ve seen the workrate of the lads, the work we’re doing off the pitch.

“The atmosphere is changing at Darlington. I can feel it, the players can feel it, and I think the fans are grasping it.

“This is a rebuilding season, just because we’ve won five on the bounce there’s still a lot of work to be done, but we’re in good form at the minute so you’ve got to take it while you can.

“I wanted a cup run. We’ve got this plan of where we want to be, the cup run helps that come forward a bit quicker.”

The FA Cup may have lost some of its lustre at the top end of the game, but it retains its magic at non-league level, not least because of the not inconsequential prize money involved: Darlington have made £36,750 in total this season, all of which was not budgeted for given past experience.

“Darlington fans have missed having success in the cup for a long time,” added Armstrong. “They came down in their numbers expecting a result, but that was a tough game, one of the toughest we’ve had in that first half.”

Darlington led 2-0 at the break yet they had to absorb pressure for most of the first 45 minutes with Tamworth having seen far more of the ball between the two goals.

The first came on nine minutes, O’Neill firing in at close-range after Jarrett Rivers had sent Adam Campbell to the byline and he crossed to the far post for the on-loan youngster to score.

For the fourth game running he netted Quakers’ first goal, but Darlington were soon on the backfoot with Tamworth causing problems.

A better pass by Tyrell Waite to team-mate Ahmed Obeng would surely have resulted in an equaliser after an Alex Storey slip, a moment typical of a day that went Darlington’s way.

Referee Robert Massey-Ellis wrongly pulled play back for a Darlington foul well after the incident when Tamworth were on the attack, then Connell pulled off a superb penalty save from Ryan Beswick after Will Hatfield had fouled Waite.

Midfield workhorse Hatfield was involved in two of the goals. On 39 minutes he won back possession and then Rivers attacked, playing in O’Neill who teed up Holness to side-foot home for 2-0.

It was harsh on Tamworth, but ruthless finishing proved the difference and thereafter Quakers were in command and could have ended up with five or six in the second half.

Some Tamworth fans thought they had scored when Waite hit the side-netting, the realisation it remained 2-0 only dawned on them seconds before Darlington went 3-0 up.

Hatfield, again, won the ball back, Rivers fed O’Neill and he did the rest from 20 yards, taking his goal tally to seven.

So good was he on Saturday that some Tamworth supporters applauded him off when substituted.

With every goal the 20-year-old scores the likelihood of Middlesbrough sending him out on loan in January to a club in a higher division surely increases, though Armstrong is desperate to keep him.

Joe Wheatley managed a remarkable goal-line clearance late on, heading away Bilal Yafai’s shot, to complete Darlington’s thoroughly enjoyable day, their best yet under Armstrong.

He added: “Hopefully we’ll get a decent draw, the anticipation is going to be building all weekend, but to say I’ll be nervous on Monday is an understatement.”

No matter who the club are paired with tonight, it is difficult not to believe that there is a lot to look forward to for Darlington.