WILL HATFIELD joined Darlington in the summer and has been the team’s best player this season believes Alun Armstrong, who was convinced to sign the midfielder after he had been “an absolute nuisance” against Blyth Spartans.

In-form Darlington tomorrow take their five-match winning run to Guiseley - weather permitting, there is 10am pitch inspection - the club where Hatfield played for four years and made 163 appearances.

After the team suffered relegation in 2017-18, Hatfield’s final season at Nethermoor was his first in the National League North when he twice faced Armstrong’s Blyth, and the hardworking midfielder made a lasting impression.

“Guiseley used to have him on their right to try and stop Michael Liddle bombing on, but I always thought he was an absolute nuisance and someone that you hated to play against because he’s non-stop.

“I thought if we had someone like that in our team who was constant it would go a long way to let the others play, especially your attacking players.

“He’s been massive for us. There’s been games when I’ve wanted to take him off to rest him because he’s ran that much and he’s an integral part of how we play.

“He’s everything I want in a player: work ethic, energy, enthusiasm, quality. He can do both sides, defensive and attacking, he’s a box-to-box midfielder.

“If you ask him to do a job he will do it no questions asked, he’s a key player and for me he has been the signing of the season.”

Only Hatfield and Adam Campbell have started all 16 Darlington matches, though the midfielder is yet to score.

Armstrong added: “He can do bits of everything and that’s why I like him. The only thing that’s missing is a goal, but that’s probably because I’ve had him in more of a defensive role, but it’s credit to him for accepting that no problem.

“He had a great chance to score on Saturday at Tamworth but it was blocked. I told him I thought I was signing a goalscorer midfielder – he got 11 last year but he still hasn’t got himself off the mark yet!

“It would be great if he could go back to Guiseley and get one over his old team. He did exceptionally well for them and he’s highly thought of there, so if he could nick a goal I think he’d be happy with that.”

While Hatfield is yet to net for Quakers, Armstrong has seen him score in 2019 – a free-kick at the back end of last season against Spennymoor Town in a performance that the Darlington manager fondly recalls.

“Guiseley were 3-1 down when they brought Will came on and I thought Jeez – straight away he was going around the pitch lifting people and I thought it was different class.

“He was getting stuck right into them and then he scored that free-kick.

“He’s been top drawer for me and I cannot fault the kid.”

The free-kick was voted Guiseley’s second best goal of last season, Hatfield winning the award with a spectacular long-range strike in a thrilling 4-3 giant-killing win against Cambridge United in the FA Cup.

More of the same in a fortnight’s time against Walsall would go down nicely, but for now 15th-placed Quakers have league commitments and next week they have two home matches: Kidderminster Harriers on Wednesday and Hereford on Saturday.

Armstrong has kept changes to a minimum in recent weeks during a five-match winning run and is unlikely to alter his starting XI at Guiseley, but Louis Laing and Stephen Thompson will come into contention next week.

“I would imagine there’ll be changes in the games next week to try and keep people fresh, otherwise I could end up with injuries again,” added Armstrong.

“In these three games I will have to rotate players, but I don’t like changing things when it’s going well. Nobody likes to change a winning team.

“I don’t usually have a goalkeeper on the bench, but we have had recently because we haven’t had enough fit outfield players, but we’ll have a look at things before Saturday.”

Guiseley are eighth and have not won in four matches but are boosted by the return of Jamie Spencer and 14-goal striker Aaron Martin after suspension.

Darlington failed to score in each of their matches with Guiseley last season, Hatfield playing in each of them.

They drew 0-0 at Blackwell Meadows and Darlington lost 1-0 at Nethermoor in the penultimate match of the campaign with Kaine Felix scoring.