THE chances of Liam Connell returning to Darlington this week are slim.

Their negotiations with South Shields over the extending the goalkeeper’s stay at Blackwell Meadows have stalled and he did not train with Quakers last night.

The news is a blow for Darlington, who are already dealing with the shock of seeing seven-goal striker Tyrone O’Neill return to Middlesbrough two months early.

While a deal for Connell is not dead and the player remains hopeful of making a move, either permanent or temporary, it is understood that Quakers are now considering trying to bring in another goalkeeper before the weekend.

Connell’s month on loan expired after last Saturday’s 0-0 draw with Hereford, meaning he returned to Shields with four clean sheets in five appearances and having quickly become a fans favourite.

He made two appearances in in the FA Cup, the win at Tamworth when he saved a penalty and the victory away to Leamington when he made a stunning reflex save.

Having made a big contribution to the club’s best run in years it would appear cruel to deny Connell, clearly out of the first-choice XI at Shields, an opportunity to play in Quakers’ first round match at League Two Walsall on Saturday.

He played a big part in Shields’ rise as their No. 1 for three seasons before being displaced by a youngster on loan from Blackpool, but all involved with Darlington want Connell at the club.

There is a reluctance to the meet the fee asking price set by Shields bearing in mind the player is 34 and out of contract at the end of the season.

While Darlington supporters are known for raising money for their club as and when required, Connell has politely requested they keep their hands in their pockets on this occasion, and manager Alun Armstrong has made a similar request.

Among those eager to see Connell become a Quaker is captain Terry Galbraith.

The pair both played in the Dunston UTS side that won the FA Vase at Wembley in 2012, and Galbraith said: “I want him to sign, I think everyone does.

“He’s good in the changing room as well because he’s an older head, he’s got a presence and it’s good competition to have him and Chris Elliott, two senior keepers.

“It would be brilliant for the gaffer to have them two to choose from.”

Whereas Galbraith moved to Darlington seven months after winning at Wembley, Connell was with Dunston for seven years before heading to South Shields in 2016.

“In the Northern League days he was always a top keeper and I knew he’d go and play higher,” added Galbraith.

“He deserves it because he’s a top lad and he’s shown in his games here that he’s top keeper as well. He’s a big strong lad and for his size he’s quiet agile, he gets down well.

“He asked me at the start of the season what the situation was with goalkeepers as he knew we only had one, plus young Cameron. But at the time the gaffer had more important things with the injuries we had to certain players.

“You never know until you test yourself how good you are, and he has now proven himself to be good enough at this level.”