NO matter what the result at Walsall on Saturday, Darlington know they have exceeded expectations after years of failure in the FA Cup.

They have won three ties in the same season for the first time since 1989-90, raking in £36,750 in prize money and would double their money with a win in the first round proper against opposition from League Two, two divisions above.

It is Quakers’ first appearance at this stage since becoming a fan-owned club in 2012, and as a consequence of the fervour generated will be backed by around 800 supporters at the Banks’s Stadium.

Manager Alun Armstrong, however, views the tie much more than a trip out to a former Football League rival, or a celebration of the club's triumphant revival since 2012.

He said: “As a player and as a manager this is what you play football for, these games are massive. You don’t want to be saying afterwards ‘we tried hard but never mind’.

“I want to win the game. I’m not going down there for the day out. The fans can have their day out and enjoy themselves, but me, the players and the staff aren’t going there to take part, we’re going there to try and win this game.

“If you look at our team, lads like Adam Campbell, Ben Hedley, Louis Laing, Alex Storey and Jarrett Rivers, a lot of them have played in the Football League, so it’s not as though they can’t do it.

“We’ve got to go there with belief and catch them on an off day.”

As a player he was in a Stockport County team which as a League One club took plenty of cup scalps in the late 1990s, and he added: “I’ve been in these shoes before as a player.

“I was at Stockport when we got to the third round and played Everton, and in the League Cup we beat Southampton and West Ham to get to the semi-finals, but we were in League One at the time.”

In dreadful form and third-bottom of the Football League, Walsall will view the game as opportunity to record a badly-needed win having lost their last six league matches, conceding 14 goals in the process.

Armstrong believes the expectation to win could adversely affect the Saddlers, whose manager Darrell Clarke this week admitted: “It’s going to be edgy and a bit nervous I imagine, certainly with the fans not being happy we’ve got to try and put on a performance and try and get to the next round.”

Armstrong added: “I’ve not been on the end of a cup shock, but you hate playing in them.

“I remember at Ipswich we played Morecambe, they might’ve been in the Conference at the time, and you dread it, you dread playing in these games.

“You’ve got to win it’s as simple as that, anything else is failure and it’ll be the same for Walsall.

“Walsall are full-time professionals in the Football League, they were in League One last year so they’re expected to win quite comfortably.

“But these lads will give everything and try to cause an upset.”

While Darlington were dealt a blow this week with Tyrone O’Neill being recalled by Middlesbrough, Stephen Thompson will come into the side while Liam Connell continues in goal after his loan from South Shields was extended for the remainder of the season.

Connell has played during the team’s rejuvenation – six wins amid seven unbeaten games - but with three of those victories being in the cup Quakers are 13th in the table.

Walsall will perhaps view Quakers’ position as being an indication of their visitors being a mediocre side, but Armstrong pointed out: “It’s a funny league because we’re two points off the plays offs but so are seven or eight other teams.

“It’s really tight, anything can happen, and if they underestimate us we can take advantage of that.”

Three coaches organised by the Darlington FC Supporters Group are making the trip, while there are several more are travelling having been organised privately in the town.

“I hope we do ourselves justice for ourselves and for the fans,” added Armstrong. “I’ve seen rumours that there could be 1,000 going down there and that would be fantastic.

“They’re going to have a day out and all I ask for is that we put on a really good show and then anything is possible.”