I nearly didn’t make the final squad, because three weeks before the big day I injured my calf in a 3-2 defeat at Hayes and Yeading.

I’d been playing regularly until then and thought I would probably be guaranteed a place either in the starting line-up or on the bench. Suddenly my Wembley appearance was up in the air and it would be the responsibility of the physio, Ali Logan, to get me right for the game.

Looking at the situation realistically, it looked as if my dream of playing at Wembley would be ruined.

I had intensive treatment for a fortnight and thanks to all the exercises and fitness work planned by Ali, I took part in my first training session on the Tuesday before Wembley. As you would expect, I was careful - there was a good chance that I would aggravate the injury - and was I relieved when I came through the session without any ill-effects.

Mark Cooper asked how I was feeling and I told him that I felt fine. He said that I wouldn’t be in the starting XI - he had named the team the day before - but I might be on the bench.

Coops liked to keep his cards close to his chest. I figured that it would be between me and Nathan Modest for a place, because we had a spare keeper (Danzelle St Louis-Hamilton), a spare defender (Phil Gray) and two midfielders (Paul Terry and Aman Verma) so that only left one place for a sub forward.

On the Friday, we went to Wembley to have a look around. It was a great opportunity to get a feel for the ground and take a few photos. I tried to stay positive and optimistic that I would have a place on the bench and if that were to happen, then I was pretty sure I would actually play a part in the game, being the only sub forward.

After we’d taken loads of pictures and had a walk around, Coops sat us all down in the dressing room and suddenly I realised, that this was the moment he was going to name his subs.

He read the starting XI out again and then he came to the subs and mine was the first name he read out! I was delighted, but then I looked around at Nathan and he looked as if he wanted to be outside on his own. I felt sorry for him, because his chance of playing at Wembley had disappeared.

I was really up for the occasion the following day and, from what I recall, I didn’t have any nerves.

I sat on the bench watching, but we just couldn’t break the deadlock. Early in the second half, the boss told me to start focussing and midway through, I went on for John Campbell. The game was really stretched, we were on top, but couldn’t score. Marc Bridge-Wilkinson hit the post, Tommy Wright headed just wide and Ian Miller hit the post.

Late in extra time, I started to think about penalties.

Earlier in the season, I’d missed a penalty badly against Southport by trying to place the ball and the keeper had saved easily and I made my mind up that regardless of that miss, I would definitely volunteer to take one of the first five penalties in the shoot-out and I would hit the ball hard up the middle.

In the last minute of extra time, we won a throw on our left side. I went to a position on the six-yard line, in the middle of the goal. We all knew that this would be our last chance to avoid a shootout.

Aaron Brown threw the ball in, Dusty Miller got a touch on it and I was hoping that somebody would get on the end of it, because their keeper had come off his line to try and punch the ball away.

Tommy Wright then got his head to the ball taking the keeper out of the game and I could tell that as the ball looped up in the air, it was going to hit the bar. The keeper went dashing past me towards the net and I thought that if the ball came back out to me instead of bouncing off the bar and going out of play, then I would be waiting for a tap in. I didn’t think I was offside, because when the keeper came off his line, there were two defenders goalside of me.

The keeper clattered into the back of the net, the ball bounced off the bar and, standing in an ideal position, I told myself to make sure that I hit the target when it came down.

I’d judged it perfectly. I headed the ball firmly into the net and even though the keeper got his left hand to the ball, it was over the line.

What a feeling. I started to celebrate. The good thing was, I knew where some of my friends were in the crowd and I looked towards them. All the Darlo fans were at that end and I ran towards the corner. I thought about taking my shirt off, but then I was mullered to the ground by the rest of the lads.

I couldn’t breathe with all of them lying on top of me, but what an ecstatic feeling. I’ll never, ever, be able to replicate that.

A minute or so later, maybe even less than that, the game was over. My goal had won the FA Trophy. There really aren’t enough words to describe how I felt.

There was another unforgettable feeling when we went up the steps to get the Trophy, because my wife and family were sat next to the steps. My wife was heavily pregnant at the time and I was hoping that the excitement wouldn’t be too much for her and make her give birth there and then.

There were tears in my eyes as I climbed the steps. I’d always dreamt of climbing the steps to the Royal Box at Wembley and it takes longer to climb the steps at the new Wembley than it did at the old Wembley, because a steward asked us to wait at the top of the first flight of steps.

I could see all the Darlo fans and hear them shouting and cheering. I could also see the Mansfield fans staying behind and applauding as well. There was a huge amount of noise as we all celebrated.

And then when we walked up to the Royal Box and Dusty lifted the Trophy, his euphoria and the huge roar from the Darlington fans were things you only dream of.

What an amazing sight, seeing all those black and white scarves and Darlo fans celebrating. I will always remember those moments.

Four days later, just 20 minutes before we paraded the Trophy to the fans in Darlington market place, Coops asked me to go to his office.

There was a bit of small talk, then in a matter-of-fact way, he told me that he was releasing me. I was really disappointed that he’d told me just 20 minutes before we were due to go on stage and that before the final he should have been a bit more open with me and maybe even told me what he was going to do.

But maybe from his point of view, it had preyed on his mind that he would have to tell me the bad news at some point and he couldn’t find the right moment. I still speak to his assistant, Richard Dryden regularly and next time I see Coops, I’ll have a beer with him.

So that header in the last minute turned out to be my last touch for Darlo – but how many people can say that the last touch for their club was a last-minute winner at Wembley?