DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong has told his players not to waste the opportunity to reach the first round of the FA Cup for the second successive season when Cambridge City come to Blackwell Meadows this afternoon.

Quakers have been drawn at home for the third time this season – they have already beaten Prescot Cables on penalties and Tadcaster Albion – and Armstrong is aware of how rewarding another victory could be.

“It will be a tricky game, as we’ve seen in our previous FA Cup ties against Tadcaster and Prescot Cables,” he said. “We’ve worked hard to get where we want to be, but we can’t deny that it’s an opportunity against a lower-league club at home.

“But on the flip side, they’re looking for an FA Cup upset which has happened to some of the teams in our league this season. Cambridge are in the same position as we were when we went to Walsall last season – they’ve got nothing to lose.

“We have to make sure that our players are up for this game, just as they were against Tadcaster. We must make sure that we start brightly, get into Cambridge, and be nice and lively.

“We could have done with playing Leamington last Saturday because it means we’ve now gone 12 days without a game, but it also gave our injured players a chance to recover.

“It’s a great opportunity for our players to go out on the pitch and show what they’re capable of. It’s a good chance for us to get into the first round again like last season, and that’s where we want to be – in the draw with the Football League clubs. I’ve told the lads to challenge themselves.”

Armstrong is boosted by the return of last season’s top scorer, Adam Campbell, while summer signing Dan Maguire has recovered from a hamstring injury and will be in the squad. However, skipper Will Hatfield is out for another week, as is midfielder David Atkinson.

“Cams was on the bench against Tadcaster and he was twisting on because he wanted to play, but there was no way I was going to risk him – he was only on the bench in case we went to penalties. Nippa has been away for a while and we’ve just got to mollycoddle him a little bit. It’s great to have him back because he’s very good on the pitch and in the dressing room.”

There will also be a return at some point for midfielder Omar Holness, who left the club during the summer but returned last week. “Omar is exceptionally good at what he does,” said Armstrong. “He’s a box-to-box midfielder who can fill the void left by Will Hatfield at this moment in time. I got in touch with Omar when I saw that he didn’t have anywhere sorted and asked him if he wanted to come along and help out – he jumped at the chance.”

Cambridge play in the Isthmian League North, two levels below Quakers, and have already played four matches to reach this stage having started in the preliminary round.

Darlington added to their squad yesterday afternoon when they signed goalkeeper Melvin Minter on a month’s loan from Harrogate Town.

Minter, who started his career in the youth ranks at Brentford, joined the North Yorkshire Football League club in September 2020 from Kings Langley in the Southern League, and signed a contract until the end of the 2020-21 season.