DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong says that Quakers will have to be at their best to beat Spennymoor in their local derby at Blackwell Meadows today.

Quakers haven’t quite hit form in their two Trophy matches since their enforced break, and Armstrong will be using every player in the squad as they bid to climb away from second bottom – although they have as many as seven games in hand on some of the clubs above them, after playing just seven league games so far this season.

“I’ve looked at our home form, and in general it hasn’t been too bad this season,” he said. “We’ve won five out of eight, and we’ve thrown games away against Bradford PA and Telford in the league. In total this season in league and cup, we’ve won nine out of 14, which is the second highest ratio in the league, and in my opinion not too bad. We won two Trophy ties with performances that weren’t great, but there have been times this season when we’ve played well and lost.

“We definitely need to pick up our first home league win, but we know what Spennymoor are like, it’s going to be a tough game. We have to be ready for them, and make sure that we’re at our best. We know how Spennymoor will play so we will need to match that and try to annul their threat.”

With another home game coming up on Bank Holiday Monday against Blyth, Armstrong will be rotating his squad, as he no doubt will have to do in a punishing January schedule in which Quakers play nine games in league and Trophy. They have just re-arranged the away game against Brackley for Tuesday, January 5, which means that every midweek in January is filled, plus there’s a 700-mile round trip to Weymouth coming up on January 16 in the Trophy.

Armstrong this week secured the loan of keeper Melvin Minter from Harrogate Town for another month – he saved two penalties last weekend against Telford United in the Trophy.

“He did unbelievable against Telford,” he said. “He did his basic goalkeeping very well. He came and caught balls, punched others and that helped the back four immensely. We’re keen to keep him, and he’s keen to stay with us.”

Meanwhile, Moors go into the game smarting from their FA Trophy shoot-out defeat against Southport last Saturday.

“Individual errors have been costing us all season,” said interim manager Tommy Miller. “They must be cut out. Last Saturday, we had some very good chances to beat Southport and missed them, then we made a mistake at the back. The game should have been dead and buried, and shouldn’t have gone to penalties.”

Today will also mark the return of Darlington’s joint-record goalscorer Stephen Thompson for the first time since he moved to Spennymoor during the summer. He scored his 100th goal from the spot against Moors last season.

“Thommo has looked very sharp in recent matches,” said Miller. “He’s had a bit of a stop-start to his time with us, but he’s very lively recently and got himself a goal.

“I know he’s looking forward to coming back to play against his old team, and it adds a little bit of spice to the game. I hope he remembers to go in the correct changing room!”