DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong didn’t have to go far for an insight into his team’s Buildbase FA Trophy opponents Wealdstone, who visit Blackwell Meadows today in the last 16 of the competition.

His son, Luke, played a starring role when Hartlepool played Wealdstone in the National League last month, scoring the first goal in a 3-1 win, to ensure that Wealdstone’s worries of relegation back to National League South continued.

“I’ve had a chat with our Luke about them, and he’s given me one or two ideas,” said the Quakers boss. “I watched that game myself. Hartlepool started like a house on fire and could have been 5-0 up, but Wealdstone made a couple of subs and got back into the game. They got back to 3-1, then hit the post, and could have snatched a draw.

“We’re coming up against a team from a higher division that won their league last year. They started the season ever so well, but then had a bit of a rough patch. It will be a physical game, and will be different.

“But they’ve lost their manager this week, and all the reports I’ve got on them might mean nothing. It could all change with the new manager.”

This will be Quakers’ first game in three weeks, their 1-0 win at Weymouth in the previous round courtesy of a first-half goal by Will Hatfield. Quakers haven’t played because of the suspension of the league, which was introduced so the issue of financial support could be debated, As things stand, the situation remains unresolved.

“The lads are dying to play because they’ve been waiting for three weeks,” added Armstrong. “It’s been tough not playing, because the league is in turmoil and a proper mess. The players are like pawns and have been forgotten about in everything that’s going on.

“Mentally, it’s been tough for them because they didn’t know when they’ll be playing again, and it’s been tough for me to plan things when the situation is constantly changing.

“It’s such a bizarre situation trying to get those lads focused when all they want to do is play football.“

Armstrong will be missing defender David Atkinson, who has a hamstring problem, while striker Tyrone O’Neill has returned to Middlesbrough following the completion of his loan.

Midfielder Omar Holness is fully fit again, while left-back Michael Liddle has recovered from sciatica. Rhys Armstrong is also added to the squad.

Wealdstone, who are 18th in the National League and like Quakers are previous winners of the competition, appear to be in some turmoil this week with the departure of manager Dean Brennan. Stuart Maynard, who was previously assistant, has taken over. There has also been a player exodus, with five players leaving the club since their last game at Altrincham.

They have conceded 39 goals in 18 league games this season – only bottom club Barnet have conceded more. They have so far beaten Eastleigh and Gloucester in the Trophy.

"I was hoping Wealdstone were going to be playing on Tuesday night, but it obviously got postponed with the rain," said Armstrong. "Their manager has gone and there's obviously been a bit of upheaval there.

"They have had a couple of games, although they haven't won any games other than the Trophy game. They're not playing particularly well, but it's a cup game and anything can happen. I have looked at the results they've had in the cup, and they have beaten some decent teams. It might be their season for the cup, no one knows. We just want to push on ourselves."

Meanwhile, the debate is continuing in the National League as to whether the league will continue or not. Several clubs, such as AFC Fylde and Gloiucester, want to play on, but others, including Darlington, want the season declared null and void. Kettering and Guiseley told the league in midweek that they were refusing to play today because of Covid, and the costs involved.

Assuming the weather allows today’s Trophy game to go ahead, and the league programme continues as planned, Quakers’ return to National League North action will come on Tuesday when they are due to host York at Blackwell Meadows.