STEVE STAUNTON is looking forward to having Noel Whelan back in contention next week but the Darlington boss confirmed that Mor Diop will miss this afternoon’s encounter against the side boasting League Two’s best home record.

A trimmed-down Whelan returned to full training this week and is champing at the bit to repay Staunton’s faith in him after being sidelined since making his Quakers debut six weeks ago.

During his spell out of action with a muscle strain the former Middlesbrough striker has lost a stone in weight and Staunton believes he could emerge as a “major asset” in the club’s bid for League Two survival.

But at Saltergate the manager has to contend with a dearth of attacking options.

Diop’s withdrawal with a calf strain and Lee Thorpe’s lack of match fitness leaves last weekend’s goal hero Curtis Main and Simon Thomas as the only recognised strikers at Staunton’s disposal.

“Mor is struggling with a sore calf but we have Noel Whelan back in training,” revealed the manager.

“If we get Noel fit he will be a major asset. I know the experience he can bring and the type of player he is. He’s not shy in telling people what he can do.

“He is a senior pro and we can’t wait to have him back fit again. He has lost around a stone in weight since he first came here so credit to the boy he is working very hard. I expect that Noel will be involved in the friendly against Gateshead next week.

“I won’t even take a chance with Mor there is no point. We probably left him on the park a bit too long last week but that’s one of those things. He won’t be out for long and we’re hopeful he’ll be back on Tuesday (at home to Morecambe).

“Lee Thorpe hasn’t played a game and it wouldn’t be fair to put him in. You can’t be out for seven or eight weeks and be expected to slot back into a game after a week’s training but in saying that you never know.’’ The manager’s determination to secure a clean sheet could see him hand Jonathan Hogg a debut against John Sheridan’s side.

The Aston Villa midfielder will become the 31st player to make his Darlington debut this season if as expected, Staunton includes the tenacious 20-year-old in his starting line up.

Hogg’s ability to get goals from midfield helped Villa’s second string win their reserve league last season but Staunton has drafted in the Teessider primarily for his ability to break up play.

“Jonathan is young, tenacious and will run through a brick wall for us,’’ he said. “We could need that at Chesterfield.

We’ve been very poor away from home and we need a solid defensive display, clean sheets are vital.

“I think their home record proves they are probably the best team in this division.

They have spent a bit of money to bring in a new squad and they are strong.

“Knowing the way that John Sheridan likes the game to be played he’ll have a footballing team who work very hard when they haven’t got the ball and even harder when they have got it. But I still believe that we have the players to hurt anybody.”

Staunton confirmed that Wolves midfielder David Davis will extend his stay at Darlington until January but he is willing to listen to offers for some of his fringe players who are not in his long term plans.