NO matter what the scoreline at The Northern Echo Arena today, there is sure to be a sense of relief at the final whistle as Darlington bring an end to their season.

They face play-off-chasing Dagenham & Redbridge in their final Football League game in what has been nothing other than a complete disaster of a season.

Having been bottom of the table for the entire campaign, suffered a series of heavy losses, had three different managers, used 54 players and witnessed a record number of home defeats, fans could be forgiven for relishing a break.

Yet determined manager Simon Davey cannot wait to get stuck into preparations for the Blue Square Premier.

Davey even suggests he would prefer to bring pre-season training forward from July 1.

After taking charge on April 1 he has already brought in Sam Russell, Jamie Chandler and Dominik Werling, while extending Gary Smith’s stay.

Davey is keen to continue his player recruitment, while ensuring players undergo a rigorous pre-season is also uppermost in his thoughts.

“We’ve been concentrating on next season ever since we came in,” said Davey. “You’re in the job to play football matches but it will be nice to get the retained list ready and be able to look forward to next year.

“It’s a pity pre-season doesn’t start in two weeks because then we could have got going straight away, but some of the players need a rest or operations.

“There is a lot of work to be done. We need to recruit players and get them ready for a very tough season.

“That process has been under way for the last month, we’ve signed some players already and moved some players out of the club. The process will be ongoing until July 1.”

Captain Ian Miller (hernia) and Smith (ankle) need operations.

Neither have been able to train since last week’s win at Macclesfield but will play today before going under the knife next week.

The pair are among the handful of players under contract for next season that includes Chris Moore, Chris Lumsdon, Curtis Main and Josh Gray, as well as the new signings, plus Gareth Waite, who penned a new deal on Thursday.

The former Spennymoor midfielder has not played under Davey due to a knee operation last month, and the manager said: “I’ve seen a couple of the games before I took over on dvd and he is a player that has done well after coming out of non-league.

“We just have to make sure that his recovery and rehabilitation is right over the summer so that he comes back firing on all cylinders.”

Teenager midfielder John McReady will also be with the club in the Blue Square Premier, along with former youth team striker Michael Smith and Corey Barnes, as all have been offered one-year deals.

McReady was among Darlington’s star performers last Saturday and he will line-up again today as Quakers aim to sign off with a second successive win.

Darlington have lost 16 of their 22 home matches this season and won only one of their last 14 Arena games.

That leaves Davey keen to record a home win today.

He said: “We went to go out with a win. We’ve had that mentality from day one. Last week, in our last away game, we had a victory with a clean sheet and a good performance.

“The only thing we need to do now is, hopefully with the supporters behind us, get a long-awaited win at home.

“I can’t put my finger on the reasons why we haven’t done so well at home. It’s not as though there’s 40,000 fans on the players’ backs and creating anxiety about the place.

“It’s something we need to address. Maybe it’s just been a coincidence but hopefully we’ll get a win on Saturday and will take that into next season.”

Dagenham’s recent away record reflects Darlington’s home troubles. The Londoners have tasted victory on the road just once in their last 14 away matches.

Gabbiadini returns to Arena

DARLINGTON legend Marco Gabbiadini is among the latest to add his name to the list of former players taking part in tomorrow’s charity fundraiser.

Another ex-Darlington player, Craig Hignett, and Boro’s Carling Cup winner Gaizka Mendieta are also set to appear in the game, which is raising money for Help for Heroes.

A host of household names from the world of football and TV will go head-to-head in an All-star XI v North-East XI at The Northern Echo Arena (1.30pm kick-off).

They will be joined by Quakers’ assistant manager Ryan Kidd and football greats such as Peter Beardsley, John Beresford, Rob Lee, Steve Watson, Colin Cooper, Kevin Ball, Steve Agnew, Paul Bracewell, Craig Liddle, Neil Maddison, Kevan Smith and Kevin Stonehouse, plus Coronation Street star Ryan Thomas (Jason Grimshaw) and Ralf Little (2 Pints).

Entry is on the gate, priced £5, while parking costs £5, which includes one match ticket.

There’s also a corporate package available.

Fans can pay £250 for an executive box (10 people) and the package includes a drink on arrival, food and executive seats for the game.

Call the commercial team on 01325 387000 or email