■ Confusion as Quakers slump at home

■ York and Lincoln keen on boss

■ Players called to meeting this morning

Darlington officials will do all they can to keep Mark Cooper at The Northern Echo Arena despite mounting speculation suggesting the underfire manager is about to walk out on the club.

Quakers chairman Raj Singh turned down official approaches from both Lincoln City and York City last week in an attempt to keep Cooper, who was only appointed in June.

Lincoln requested permission to speak to Cooper about their current vacancy at Sincil Bank, while York are understood to have been willing to offer Cooper the managerial position at Bootham Crescent.

League Two strugglers Hereford United are also searching for a new boss – ironically because they sacked former Darlington manager Simon Davey last week – and Cooper has emerged as a desirable property despite winning just four of his 15 matches in charge of Quakers.

Rumours about the former Kettering and Peterborough manager’s future were rife on Saturday as his side slipped to a 1-0 home defeat at the hands of Hayes & Yeading.

Cooper stayed away from the touchline for the majority of the game, only emerging from the dug out for a brief spell midway through the second half.

He claimed the tactic was designed to “let the players relax”, but it merely added to the air of uncertainty that increased when rumours began to circulate suggesting he had tended his resignation to Singh at half-time.

Singh did not return to his seat until 15 minutes into the second half, and the chairman is determined to do all he can to avoid yet another change of boss.

Cooper became Darlington’s fifth manager in the space of nine chaotic months when he was appointed in the summer, and while results have been disappointing following last season’s relegation, the club’s hierarchy are desperate to avoid yet another period of upheaval.

To that end, Singh will seek to address any concerns Cooper has this week.

Darlington’s players are understood to have been told to report for a team meeting this morning, but while Cooper could opt to quit of his own accord, the club remain hopeful that such a scenario can be avoided.

The 41-year-old fulfilled his post-match press duties on Saturday, although his response to questions about his alleged resignation hardly represented an unequivocal confirmation of his position.

“At this moment in time, I’m still Darlington manager,”

said Cooper. “I don’t know anything about any emergency meeting, and neither have I offered my resignation.

I’ve heard nothing from the chairman.”

When pressed on his absence from the touchline, he added: “The reason was that maybe I’d been demanding too much of the players so I thought I’d try and relax a bit and try and make them relax on the pitch but it didn’t work.

We’re trying everything to get a result.

“When we do stand there we get absolutely pelted from the first minute so I thought I’d have a rest today.”

Ironically, assistant Richard Dryden, who took over touchline duties for the day, found himself embroiled in an unseemly altercation with two supporters who criticised Darlington’s performance at the weekend.

Dryden is alleged to have sworn at the fans Cooper has previously expressed his frustration at his players’ failings, and the boss was in no mood to sugarcoat his words following a defeat that represents the low point of the season so far.

“I believe things can improve, of course I do,” he said. “But the players at some point have got to say that they can’t keep letting the staff take the blame, they’ve got to stand up and be counted.

“They get paid and this is their career. But where do they go from Darlington?

“If they don’t succeed here they aren’t going to get back into the Football League, no clubs will take them.

“But there’s Billingham Synthonia down the road.

That’s what they’ve got to be looking at.”

To make matters worse, Saturday’s defeat also featured the loss of influential midfielder Paul Terry, who is set to miss the rest of the season after damaging his cruciate knee ligaments during an innocuous third-minute challenge.

“When Paul went off we feared the worst,” said Cooper. “He’s done his cruciate and he’ll be out for the rest of the season.

“That’s something that has really affected us, the injuries. Michael Brough, Gareth Waite and Tommy Wright have all been out for a long time and they are our leaders.

“We had to give Tommy longer on the pitch that we wanted to, he’s just had a calf strain, and we threw Waite on after ten minutes but he’s not ready either.

“They’ll benefit in the long run. Tommy put himself about a bit but he’s not ready to play 90 minutes because he’d been out for five weeks and done only five days training.”

Terry’s injury leaves only Sam Russell and Danny Hone as the only players to have started every match this season.