The National League North season starts on Saturday with Darlington manager Alun Armstrong aiming to gatecrash the top seven.

Quakers were looking good for a play off spot in March last year when they occupied a top seven place, but they lost their way in the last few weeks of the season and finished 13th.

Armstrong’s team starts with a fixture at home to Gloucester City having bolstered their squad with a number of signings.

Strikers Mark Beck, back for a second spell at the club, and Jacob Hazel who was a prolific scorer at Whitby, plus defender Jassem Sukar from Whitby and former Peterborough midfielder Marcus Maddison and youngsters Alfie Hughes and Jordan Emery, who both was signed yesterday, have all arrived.

And Armstrong is closing in on an exciting winger, who was with a National League North club last season.

“It’s a totally different squad to last season when you look at the lads we’ve brought in,” said Armstrong. “It’s a small squad, but full of quality footballers. The main thing is keeping them fit and hungry.

“Hopefully we can perform on the pitch and get the results required.”

The scoring potential of the Beck and Hazel partnerships has got the fans buzzing. Beck scored 18 goals in his previous spell, while Hazel has a scoring ratio of better than one goal in two games through his spells at Frickley and Whitby.

“There’s still some work to do with them,” added Armstrong, “and we look a little bare in the middle of the park with two up front but we’ll work on some formations to get that right.

“We’ve got the threat there and we’ve got goals in the team, which was something we probably lacked last season after we lost Luke Charman to Rochdale.

“If you look at the spine of the team, it’s probably the strongest for a long time. It doesn’t mean that we’ll get results, because we’ve still got to work on things and to do the ugly stuff.”

Maddison was starring for Peterborough in League One just four years ago and quit the pro game, playing for part time Spalding last season under one of his old Posh team-mates.

Armsrog explained: “He wanted to come back here and play football. Playing is all he knows, and we want to get that hunger back into him. He’s worked very hard in pre season, and we know that he’ll take a bit longer than the rest of the lads to reach full fitness. He hasn’t stopped, he’s kept working hard.”

The league has expanded this season to take in 24 teams, and in turn that will mean some long trips to new clubs Peterborough Sports, Banbury and King’s Lynn, as well as closer clubs Scarborough Athletic and Buxton.

Armstrong said: “This league is getting tougher. I don’t think people realise how tough it is. There will be some ups and downs along the way. We’ve a mid-table budget, but that’s why I’ve gone for quality all over the park.

“We have to get off to a flying start with a full crowd behind us. It’s up to us to make sure that we put the performances in. There are a few unknowns which will make for an interesting season, With the fans behind us, we’ve got to give it our best shot and gatecrash the top seven.”

Midfielder Danny Rose will have a fitness test on an ankle injury, but otherwise Armstrong will have a full squad. To boost the numbers in his squad, he has signed Academy youngsters Sean Chidanyika, Charlie Mitchell, Jack Winstanley and Reece McMann on first team forms.