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Darlington's first part of Hebburn double-header
Darlington return to Heritage Park for the first time in seven weeks this evening as they play the first part of double-header with Hebburn Town.
The South Tynesiders are also the opposition on Saturday at the Hebburn Sports & Social Ground, a venue that Quakers visited in September when they lost 3-0 in the Durham Challenge Cup
Manager Martin Gray fielded a weakened team that night, including reserve keeper Chris Porter, who was sent off, but his squad is almost at full-strength this evening with the only doubt being Craig Turns.
The keeper has almost fully recovered from a dislocated shoulder sustained in November, but captain Gary Brown is expected to be recalled having served a one-match ban when Darlington won 5-0 at Marske United on Saturday.
Craig Gott filled in at centre-back, but he is likely to make way for Brown despite impressing alongside Joe Tait.
“He looked comfortable and slotted in there. He’s a footballer, he’s intelligent and can play the position,” said Gray.
“He’s also played centre midfield as well as right-back, you tend to find good footballers can do that.
“We’d noticed his shirt wasn’t dirty. We had a joke with him at half-time, saying ‘is there any chance of you making a tackle’, but he didn’t need to get dirty because he reads the game well.
“He’s intelligent and didn’t always need to go to ground because he can pinch the ball, he’s in the right place at the right time and makes it look easy.”
Brown's return means Gray must choose between Gott and Jonny Davis in midfield with the latter is most likely to play against the club from which Darlington signed him in December.
Because of a glut of postponements, tonight’s game is Quakers’ first at Heritage Park since drawing 0-0 with Spennymoor Town on December 19.
Saturday’s game also featured the comeback of Steven Johnson, who had not played due to injury since November 14.
The striker crowned his return to action with two goals and he will hope to be in the starting line up tonight against ninth-place Hebburn.
Gray said: “It was great for Stevie Johnson to come back after so long out and get himself a couple of goals.
“It’s like having a new signing. He gives us something, certainly coming off the bench, because of his appetite to do well.
“He’s a finisher as well. How many times has he done that this season, come off the bench and scored?
“I was really pleased for Stevie because he’s a fantastic lad. I know he’s a Darlington supporter and a fans’ favourite, but he also does all the right things."
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