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No title decider, say Moors and Quakers bosses
The biggest match the of the Northern League season takes place tonight, though the managers of both Spennymoor Town and Darlington are refusing to declare it a title decider.
A sell-out 2,400 crowd means the Brewery Field will stage the most well-attended Northern League match since the 1950s as division one's top two sides go head to head.
Both teams are gunning for the single promotion place available, with Quakers 15 points clear of Moors, but the second-placed side have seven games in hand and have yet to lose in the league this season.
Spennymoor boss Jason Ainsley and his opposite number, Martin Gray, have pointed out there are still plenty of games to play after tonight.
"The onus is on Darlington to beat us," said Ainsley. "If we win, three points would be a massive dent in their challenge, but nothing has been won in February.
"Darlington have done everything asked of them this season, but hopefully we can halt that."
The sides drew 0-0 in a close-fought match in December, with Darlington since winning five successive league games and scoring 20 goals in the process.
Gray, who has no new injury worries, said: "It's a massive game for both clubs, but having said that we've both still got a lot of games to play.
"It's important not to get beat, that's for sure. You have to be positive and I'm sure Jason will say the same, you don't want to be losing the game.
"There'll be a full house, and we're playing against the champions. They're a very strong team and a well-managed football club, so we're looking forward to it."
Tonight's sell-out crowd is believed to be the largest for a game at the Brewery Field since an FA Trophy semi-final 35 years ago.
"It just goes to show the impact Darlington has had on the Northern League - two and a half thousand people on a Friday night," added Gray, who will have 1,350 supporters backing his side tonight.
"I'm sure Spennymoor will be delighted with what they make on the night, but it's about what happens on the pitch.
"The Darlington supporters have a massive part to play. They need to be vocal and get behind the team, just as they have all season, because it helps.
"I know that's easy to say, but it's the truth because the players respond to the backing really well."
The league tables suggests that each team's strength lies at opposite ends of the respective teams.
Darlington have netted 95 goals in 30 matches, while Moors have conceded only ten times in 23 league games.
Gray said: "On Saturday in their FA Vase game they fielded a very strong team and it'll be a similar starting XI come Friday night.
"They're a team that we know an awful lot about, but they also know a lot about us.
"They defend very well. Having said that, they conceded two at the weekend. Friday night will all be about who does best in both boxes so we've got to make sure that we're sharp in those areas.
"We're a very attack-minded football team and we've scored goals from all areas.
"I think everyone has contributed to the goals this season, which is great for us as it means we don't have to rely on our forwards.
"When defenders and midfielders are scoring it means not so much pressure is on the forwards to produce all the time, so that's a big plus."
Spennymoor remain in three cup competitions and have progressed to the quarter finals of the Vase, but only three of their seven matches since drawing with Darlington in December have been in the league.
Ainsley believes tonight's game has been a distraction.
"There's been a buzz around the club for a while about this game," said Ainsley, who will have midfielder Lewis Dodds and defender Steve Capper available, despite both carrying knocks.
"The players were being approached for Darlington tickets all the time, and that overrode the importance of the Vase games.
"The Vase is very important to us - although to be ranked as odds-on favourites is ludicrous when there are still 11 teams in it.
"It's amazing how far the club has come in four years since Brad Groves took over.
"You would never have thought that four years ago we would win the league three years in a row and be planning for a sell-out crowd at the Brewery Field."
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