Gray happy to have selection dilemma

First published in Sport Darlington and Stockton Times: Photograph of the Author by , Sports Reporter

DARLINGTON boss Martin Gray admits he has a selection headache ahead of today’s game at Burscough.

Quakers secured their first win of the season in Tuesday's 2-0 derby win over Spennymoor Town, and will be looking to make it back-to-back wins in Lancashire.

Gray’s side produced a dominant display against a strong Moors side with new striker Graeme Armstrong scoring twice at Brewery Field.

Darlington are boosted by the return of Stephen Thompson and Jordan Robinson, who both missed Tuesday night’s game through suspension having been sent off in the play-off defeat at the end of last season.

Their return poses a dilemma for Gray, who admits they aren’t guaranteed an immediate return to the side having watched an impressive performance from his players in midweek.

“It’s a good problem to have for a change and we’re looking forward to it,” Gray said. “Everyone expects Stephen to come back in because he’s such a high profile player at this level, but that won’t be the case.

“He will have to earn his place in the team and work as hard as everyone else.”

Quakers have lost Dale Hopson, who was allowed to join Whitby Town this week, but Gray still has a strong squad to choose from having seen Liam Hatch and Nathan Fisher come off the bench against Spennymoor. Former Sunderland academy prospect Adam Reed also made his debut on Tuesday.

Quakers boss feels his squad is in better shape that it was last season, and admits it is a plus being able to call upon their experience in games.

He said: “We’ve got a strong squad. Stronger than last year I feel. When you can bring two players that were playing in the Conference last year off the bench, it shows you we have got a strong group.

“They came on and made us better and gave us the extra legs and a bit of know how to see the game out.

“Now we have to focus on what we do on Saturday. The squad is fit and strong. We’ve got the opportunity to give lads a rest if we feel that we need to do that, but the first thing is we make sure everyone is ready for the game.”

Gray was pleased to see Armstrong score twice having brought the striker in from Whitby Town over the summer.

The 30-year-old scored 30 times last season and Gray said: “He took the two hardest chances out of all the chances he had on Tuesday. They were two great finishes and he’s disappointed because he felt he could have had more.

“As a forward coming to a new club that first goal is important, but to get two goals in a local derby will give him a lot of confidence and that’s a big boost to the team as well.”

Moors manager Jason Ainsley says that it’s too early to judge his side after a mixed first week in new surroundings.

They started well with a 2-0 win at Padiham last Saturday, but were brought back down to earth when to Darlington. They face Prescot Cables, who have one point from two games so far, at the Brewery Field this afternoon.

“It’s an opportunity for us to bounce back from Tuesday night,” said Ainsley. “The best time to judge us is after ten games. We have to make sure that we don’t get carried away by a good result, and not get too disheartened by a bad result.

“We were beaten by a much better team on Tuesday night, but it was the manner of the defeat that was disappointing. Darlington were strong and powerful all through the side, and we were outmuscled in some areas of the park, but I was still disappointed because I expected us to be better on the ball.

“We have to learn quickly how to adapt and learn from our mistakes and the experience. Darlington were a well-oiled machine, and we didn’t have the know-how to beat them.

“But now, we must take the defeat on the chin, and start again.”

Midfield general Keith Graydon, wingers Anthony Peacock and John McReady are all carrying knocks and face fitness tests.

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