10:30am Tuesday 20th August 2013
By Craig Stoddart
DARLINGTON make their first away trip of the season this evening, with a drive to Bamber Bridge being the first of many across the Pennines.
The 222-mile round trek isn’t the club’s longest haul of the campaign, that’s at Cammell Laird on Merseyside.
But today’s journey certainly represents a much further venture than the doorstep challenges that made up Darlington’s away programme last season in the Northern League.
The increase in travelling, which also sees the team at Farsley on Saturday, will inevitably prove problematic for some of Quakers’ squad due to work commitments, something which was due to rule out key player Stephen Thompson this evening.
But his unexpected availability has handed Darlington a boost and there are no fresh injury worries as Jonny Davis is able to play despite requiring stitches following a bruising end to Saturday’s 2-0 win over Warrington Town.
He put Quakers ahead with his first goal for the club, but later came off second best in an aerial challenge with Dwayne Greenwood and required treatment.
Physio Steve Wood was keen to cut short his involvement in the game, but that would have meant Darlington playing with ten men.
Manager Martin Gray said: “He had an excellent game in midfield.
“He took his goal very well, but he needed four or five stitches in his chin.
“I thought it was a bad challenge.
There were a few nasty challenges.
“You don’t want to see people, sent off, but there were a few challenges that the referee only showed a yellow card afterwards.”
Gray must decide whether to hand a start to Saturday’s other goalscorer Andy Johnson, who enjoyed a remarkable debut, scoring with his first touch after being sent on as a second half substitute.
“Sometimes it works like that and I was pleased for the kid because he’s a confidence player,” said Gray.
“It was a great ball by Terry Galbraith, it hit Andy’s head and he guided it into the net.
“It’s proof of what happens when you put the ball in the box.
“He scored 46 goals last year so he’s a goalscorer, there’s no question about it.
“There’s lots of forwards that have made livings from only scoring goals and that’s what we’ve brought him in for.”
Bamber Bridge, who play at the 2,200-capacity QED Stadium, started their season with a 3-2 win at Ossett Albion, a match attended by Quakers’ chief scout Harry Dunn.
Last season they finished ninth, one place ahead of Warrington.
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