9:00am Saturday 22nd February 2014
By Craig Stoddart
The one saving grace of Darlington's absence from action in recent weeks is that their opponents have been left similarly frustrated during the inclement weather.
Quakers have seen their last three Heritage Park fixtures postponed due to a waterlogged pitch and have not played a game for three weeks.
Their last outing was a 5-1 win at a rain and windswept Kendal Town, though they are very hopeful of finally returning to action today at relegation-troubled Radcliffe Borough.
Every game in the Evo-Stik First Division was hit by the weather seven days ago and Quakers boss Martin Gray points out that most teams in the division could be at risk of being rusty.
"The lads are desperate to get a game and I am too," said Gray, whose team were in great form before the enforced break.
"We had a practice match between ourselves in training on Wednesday and you could see there was a bit of frustration there, the lads are dying to play a competitive game.
"I'm more hopeful than I have been in a while of getting a game on.
"We've had a mini-pre-season, a bit like we did last year when we had a break in matches because of the postponements and we did some boxing and a few other things.
"We haven't been to the boxing gym this year, but we've had some long, tough training sessions at Longfield School as well as a game a couple of weeks ago at Consett on their artificial pitch.
"It's been about keeping on top of the players' fitness, trying to keep them match fit. The one good thing about the postponements is that it's been the same for everyone else."
Today's opposition are one of three teams that fourth-placed Darlington are yet to meet, Padiham and Wakefield being the others.
All three are at the wrong end of the table, while ten of Quakers' last 15 opponents are in the bottom half of the division.
Gray remains wary, however, using last month's trip to bottom-of-the-table Ossett Albion as an example.
"We've got a good run-in, but we can't under-estimate these teams.
"We went to Ossett Albion the other week and they scored early on. That was on a poor pitch, they made sure the game was played because they were playing us.
"These teams all want to beat Darlington, we've seen it over and over again since the beginning of last season.
"We can't afford to under-estimate anybody because of their league position otherwise we'll pay for it.
"It's up to the staff to keep on top of the players, to give them the message that we must remain focused on doing a job at all times."
Darlington have won ten of their last 11 games and free-scoring Quakers will be hopeful of continuing that run in Greater Manchester against a side with the division's second worst goal difference.
They have conceded goals with regularity. Before beating New Mills 4-0 a fortnight ago, they had conceded 34 goals in nine fixtures.
In contrast, Quakers have taken 31 points of the last 33 available, scoring 39 goals in the process.
Although defender Gary Brown is available, he is being sent out on loan to gain some game time before being considered for Quakers selection, with Gray likely to stick with the same XI that won at Kendal.
Leon Scott has served a three-game ban, but he will not be available until Wednesday's game with Lancaster City at Heritage Park as the part-time model is working in Las Vegas and does not fly home until tomorrow.
Gray added: "It's something he couldn't really turn down.
"It's a well-paid job, it might lead to other work for him and he'll make a few quid, so we weren't going to say no to him."
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