Quakers appeal for volunteers to help drain pitch

The Advertiser Series: MUDDY HELL: The scene at Heritage Park on Friday night MUDDY HELL: The scene at Heritage Park on Friday night

DARLINGTON are appealing for volunteers to help drain the Heritage Park pitch on Saturday morning, with heavy rainfall throwing their Evo-Stik Division One North game against Burscough into doubt.

Rain has been falling in County Durham for most of the day, and with the ground in Bishop Auckland notorious for its poor drainage, the club turned to Twitter on Friday night to ask for help.

The tweet read: "Urgent. Volunteers 9am pitch forks down at HP please. If you're free please come down. From Martin. Thanks."

If the game is postponed, it is not known when the rearranged fixture will take place, with Darlington's play-off games pencilled in for next week.

Darlington aim to go into the play-offs in their best form of the season by completing their league programme with a seventh successive win.

Martin Gray's men have won six in a row, Monday's effortless 5-1 win at Wakefield equalling the team's best run of the campaign, which has been the ideal response to losing heavily to Curzon Ashton last month.

The 4-0 defeat to the champions was immediately followed by a scoreless draw at Prescot Cables then six wins on the bounce that have bolstered confidence.

"One thing that we've always done, and we demand it, is get a reaction after a negative," said Gray. "The players have so much pride and they want to bounce back - it's been the same since we took over the club.

"I remember last season when we lost to Aycliffe and Team Northumbria. Some people thought the world was falling apart, but we then won the 17 games in a row and won the league. We respond to defeats very well."

The previous six-game winning run this season ended in December with a 2-2 draw at home to mid-table Salford City, while Quakers face 14th-placed Burscough in what they hope will be the first of three matches at Heritage Park inside eight days.

Next Saturday is the play-off final, a game Quakers will contest on home soil should they win Wednesday's semi-final against opposition to be determined.

Bamber Bridge, Ramsbottom United and Lancaster City are playing for the right to compete in the play-offs with Warrington.

Bamber and Ramsbottom face each other and a draw would be enough to ensure them both a play-off place, while Lancaster can only finish in the top five if Ramsbottom lose.

Quakers will face the fifth-placed team with the third and fourth playing each other.

Jonny Davis will miss the remainder of the season with a broken foot and Gray will be keen to avoid risking the fitness of other senior players so will again avoid fielding a full-strength side.

Leading scorer Stephen Thompson, one of seven players rested at Wakefield, said: "If we win on Saturday that would make it seven on the bounce, so it's nice to go into the play-offs on form.

"We're probably the in-form team in the play-offs at the moment.

"We knew the Farsley game would be the toughest we've had since Curzon, but we did well. It wasn't the best game in the world, but we did our job and beat them 3-0.

"That keeps the momentum going and we can go into the play-offs with a winning streak."

It was against Burscough that Thompson scored one of two hat-trick this season. It came in a 7-0 win in December.

His performance and manner of his goals saw him awarded a ten in The Northern Echo's match ratings, the first Quakers player to earn the accolade since Andy Collett's performance against Hartlepool in 2001.

"One was a volley, one was a free-kick and the other was where David Dowson pulled it back for me," recalled Thompson. "That was one of my best days for Darlington.

Former Darlington defender David McGurk has announced he is to quit full-time football. The 31-year-old Teessider, who came through the youth ranks when Quakers were still at Feethams, has been with York City for most of the past decade and has made 333 appearances.

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