THE WAIT IS FINALLY OVER! Tuesday sees Fylde hosting The Quakers for the much-awaited start to the 2020/21 Vanarama National League North season.
AFC Fylde welcomes County Durham’s Darlington Football Club. ‘Get To Know’ the visitors before The Coasters face them for this 7:45pm kick off!
The Quakers’ history dates all the way back to July 1883, when a meeting was called in Darlington Grammar School due to concerns that few Darlington-based clubs were entering the Durham Challenge Cup. It was agreed that there was no club sufficiently powerful to represent Darlington, and therefore Darlington FC was formed with Charles Samuel Craven as secretary. Immediate success came to the club as Darlo reached the final in their first season, and won the trophy in 1889. Craven was also key part in the formation of the Northern League in 1889, with Darlington being one of the founding members.
The club went professional in 1908, joining the North Eastern League. Ground improvements had started before the First World War hit, leaving The Quakers in severe financial difficulties. This required an investment from Darlington Forge Albion chairman in order to complete the East Stand, clear the club’s debts and allow them to continue competing. After the First World War, the FA gave permission for competitive matches to be played under floodlights which saw the first ever floodlit FA Cup match featuring Darlington beating Carlisle United 3-1 at St. James’ Park – Newcastle United’s ground in 1955. The 1957/58 season saw Darlo’s best FA Cup run, where they reached the last 16 after defeating Premier League side Chelsea in the fourth round.
2002 and 2003 saw troubling times for The Quakers. The club moved into a new stadium, Reynolds Arena. But despite chairman George Reynolds paying the club’s debts when he took over, the cost of the stadium partly financed with high-interest loans built without the ability to fill it drove the club into administration six months later. To save the club, a charity match with 14,000 in attendance featuring the likes of Gascoigne, Bryan Robson and Sir Kenny Dalglish ensured short term survival after £100,000 were raised. The club eventually were relegated to the Conference in 2012, and the club was taken over by DFC 1883. Due to failing to agree a creditors voluntary agreement the club was expelled by the FA and a new club was formed, being placed in the Northern League Division One. The club was only able to change to the traditional name again in 2017.
The Quakers successfully rose back to the National League North after earning back to back promotions in 2014/15 and 2015/16, rapidly climbing after winning the Northern League play-off final and the Northern Premier League title. Darlington placed 10th in the 2019/20 season.
The Manager – Alun Armstrong
Alun Armstrong joined Darlo on the 21st May 2019. Armstrong is a familiar face for the club having previously been a part of The Quakers as a player both in the 2004/05 and 2006/07 seasons, totalling 61 League Two appearances for Darlington – scoring 12 goals for the club.
The former Ipswich striker did not plan a career in management. Before joining Darlington, Armstrong had a successful experience leading Blyth Spartans. He joined Blyth after a call from the manager informing Armstrong that he’d resigned and that the chairman had been informed Armstrong would now take over – all this two days before Blyth’s next game against Spennymoor Town. However, in his first attempt leading The Spartans in the Northern Premier League he guided the club to winning the title. This would be Blyth’s first time back with National League status since their relegation at the end of the 2011/12 season.
In Armstrong’s first season in the National League North, he led Blyth to 10th place missing out on play-offs by four points. 2018/19 saw Armstrong guiding to the play-offs losing in the quarter finals before joining Darlo.
2019/20 saw The Quakers reaching 10th place with 48 points under Alun Armstrong in his first season in the charge of the club before the interruption.
The Captain – Will Hatfield
Hatfield has been a key part of The Quakers since the 2019 summer after joining Darlington from Guiseley.
Hatfield has accumulated a total of 41 appearances for Darlo since joining the club, and is now Armstrong’s trusted captain for the squad due to the leadership qualities demonstrated since joining Darlo.
Hatfield is a Leeds youth academy product, having joining the club as an 8-year-old and leaving in 2012 where he moved on to join Halifax Town. He spent less than a month at the club before signing for League Two side Accrington Stanley who he’d had a loan spell with from Leeds in 2011. He made 90 appearances for Accrington in three years, scoring 9 times. Curiously, 4 of his goals were scored in one FA Cup tie – against The Coasters…
Hatfield then re-joined Halifax after a loan before signing for Guiseley where he made 144 appearances before settling in at Blackwell Meadows.
The 28-year-old midfielder is a key player for The Quakers, famous amongst the fans for his long-range goals. At the end of his first season for Darlo, Hatfield was named Darlington’s Away Player of the Year, Player of the Year, Players’ Player of the Year as well as being awarded Goal of the Season for his effort against Kidderminster Harriers.
1 Jonathan Saltmer
29 Tony McMahon
6 Nicky Hunt
15 Alex Storey
3 Michael Liddle
36 David Atkinson / 4 Joe Wheatley
8 Will Hatfield ©
14 Justin Donawa
11 Jarett Rivers
10 Adam Campbell
19 Luke Charman
Alun Armstrong’s side will be looking to build on last season’s 10th place, which could mean a fight for promotion to the National League this season.
The Quakers will visit Mill Farm fresh off an FA Cup penalty shootout win against Prescot Cables after Nicky Hunt fired a bullet into the top corner securing Darlo’s place in the next round. The Coasters will also come into this game in high spirits after Saturday’s 4-2 win at Hyde United. Both teams will want a positive start to the 2020/21 campaign.
The last time Fylde and Darlington faced each other was during the 2016/17 National League North campaign, for two fixtures. First fixture saw a 1-1 draw, but The Coasters bested Darlo at home in a 4-1 win.
Armstrong’s Darlington tends to favour a high-pressing transition-based game, looking to recover the ball quickly working as a unit playing on a high number of turnovers and not counting on as much possession.
New signing Johnny Saltmer is expected to start in goal for Darlo. Saltmer has joined Darlington from Barrow after being part of the squad that achieved promotion to the Football League this past season.
Against Cables, The Quakers played a back four which is expected to be repeated on Tuesday. Tony McMahon is expected to start on the right side, with Michael Liddle starting on the left side – one of the players that’s joined Darlington after playing for Armstrong at Blyth. 36-year-old Nicky Hunt is expected to start at centre back, a player with Premier League experience having featured for Sam Allardyce’s Bolton side since 2001 making 161 appearances for the club and playing a key role. Alex Storey could also feature for Darlington as the other centre back.
The middle of the park should feature captain Will Hatfield, who played a key role for Darlington in the 2019/20 season. David Atkinson could also be starting in midfield, but after coming off in the 43rd minute against Prescot Cables on Saturday this start is currently doubtful. Atkinson has an interesting career path, as he has played Europa League football in the past for Icelandic side IBV Vestmannaeyjar. Talented Joe Wheatley could possibly start in his place.
The wings are expected to be covered by Middlesbrough academy product Jarrett Rivers, a very skilful player for Darlo with quick feet, and the gifted Bermudan international Justin Donawa who could be a dangerous player on Tuesday for his prolific nature, as he was second top scorer for Darlington in 2019/20 season.
Adam Campbell is expected to play just behind the striker, he was Darlington’s top scorer last season and is the youngest player to have played for Newcastle United in the Europa League after doing so aged 17 against Atromitos. Luke Charman is expected to be starting up front after signing for The Quakers this season.
One to Watch
Justin Donawa joined Darlington in July 2019 after impressing Alun Armstrong during pre-season whilst on trial basis. The 24-year-old has impressed Darlo immensely ever since joining, demonstrating an incredible amount of athleticism matched with ability for the game which has aided him in becoming Darlington’s second top scorer in his first season with the club.
Donawa’s athletic abilities are evidenced by his success in triple jump whilst growing up in Bermuda, having won three medals in regional competitions as well as representing Bermuda in the 2013 World Youth games. He achieved further success in football after moving to the United States to attend Berkshire School, and later on Dartmouth College. Donawa won three Ivy League championships since joining Dartmouth, and made appearances in school breaks for the Somerset Trojans as well as his collegiate off-season’s with Black Rock FC.
He was drafted by MLS side Columbus Crew in the third round of the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, but ended up not being signed by the club. Donawa then moved on to England where he joined The Quakers after a successful trial. He is also a Bermudian international, having made his debut for the national side in 2015 against Grenada – after performing well for Bermuda at the under-20 level. He’s now accumulated 20 caps for Bermuda scoring 3 goals.
Donawa’s strong technical and physical abilities, matched with his prolific nature, make him a key player for The Quakers and he is definitely one to keep an eye out for this Tuesday.