Armstrong warns his Darlington players ahead of FA Cup tie

Daniel Dodds, left, in action for Middlesbrough against Barnsley in August, has joined Darlington on loan
Daniel Dodds, left, in action for Middlesbrough against Barnsley in August, has joined Darlington on loan

Darlington manager Alun Armstrong has told his players that they must be in the right frame of mind for Saturday's FA Cup third qualifying round tie at Hyde United from the NPL Premier Division.

Quakers are two wins away from a place in the first round proper for the third time in four years, but Armstrong is anxious to point out that the same thought will have crossed Hyde’s mind.

The clubs go into the game in identical form – each has won their last six matches in league and cup, Quakers’ last win coming via a dramatic volley by Ben Liddle deep into stoppage time against Blyth in midweek.

“We know that they’re on a very similar run to us,” said Armstrong. “We know what they’ve been doing well in recent matches, and they’re in exactly the same kind of form as us.

“It’s going to be a really tough game, just as every game in the FA Cup is, because you know that there’s a little bit of reward at the end of it. You could be that team that goes on that special FA cup run. We sampled it when we played at Walsall and Swindon, and we want more of that.

“But no doubt about it, it’s going to be a really tough game. They’ve got some really good players who have played National League North, so people shouldn’t expect us to go there and expect it to be easy.”

Darlington can call on Dan Dodds, a right-back who has joined on loan from Middlesbrough. He is likely to start in place of Kallum Griffiths, who sustained an injury early on against Blyth.

David Wheater came off the bench for Griffiths, but Armstrong is reluctant to select him on Hyde’s artificial pitch.

Armstrong admitted the lack of quality – apart from Liddle’s goal - in the Blyth performance was compensated for by hard work.

“We need to continue what we’ve been doing in recent games, especially with our work ethic. The lads worked a lot harder against Blyth than they had to because the quality wasn’t there – the distance they covered was phenomenal.

“The lads said that they kept giving the ball away, and they know that they can’t afford to do that against Hyde. They know that they need to be better in possession and going forward.

“We didn’t win enough second balls or the battle in the middle of the park and kept giving the ball away too cheaply.

“But the pleasing thing was, that as a team we defended ever so well. Blyth only had one shot on target from distance. It wasn’t the best performance on Tuesday, but we got the job done.

“We must do the same at Hyde – we need the fans behind us. It might be a 94th minute winner again, or even a replay.

“We’ve got to be really up for it, really sharp, on the front foot and playing our game.

“We know that we can do the job, it’s all upstairs. We’ve got to make sure that we’re doing our job and not thinking that it’s going to be easy. Hopefully the lads have seen Hyde’s run and given them a little bit to worry about.

“Hyde are the underdogs, but it’s a big opportunity for them. We’re expected to win, but nothing is won by expectation – we’ve got to go and earn it.”

One of Hyde’s players is winger Adam Dawson, who had a spell with Quakers on loan from Tranmere in 2017, and he scored the midweek winner against Nantwich to put them top of the table.

Darlington have twice face Hyde in the FA Cup. In the 1994-95, when Alan Murray was manager, they won 3-1 at Ewan Fields in the first round proper, with Gavin Worboys on target twice and Bernie Slaven getting the other.

The next meeting was in the first qualifying round of the 2015-16 season when both sides were in the EvoStik Premier at Heritage Park. Hyde came out on top by 3-1, and the following week Hyde also beat Quakers in the league at Heritage Park.