Darlington are the next visitors to the Hebburn Sports & Social Ground when they travel north this evening for a 7.30pm kick-off in a Durham Challenge Cup Preliminary Round clash.
While this will be the fourth cup game that Hebburn have played in this season – following an FA Cup win over Thackley as the new campaign commenced and then defeats against Ossett Albion and Consett in the FA Cup and FA Vase respectively - this will be the first non-Northern League match of Darlo’s season.
Hebburn manager Paul Bennett, who is currently working in Belfast and has a pre-match flight back to Newcastle to catch if he is to make the kick-off, says in his programme notes: “It will be interesting to pit our wits against the juggernaut that they have created with their club. Our players will be relishing playing in front of a vociferous away following and let’s hope it’s a game that both sets of fans can enjoy in a break from Northern League action“.
Chairman Billy Laffey looks ahead at the game and admits that “after a torrid series of events for our visitors, tonight we are pleased to be playing against Darlington in this Durham Challenge Cup clash. Obviously we would prefer not to be playing Darlington as there should not be anyone who should take delight in what happened to the supporters of the club. It is all well documented about how previous owners let them down and, ultimately, did not have the best interests of the supporters at heart.
Somehow I don’t think this will be a problem in the future with Darlington now, rightfully, being owned by the fans, for the fans.”
Darlington, who currently lead the Ebac Northern League Division 1, have different ambitions to the Hornets this season as while ex-Football League club look to make a return back to that level as quickly as possible, with promotion this season being the aim, Hebburn, having only just returned back up to this current level, look to league survival as their ultimate aim.
The Hornets leave Lee Harrison and Liam McBryde out of their squad for tonight’s match with both players nearing full fitness and targeting Saturday’s South Tyneside Derby against South Shields for their return. Jeff Forsyth also misses out due to work commitments and Bennett has admitted that he’ll “shuffle the pack again to rest players due to the small squad we have and playing two games a week makes it hard [for the players] to perform at 100% each match“.
“Darlington will have professionalism running through them from top-to-bottom, and that includes their fabulous support. We have a tough night ahead of us if we are to progress but we are capable of winning if we stick to the game plan that has brought us 13 league points already this season. Hopefully everyone associated with both clubs will enjoy the game.”
The Northern Echo report that Martin Gray will field a much changed team from Saturday’s game, with Chris Porter replacing Jack Norton in goal and both David Dowson and Arjun Purewal missing a contest against their ex-Durham City team-mate Jonny Davis due to injury.
Both clubs will be hoping for a big crowd with the gate receipts being shared. There has to be a winner on the night with extra-time and then penalties being called upon if required.
Remember, Hebburn Town FC have also released this advice for any Darlington fans visiting this evening.