by John Butler
DARLINGTON Mowden Park pay only their fourth visit to Butts Park Arena on Saturday with plenty to prove after Coventry’s big win in the north east two months ago and now requiring four points from their last two games to secure a best-ever second-place finish in National League One.
Founded relatively recently following a merger of clubs in 1946, Mowden’s home ground is the spacious Northern Echo Arena, originally the home of Darlington Football Club.
Under director of rugby Danny Brown last season’s squad finished in tenth place, so 2017/18 represents a big positive from twelve months ago.
DMP have lost just once at home, when we produced probably our best performance of the season to come away with a 42-0 win which was also our first success on the ground.
Away from home, DMP have won seven times, the most recent a hard-earned four-point success achieved at Ampthill two weeks ago. Last week they followed it up by gaining a season’s double over relegated Fylde, so the squad will travel down in good heart. Winning at Ampthill, as we know to our cost, is far from easy.
Supporting Brown is player-coach Garry Law, together with forwards coach and former Otley forward, Mark Luffman.
Warren Seals, normally wearing the No.10 jersey but sometimes in the centre, is his club’s top points scorer, having just passed 150 points for the season. Law has 101 points.
Winger Callum Mackenzie, although not in the squad last week, heads the try tally with 12, followed by Grant Connon on 11 and Ben Frankland, who we also remember from his Tynedale days, on 10.
With DMP first reaching National League One for the 2014/5 season, the game represents the eighth time we will have met.
To date, Cov lead 4-2 on wins with last season’s meeting in the north east ending in an exciting 20-all draw.
Cov will be very conscious of the fact that the superb result achieved earlier in the season will be well remembered by the DMP squad. Since the title was clinched, Cov have not displayed quite the same verve and intent.