DARLINGTON striker Pawel Abbott has been hailed as the best forward in League Two – and the reason that the Quakers can make up for last season’s promotion heartache.
Abbott’s return from long-term injury has coincided with the Quakers re-emergence as genuine contenders in the League Two promotion race, his two goals in seven goals barely hinting at the influence he has exerted over the team.
After giving his side plenty of problems in midweek, Bradford boss Stuart McCall said Abbott is the best in the division – and his Darlington team-mate Alan White concurs.
The veteran defender believes that having Abbott fit for the promotion run-in gives the Quakers every chance of healing the pain of last season’s disappointment in the play-offs.
“Most people who have seen him play would agree that if he’s fit then he’s head and shoulders above everyone else in the division,” he said.
“I don’t think people realise how big he is and how difficult it is for defenders to play against him.
“He’s 6 ft 3 ins, he’s 14 stone and he’s great in the air, but he has got good feet and a good touch in and around the box.
“Look at the game against Dagenham & Redbridge. He had one chance and scored – that is the kind of talent that he has got. Having him back is a huge boost for the team and I do think that it has made a difference.
“Last year he got injured at just the wrong time when we needed him for some big games at the end of the season – hopefully this year having him fit and available for the run-in will be a big boost.”
Abbott’s goals have lifted the Quakers into promotion contention – but the excellent Darlington back four has played it’s part as well.
As a regular in the defence, White can take credit for a run that has seen the Quakers secure three successive clean sheets.
“It is a big improvement on earlier in the season when we were conceding too many goals,” he said.
“It helps having a settled back four and Dean Gerken has been excellent since he’s come in as well.
“With us doing well at the back and Paw and (Liam) Hatch and the other lads up front scoring goals there is a real confidence about us.”
Darlington welcome struggling Grimsby to the Arena today, a game that will see Adam Proudlock return to the ground where he spent a short spell earlier in the season.
The Mariners are fourth from bottom of League Two and haven’t won for five games.
But White insists the Quakers will afford Mike Newell’s side respect.
“They are like every team in this division – good enough to cause problems on their day. We can’t afford to take anything for granted just because of where they are in their league or their last couple of results,” he said.
“While we’re going to show them plenty of respect we’ve got to approach the game with confidence as well.
“We would expect to beat them with the kind of form we’re in and we’re not scared of anyone.”
Tim Ryan and Franz Burgmeier are back in contention for Darlington after serving one-match bans.