Darlington Mowden Park will today play “probably the biggest game in the club’s history”, according to co-coach Danny Brown.
A crowd of around 1,500 is expected to descend on the Northern Echo Arena as National Two North leaders Macclesfield visit second-placed Mowden, both sides going for the one and only automatic promotion spot into National One.
Second place in the table after today’s final whistle would mean a play-off with the National Two South runner-up to claim the second promotion spot, the equation further complicated by the fact Mowden share the same points total as third-placed Stourbridge, who are away at mid-table Harrogate.
With Macclesfield currently four clear of today’s hosts it could still be deetermined by fine margins, Mowden well ahead on points difference should that come into the equation.
Brown, who shares coaching duties with Jon Newton, made no attempt to play down the significance of today to his upwardly mobile club, saying: “We put pressure on ourselves at the start of the season when we said we wanted to improve on last year’s third place.
“The only improvement on that is either automatic promotion or a play-off. Whichever way you look at it this is a massive game, probably the biggest in the club’s history.
“We hosted Harlequins in the Cup back in 2000 which was a brilliant day for the club, but I think cup runs are a bit different in terms of the long-term effect they can have.
“If we get promoted into National One we will be in the highest league we have ever reached, and it is a big thing for us.
“We can try and play it down to the players by saying it is just another match, but they are not daft. There is no point hiding away from it, and it is a tremendously exciting time for everybody involved with the club.”
As well as deciding their promotion fate there are also scores to settle between Mowden and Macclesfield after a nightmare of a first game saw them losing 30-19 in the reverse fixture in September.
Brown explained: “It was the sort of day you couldn’t even imagine.
“Our team bus broke down before it had even picked up the lads, so we were 90 minutes late and didn’t get to the ground until half-an-hour before kick-off.
“By the time we had got changed that left 15 minutes to warm-up, and our request for a delay in the kick-off time was rejected by Macclesfield. That was good of them, and when the match started we had four of the most horrific injuries you could ever think of.
“One lad broke his back, another had concussion so badly he had a two-and-a-half minute fit on the pitch and spent two days in hospital, another snapped his Achilles and a fourth had concussion – all within half-an-hour of each other.
“I know people say you can use injuries as an excuse, but that is totally not the case and we know Macclesfield are a good side.
“They are pretty one-dimensional, but what they do is good and they are very efficient at it.”
England Counties lock Pierce Phillips is expected back in the line-up in his last game before he joins Championship side Jersey, while Tongan back-five forward Talite Vaioleti and prop Henry Sandys are also tipped to return for the 3pm kick-off, which is expected to attract a decent crowd.
“It has got the public in the town talking, and we have had great support,” said Brown.
“Corporate hospitality has been sold out since November, we would like to think we are knocking around the 1,500 to 2,000 mark and the interest in this match has been fantastic.
“Obviously factors like the weather can still have an influence on how many turn up, but we have a bit of a family fun day with loads going on for people.
“It is effectively an unofficial launch for the stadium and all the businesses who are based here, and it should be a great occasion.”