Crewe will be boosted by the return of leading scorer Calvin Zola for the visit of basement club Darlington.

The 14-goal striker missed the games at Dagenham and Hereford complaining of restricted vision after a ball struck him in the face in training.

It was feared Zola had suffered damage to his retina but a specialist has confirmed that is not the case and the 25-year-old will be included in the squad, with caretaker boss Dario Gradi keen for the player to start the game.

Midfielders James Bailey and Joe Grant are unlikely to return after missing a reserve-team fixture against Aston Villa this week as a precautionary measure.

Bailey has recently been nursing a painful abdominal muscle while Grant has been out since straining foot ligaments against Rochdale on Boxing Day.

Darlington defender Simon Madden could make his debut.

Madden, one of six new signings made by manager Steve Staunton since the turn of the year, was suspended for the midweek win at Rotherham after picking up five bookings for previous club Shamrock Rovers.

But he could join striker Tadgh Purcell, midfielders Gary Dempsey and Gary Waite and defender Alan White, who all made their debuts for Staunton's side on Tuesday, in the starting line-up.

White is in his second spell at the club after arriving from Luton, while a sixth new signing, forward Patrick Dean, was a second-half substitute against Rotherham, where Darlington secured their first away win in League Two this season and only their third in total.

Dan Groves (foot) is edging his way back into contention after returning to full training but is not yet ready to return and Mark Bower is still sidelined with an ankle injury. Former skipper Steve Foster is expected to start on the bench again.

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Topics:
Crewe Alexandra
Gary Dempsey
Football
James Bailey
Hereford United
Steve Foster
Calvin Zola
Simon Madden
League Two
Rochdale
Mark Bower
Aston Villa
Alan White