DAVID Hodgson never felt the need to return to the changing room at the end of Darlington's game at Leyton Orient at the weekend.

The Quakers boss may be as outspoken as they come in football, but even he was lost for words after witnessing his side slip out of the play-off zone for the fourth time this season.

Hodgson admitted he was snookered for something to say to his players at the Matchroom Stadium following the 1-0 defeat, which takes Quakers down one place to eighth in League Two.

Left deflated, Hodgson and fans have seen it all before on too many occasions this season.

It is a worrying trend, which is seriously jeopardising Quakers' play-off prospects.

Perhaps the only sobering thought for Hodgson is that Quakers are by no means alone. League Two is the division where anybody can beat anybody.

Even at such an advanced stage of the season, with 11 games to go for Quakers, play-off places are there for the taking - available to any side capable of putting together some kind of meaningful run.

While one win in four hardly smacks of promotion form, there remains every possibility that Quakers will be in the play-off mix come May.

With a quip of irony, Hodgson believes it would be typical of his side to respond with a win over Boston this weekend.

"I can guarantee that we will go out and beat Boston because that's how we work," said Hodgson. "We'll get a couple of good results, then come up against a mediocre side and lose.

"We've played 35 games this season and we have had the same problem from day one.

"We perform well, get credit for it and then we go and shoot ourselves in the foot.

"What more can I say?

"Nothing is the answer and that's why I didn't even bother going into the changing room after the game because I didn't know what to say to them."

Hodgson was astounded with the apprehension of his side, despite taking four points from their previous two games.

He said: "We got a good point down at Wycombe last week and we followed that with an excellent win over Swansea during the week, but is that it now? Shall we go back to our stupid ways again?

"I'm amazed that the players didn't go into this game with no sign of confidence, despite coming into it on the back of two very good performances."

After hauling the under-performing Clyde Wijnhard off after just 31 minutes, so desperate was Quakers' performance, Hodgson even contemplated making another two changes at half-time.

Only Chelsea boss Jose Mourinho's decision to do the same at Newcastle six days earlier urged Hodgson to think again.

"Clyde might have been unhappy, but he should have been sat where I was," said Hodgson.

"The strikeforce in the first 20 minutes set the pattern of the game. They got caught offside half a dozen times because they weren't prepared to work and get back in front of the central defenders.

"They gave the ball away every time, which allowed Orient to take the game to us.

"If Jose Mourinho hadn't fallen foul for taking three players off at half-time, I would probably have thought about doing the same thing."

On the occasion that Hodgson did make his way into the visiting dressing room - that was before the game - he placed tactics to one side and questioned the psychological state of his players.

He asked: "At what point will we go into a game knowing that we are going to perform in tip-top shape?

"When will we sit in the changing room and know that confidence is brimming through this team?

"But I don't know when they are going to do it and I'm worried about it."

Only the astute goalkeeping of Sam Russell prevented the Os from taking the lead before Lee Steele's 26th minute opener.

After Daryl McMahon stung the gloves of Russell in the 13th minute, Steele turned defender Matt Clarke inside out to put Orient one up.

Latching on to a long pass from Darlington-born defender Alan White, Steele escaped the attentions of Clarke, before sliding the ball past Russell.

Just moments after Wijnhard trudged off, his replacement, Craig Russell recorded Quakers' only shot towards goal, although his effort was deflected wide.

While the visitors showed few signs of responding to Steele's strike, the Os forward continued to cause problems. And, after Andy Scott's initial shot was well blocked by Clarke in the 40th minute, Steele followed in to fire straight at Darlington's keeper.

With half-time approaching the Os were fortunate not to be reduced to ten men when Neil Maddison was elbowed in the face by David Hunt in an aerial challenge.

Despite their slender advantage, Orient seemed content to sit on their lead after the interval, yet they still caused problems.

Matt Lockwood drove wide in the 59th minute, while Sam Russell had to be alert to hold on to Scott's first-time effort.

White, who scored an own goal in Orient's 3-0 defeat at the Williamson Motors Stadium in December only to have his embarrassment spared when the goal was awarded to Wijnhard, came close to opening his account for the season when the he powered a header wide from Efe Echanomi's dinked cross.

And White was in the right place to clear a well-worked free-kick off the line from the visitors, after Maddison's low ball into the box was intended for Craig Russell at the back post.

White was a relieved man moments later when he appeared to bring Maddison down in the box, only for referee Lee Probert to wave play on.