DARLINGTON'S young guns are certainly learning life the hard way.

There is no doubting Mick Tait's current crop of young stars have bright futures ahead of them.

But it is the results now and not later that matter most to the Quakers boss, whose inexperienced side are once again looking over their shoulders following Saturday's 4-0 mauling at home to Bristol Rovers.

And with one of the youngest and smallest squads in Third Division, Quakers' frailties are beginning to show, as was so painfully evident at the weekend.

The problem Tait is faced with is quite straightforward. Experience - or lack of it in this instance.

And without the likes of Andy Collett and Barry Conlon - stretchered off with ligament damage - the Quakers boss knows it.

"The players that were out today were our older players which is disappointing, " said Tait. "I think it was men against boys.

"There's is no doubt that the players can play a lot better and that's what we have to make sure we do in the next few games.

"We didn't play anywhere near well enough to get a result.

"We were second to everything and lost out physically."

Tait is expected to follow up his interest in a couple of targets this week with their identity firmly under wraps.

And Quakers fans will be hoping that one - if not both - of them will provide their team with the experience needed to halt their recent decline, which has now seen them concede seven goals in their last two outings.

Speaking at the start of the season skipper Craig Liddle warned that the club would face a struggle if older players weren't brought in. Too true.

And Liddle looked as fed up as anybody on Saturday against a Rovers side which had previously lost four of its last five games.

Even Liddle - so often the father figure at the heart of the Quakers defence - is allowed off days and against teenage rookie Lewis Haldane, the former Middlesbrough defender was given a torrid time.

The lanky Haldane, who only last year was playing for nonleague neighbours Weston-superMare, was a constant thorn in the Quakers' defence on his full debut.

And it was the former Southampton trainee who opened the scoring for the visitors, stabbing home from close range.

Prior to Haldane's strike, defender David McGurk was unlucky not to notch when he headed straight at Rovers' keeper Kevin Miller from an Ashley Nicholls corner.

And it was former Ipswich midfielder Nicholls who came close to levelling when he breezed past Graham Hyde before sending a low effort straight into the grateful arms of Miller.

But it was a glaring miss from Liddle which proved costly when, unmarked, he headed Ryan Valentine's free-kick wide with the goal at his mercy.

Minutes after Conlon's withdrawal - which saw the introduction of Blackburn winger Alan Morgan - Dave Savage made it two in the 63rd minute with a fortuitous deflection from 25 yards out which looped its way over Michael Price.

And with no shortage of confidence Haldane then tried his luck from the by-line with a volley from 40 yards out.

Tait introduced youngsters Mark Sheeran and Michael Coghlan in a desperate bid to salvage something from the game.

But it only got worse for Quakers, when, in the 76th minute, veteran striker Andy Rammell made it three with a close range header from Wayne Carlisle's corner.

And only the upright prevented Rovers from going further in front when Haldane eased his way past Liddle before smashing against the post.

The impressive Ijah Anderson then turned his way past Valentine in the box but his low effort was straight at Price.

With the game deep in injury time, substitute Rammell completed the rout with a firm header past Price.

"The disappointing thing was that we conceded three goals from set-pieces which is what we did last week, " said Tait.

"That's something we have been very good with in the past.

"When you give away cheap goals like that it's very hard to get back into the game.

"We weren't really hurt in the first half and we should have raised our game.

"We had two great chances after half-time and if they'd have gone in it would have been a different story."