Darlington 1, Swansea City 3.

DARLINGTON have been the talk of North-East football for all the right reasons in recent weeks.

Six wins from six, the transformation under Dave Penney has been nothing short of remarkable.

But as the old proverb goes, all good things must come to an end at some point. And, against a side riding high in League One, there was no great shame in Quakers bowing out of the FA Cup to Swansea City.

Against the club Penney made over 150 appearances for as a player in the 1990s, the Quakers boss was happy to accept his side were beaten by the better team.

Some managers would be far less sympathetic about the manner in which Darlington threw away a golden opportunity of a third round tie.

Because, for the first half certainly, Penney's men were more than a match for their Welsh opponents.

But for two uncharacteristic defensive lapses, it could well have been Quakers, and not Swansea, who travel to Sheffield United on January 8.

Just two goals had been conceded in 540 minutes of football prior to Saturday.

But then again few of Darlington's opponents in that time can boast players of the ilk of Lee Trundle, Andy Robinson and Leon Britton.

The trio are as canny as they come in the lower echelons of the Football League and given the faintest whiff of goal, are more than capable of making any defence pay for the slightest of slip-ups.

Quakers couldn't have asked for a more ideal start when Martin Smith put his side one up inside two minutes.

But, in allowing Trundle space to flight a wonderful deep cross for the unmarked Britton, Swansea were soon level on the quarter-hour mark.

And, when Robinson was quickest to react when Sam Russell failed to gather Darren Pratley's shot, the second round tie was effectively settled, before substitute Adebayo Akinfenwa added a third with ten minutes remaining.

"It was a great start, but we made our own downfalls with the first two goals we conceded," said Penney. "They were awful goals to concede from mistakes.

"We gave it our all against one of the top teams in the division above so I was pleased with the display. The defensive side of things has been excellent up until today.

"We got a good early goal, which you want in a home tie, but it was disappointing to concede like we did.

"Swansea are a very good side and with the players they have they are going to punish you."

But, that wasn't before Swans boss Kenny Jackett was urged into a tactical re-think just 13 minutes into Saturday's tie.

After Smith had poked Quakers ahead from 12 yards, former Sunderland, Hartlepool and Darlington loan winger Thomas Butler suffered the humiliation of an early withdrawal as Akinfenwa was introduced alongside Trundle to bolster Swansea's attack.

And just minutes later the Welshmen were level through little Britton. Despite skipper Clark Keltie's best efforts to fill the void left by the out of position David Duke, 5ft 6ins Britton found himself unmarked at the back post to fire home.

The luckless Alun Armstrong, who has yet to score since Penney's arrival, was brilliantly denied by keeper Willy Gueret in the 18th minute, saving bravely at the striker's feet.

Trundle, regarded as one of the best strikers outside of the Premiership, did little to endear himself to home fans when, with keeper Sam Russell still limping back to his goal after colliding with Akinfenwa, the forward's attempted lob dropped wide of the empty goal.

Neil Wainwright has been a revelation under Penney and the in-form winger came within inches of restoring Quakers' lead in the 22nd minute with a rising drive, which looked destined for the top corner of the net.

And, after Armstrong could only head Smith's cross over, Micky Cummins saw a 25-yard volley come back off the cross-bar.

For all the visitors' probing, a Robinson effort into the side-netting was Swansea's only other contribution to the opening 45 minutes.

However, Quakers' failure to take their chances and sluggish defending enabled Swansea to take a 52nd minute lead through Robinson.

Craig James' indecision allowed Pratley a shot at goal and after Russell could only spill into the path of Robinson, the midfielder gratefully despatched the rebound into the back of the net.

Both Robinson and Trundle had chances to add a third as Darlington struggled to emulate their first half efforts, before Akinfenwa completed the scoring in the 80th minute with the aid of the upright.

"If we'd have got a battering or if we'd have been outplayed then you sit back and take stock of what you've got but I don't think that was the case," said Penney.

"They came with 4-3-3 and they had to change it quickly after ten minutes to 4-4-2, which says a lot about the problems we caused.''