GRAEME ARMSTRONG'S return to action was one of the few positive points of an otherwise disappointing afternoon as a weak Darlington XI lost 3-0 at Whitby Town.

Manager Martin Gray was absent due to being on holiday abroad and in his absence, but under his instruction, Quakers decided against playing their first team against a side they will face in the league this season.

Instead eight trialists were involved, six of them in the starting line-up, making it a wasted trip for some fans, but they at least got to see Armstrong make his first appearance since suffering an abdominal injury in the play-off final in May.

He spent a month in Freeman Hospital in Newcastle and underwent an eight-hour operation to remove half of his pancreas, but he came through the final 20 minutes unscathed and will hope to play the first game of the season at Buxton a week on Saturday.

“It was a trialists game for us and we didn’t want to show our hand in pre-season. The biggest plus for me was that certain lads got 90 minutes and Graeme Armstrong came back,” said assistant manager Brian Atkinson.

“He looked alright, he looked sharp and he had a couple of opportunities in front of goal.

“It’s not my decision whether he’ll play in the first game, but at least he’s in the hat now.

“He’s trained a bit, he’s had the clearance from the specialist and he’s played his first match so it’s great for him when you consider where he was a few weeks ago. Credit to him.”

By the time Armstrong was sent on Quakers were 2-0 down. Lee Mason put Whitby ahead from inside the penalty area in first-half injury time, before Matthew Waters shot into the bottom corner from 20 yards after a mistake by sub keeper Jim Provett.

Armstrong saw a long-range shot pushed away by Shane Bland, before former Spennymoor Town striker Michael Roberts slipped the ball through Provett’s legs in the dying minutes to complete the scoring.

The eight trialists were Jack McClaren, Tom McNamee, Lewis Gibbons, Thibault Charmey, Alex Kitchen, Wilson Kneeshaw, Tom White and Bradley Staunch.

Kneeshaw has played previously in pre-season for Quakers before recently spending a week training with Gateshead.

He scored in their friendly win over Hartlepool United, but has not signed a deal with the Heed, though is now expected to go on trial at a club in the Football League.

Winger Ryan Brobbel, who played for Darlington last week against York, was on trial for Torquay United in their friendly against Exeter City on Friday.

Darlington: McClaren (Provett 46), Kitchen (McNamee 62), McNamee (Staunch 55), White, Weldon, Charmey, Gibbons, Scott (T White 52), Watson, Kneeshaw, Nowakowski (Brown 49). Sub (not used): Galbraith