DARLINGTON’S season reaching a new low as they put in a limp performance and were humbled 3-0 by South Shields in the FA Cup.

A midweek 3-0 win over FC United ended a seven-match winless run in the National League North for Quakers, a well-timed morale-booster for Martin Gray’s men.

But today Quakers fully deserved to lose against a team from two divisions below, the goals at Blackwell Meadows coming from Dillon Morse and Carl Finnigan (2).

It means Quakers go out of the competition for the third year running, and manager Martin Gray pulled no punches afterwards, saying that some players will not play for the club again.

He was scathing in his assessment, emerging from an hour-long post-match inquest to blast: “That’s the worst performance I’ve had as a Darlington manager in the five and a half years I’ve been in charge.

“Some very strong words were said in the changing room. Myself and the staff have had a very long debrief, we’re all accountable for what happened today.

“It’s the first time I’ve questioned the desire and hunger of anyone at the club and that is a very big concern.

“Players will be leaving and players will be coming in. We've got to make changes to go forward. I won't tolerate this.”

In contrast, it was South Shields’ “best performance of the season”, said joint-manager Graham Fenton.

“I’m really pleased and proud,” he said. “I’ve just told the players in the dressing room that I’m so proud of them, the way they went about their business.

“Sometimes you can come to place two divisions above and be in awe, but our lads were anything but.

“We settled into the game from the start, stuck to the game-plan, they were brilliant at what we asked them to do, and I thought there were some tremendous performances without singling anyone out.

“Darlington, with some really good players in the team, really struggled to deal with us.

Shields, of the Evo-Stik First Division North, took the lead on seven minutes, Morse getting the final touch on a Robbie Briggs free-kick that had been flicked on by Jon Shaw, Terry Galbraith having conceded it for a foul on Finnigan.

The dreadful start almost quickly worsened for Quakers, Liam Marrs twice giving the ball away and it led to Shields' Jamie Holmes getting a shot away saved by Adam Bartlett, the first of several save the goalkeeper made.

Darlington improved steadily, a cross by the recalled James Caton cross almost floated into the net after Shields ’keeper Jack Norton, making his first start of the season, was almost caught out.

Joe Wheatley escaped with a talking to after a strong challenge on Julio Arca, Shields’ midfield veteran metronome that Quakers could not get close to.

His raking ball over the top gave the pacey Gavin Cogdon his first chance to run at Darlington’s defence, drawing Galbraith into a foul and a booking.

Galbraith was partnered at the centre of defence by Kevin Burgess, who had been named as a sub, but Dom Collins suffered a recurrence of a groin strain in the warm-up.

The crucial second goal came midway through the half. Marrs was turned easily by Holmes, leading to Anthony Callaghan’s low cross from the left that was turned home by Finnigan.

Thereafter there was only one winner. There was no sign of a response from Darlington in a lifeless second half in which they huffed and puffed but did not come close to goal.

Bartlett pulled off a double save five minutes into the second half, the first time from Cogdon, and then the ’keeper smothered the follow-up from Holmes.

Gray sent on Harvey Saunders for the ineffective Caton, but the youngster’s introduce made little difference and there was a let-off for Darlington when Luke Sullivan, who had taken the ball past Galbraith as though he wasn’t there, however, he lifted ball over the top instead of passing to a better-placed team-mate.

Bartlett then saved low from Cogdon after he’d side-stepped Galbraith, before Quakers’ keeper, easily the home team’s best player on the day, pulled off a diving save to push away a Briggs effort from around 20 yards.

David Ferguson delivered a couple of decent crosses late on, but there was nobody there to meet them, and in the last minute, with Quakers pushing, Shields finished it off.

Michael Richardson and Finnigan exchanged passes before the latter coolly slotted home.

“On another day we probably could’ve had six or seven goals, we were a little bit wasteful with our chances,” added Fenton. “That’s our best performance of the season.”

Goals: Morse (7, 0-1), Finnigan (27, 0-2), Finnigan (90, 0-3)

Bookings: Galbraith (22, foul); Cogdon (34, foul), Holmes (52, foul), Arca (53, dissent), Baxter (74, foul); Wheatley (90, foul)

Referee: G Rhodes

Attendance: 1,814

Darlington (4-3-3): Bartlett; Marrs, Collins, Galbraith, Ferguson; Wheatley, Turnbull, Syers (Thompson 46); Gillies (Scott 65), Beck, Caton (Saunders 50). Subs (not used): Wilczynski (gk), Vaulks, Steels, Cass

South Shields (4-3-3): Norton; Baxter, Shaw, Morse, Callaghan (Nicholson 90); Smith, Arca, Briggs; Holmes (Sullivan 54), Finnigan, Cogdon (Richardson 79). Subs (not used): Storey, Lister, Pattison, Stephenson