DARLINGTON left Moss Lane with mixed feelings and a well-deserved point from a thrilling 3-3 draw.

With two more loan signings, defender Will Smith and midfielder Romal Palmer in the team, Quakers played some fast football and built a 3-1 lead, including a Christmas cracker of goal by Jordan Nicholson.

But they left the back door open, allowing third-placed Altrincham, who had won their previous five league games, to hit back and snatch a draw.

The result at least put an end to Darlington's run of four successive defeats, but manager Tommy Wright said: “It should have been three points. The lads are disappointed with only a point.

"We need to manage games better than that, we shouldn’t have given Altrincham a sniff. We should have made sure that by killing the game after our third, we would have gone into half-time at 3-1. The second goal allowed them to put their tails up.

“For us, the desperation for the three points and some nerves have got the better of us in the end. Many would have taken the point here before the game, but we need to start turning these draws into wins. We can compete with anyone in this league, but we keep falling on the wrong end of stuff."

Quakers showed plenty of pace and movement in the first half and took the lead on eight minutes with Tom Elliott scoring his first for the club.

He passed to Saunders, and while a defender got a toe to the ball to it fell to Elliott who fired left-footed past Tony Thompson.

But it was 1-1 just two minutes later, when Shaun Densmore crossed from the right and Josh Hancock had a free header to beat Jonny Maddison.

Darlington didn’t let the equaliser bother them and went ahead again on 26 minutes. Palmer found fellow loanee Andrew Nelson with a precise pass on the right, and he laid a goal on a plate for Saunders to tap home.

And it was 3-1 on 44 minutes with possibly the best goal of the season so far. Palmer was again involved, finding Nelson who created space for Jordan Nicholson, who hit a delightful shot into the top corner from around 25 yards.

But Quakers couldn’t hold on until half time, conceding a second in stoppage time and again Altrincham were allowed to cross from a wide area with Max Harrop heading home.

The pace of the game didn’t ease in the second half, but Altrincham started to show signs of exploiting space down both wings, something Wright sought to resolve with three substitutions on 64 minutes.

Within a minute Altrincham equalised.

The ball came in from the right from John Johnston for Hemmings to turn past Maddison at close-range for 3-3.

The game could have gone either way after that, with Quakers relying on the pace of Saunders, and that tactic nearly paid dividends in the last minute of normal time when he chased a long ball and headed it from 20 yards past the advancing Thompson, but just the wrong side of the post.

And at the other end deep into added time Hemmings headed into the net and Alty celebrated until they spotted an assistant’s flag.

Wright added: “The lads who we’ve brought in for the last couple of games have made a really positive difference and they’ve given everyone a new lease of life. I think they’ve shown a lot of quality and energy, but we need to stop conceding so many goals.

"To score three away from home should mean three points. But we must take the positives from it and take them into the York game on Boxing Day.

“We scored three great goals, but did Altrincham have to work hard for theirs? I don’t think so. We can pin it down to bad defending, we’re not working hard enough to stop crosses coming in. We knew that their overloads in the wide areas would cause us trouble, so we tried to nick a fourth before we made the changes. We made those changes to try and stop the crosses, but in their first attack after we did so, they got down the right for a free cross and a free shot at goal. We nullified it in the end, but that wasn’t the reason for the changes – they were meant to prevent a third one.

“For the neutral and for both sets of fans that was probably a good game to watch. But we left with a little bit of frustration and with a good performance. We have to take that into Wednesday’s game against York City and give our fans something to cheer about.”

Goals: Elliott (8 mins, 0-1); Hancock (10 mins, 1-1); Saunders (25 mins, 1-2), Nicholson (44 mins, 1-3); Harrop (45 mins, 2-3), Hemmings (65 mins, 3-3)

Bookings: Richman, Densmore; Nelson, Kokolo, Elliott, Thompson, Palmer

Referee: Lewis Smith

Attendance: 1,076

Altrincham: Thompson, Densmore, Hampson, Jones, Hannigan, Moult, Johnston, Richman (Williams 73), Hancock, Harrop, Hemmings. Subs (not used): Mantack, Langley, Sang, Wynne

Darlington: Maddison, Trotman (Wollerton 63), Kokolo (O’Hanlon 63), Smith, Burn, Galbraith, Elliott, Palmer, Saunders, Nelson, Nicholson (Thompson 63). Subs (not used): Hall, Henshall