TOMMY WRIGHT criticised his players after Darlington threw away a two-goal lead for the fourth time this season.

They led 2-0 at relegation rivals Hereford, only to collapse in the second 45 minutes and suffer a 4-2 loss.

Until the capitulation, Quakers had looked good for three points that would have put them ten clear of the relegation zone, but the manager admitted that some of his players fell short in the second half.

Darlington had no answer to Hereford’s forceful attacking when they scored three goals inside 12 minutes, and a fourth in stoppage time.

“The players need to be more grown-up, more mature and see games out instead of the tippy-tappy stuff that they seem so obsessed with,” he said.

“The lads are saying the right things in the dressing room, and I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt because they know that they’ve identified the fact that they can’t keep going on like this. Winning games of football at the moment should be the only priority for that dressing room.

“There have been four occasions now this season in which we’ve been 2-0 up and had chances to extend the lead. At 2-0 we thought we’d done the hard bit, but then to concede early in the second half was the catalyst. They were four really sloppy goals, the score shouldn’t have got to 2-2, never mind 4-2."

Darlington also wasted two-goal leads in games at Bradford PA, Leamington and Altrincham, at least taking a point in each of them, but at the weekend they did not even manage that, so were leapfrogged in the table by Hereford, dropping to 17th.

There certainly were plenty of questions to be resolved after the game and Wright says he will address them this week, especially if midfielder Romal Palmer does not recover from the knee injury he picked up on Saturday, while fellow central midfielder, Joe Wheatley, missed out at the weekend with a groin injury.

“We need to pick the lads up sooner rather than later. We can’t keep relying on results below us going in our favour, we have to win games," added Wright. "We won’t change our shape, but we’re a bit light on the ground because of the injuries to Joe and Romal. We’ll probably have to look at the loan market again this week and see if we can add something."

It all looked much more optimistic when Quakers took an early lead, only 12 minutes played when midfielder Tom Elliott hit a dipping 30-yard volley over Matt Yates.

It was his third goal of the season and it rocked Hereford. A goal-line clearance by Danny Greenslade prevented it being 2-0, a poor back-pass giving Stephen Thompson sight of goal, but Darlington did double their advantage before the break.

It was another defensive error, this time Wilson Kneeshaw putting Greenslade under pressure, and the left-back played the ball short for Yates allowing the striker to nip in and pull the ball back for Thompson to turn home his 91st goal for the club.

On-loan goalkeeper Jake Turner made excellent save from Keiran Thomas to maintain the two-goal advantage, but the tide began to turn just before the hour mark as slack defensive play let Hereford pull one back.

A corner was cleared as far as Thomas and he had enough time to roll the ball into the bottom corner of the net.

Darlington surrendered and by the 70th minute they trailed 3-2.

Tom Owen-Evans, who scored twice in a 2-2 draw at Blackwell in November, was given time to hit a shot against the bar as Hereford increased the tempo, and they levelled when sub Kyle Finn ran into the box and drove the ball into the middle, where it bounced off Darlington skipper Terry Galbraith into the net.

There was controversy when Greenslade crossed and referee Michael Barlow ruled that Will Smith had handled, even though the defender’s hands were by his side. Owen-Evans sent Turner the wrong way from the spot for 3-2.

Quakers nearly levelled when Thompson hit a vicious shot from just inside the area, Yates saving, but it was all over in stoppage time when Greenslade wriggled free and set up sub Lance Smith to flick in from close range.

Having lost 3-1 at Telford last Tuesday, it was the second time in four days Darlington supporters had gone a long way for nothing.

Wright added: “I was gutted for the fans, because they came out in their numbers again and then saw us capitulate in the way we did in the second half.

“We stopped working hard as a team in the second half. We were cruising at half time and it should have been three points, and with the way the other results went, it could have been an opportunity to pull further clear, but we’ve still got a seven-point gap.

“I thought Hereford deserved it in the second half, because they showed a lot of character to come back after being 2-0 down."