ALUN ARMSTRONG admitted his defence was “bullied” as new-look Darlington started the season with a 3-1 defeat at Farsley Celtic.

It was 3-0 at half-time with numerous errors handing Farsley the initiative on a day in which nine players made their Darlington debut.

Seven of them were in the starting XI with the only survivors from last season being Luke Trotman, Terry Galbraith, Omar Holness and Stephen Thompson.

Alongside Trotman and Galbraith in defence were new boys Louis Laing and Michael Liddle, but Armstrong confessed: “I thought we got bullied at the back.

“The big lad (James Spencer) bullied Laingy and Tez. We didn’t track the runners enough.

“Not once did they play through us, it was diagonal balls and long throws. The third goal was an embarrassment.

“Trots gambled on us winning the header, and he’s left the back stick and the centre-forward has peeled around the back. I think the ball bounced at least once before it got there.

“That’s schoolboy defending, but they’ll learn from it.”

Darlington hope for an improvement on Wednesday against Gateshead at Blackwell Meadows, where last weekend Armstrong saw his side beat Middlesbrough under-23s 3-0.

“When we turned up at Farsley we were trying to get across to the lads that it would be nothing like last week’s game: expect something totally different.

“And it was totally different. They were never going to let us play, but on the other hand they weren’t looking to play.

“They played balls into the corner, they played to their strengths, that’s football.

“They played to the big man and they had runners off him and we didn’t deal with it, we defended so poorly and the lads know it.

“We didn’t stop the deliveries, although most of them were free-kicks off them getting fouls. Cheap fouls.

“We let them play their game-plan, we didn’t do our game-plan.”

Armstrong did not want to dwell on the issue of Farsley’s pitch, saying only: “The grass is extremely long, there were bobbles and it is going to be difficult for any team to come here and play football.

“You cannot use it as an excuse, but it wasn’t great for the way we play. But we’ve got to be better, we’ve got to accept that.”

Former St Mirren defender Josh Heaton travelled with the squad and took part in the pre-match warm-up, but Quakers were unable to name him on the team sheet.

Armstrong explained: “Because he’s been in Scotland we’re waiting on international clearance.

“Even though he’s played in England and in Kidderminster on loan last season, we’ve got to go through FIFA.”