UNACCEPTABLE and embarrassing.

That just about sums up Darlington’s demoralising defeat on Saturday, described in such terms by an angry Alun Armstrong as well as supporters who may have also used more colourful language.

Their team was 2-0 up and coasting at half-time, then capitulated thanks to some dreadful defending, losing 3-2 to an AFC Telford United team which had been beneath them in the table but took the points via a Marcus Dinanga hat-trick.

It was back to the depressing defensive frailties and sub-standard displays of last season.

It is only two weeks since Darlington conceded five times in the first half at Brackley, though Armstrong felt there were mitigating circumstances which did not apply against Telford and the straight-talking manager did not mince his words.

“Brackley I could accept because of what was coming up [the Walsall FA Cup replay], but I cannot accept that second half because that was really poor, as bad as it gets,” he admitted.

“We didn’t keep the ball enough, the decision making on the ball was not good enough, there weren’t enough people wanting the ball and when we did lose it on the edge of the box we weren’t in our positions to win the second ball.

“The first half performance was really good, couldn’t really fault it at all. Dominant, causing them all kinds of problems.

“And then the second half was embarrassing, it was really embarrassing from start to finish.”

Darlington were without the rested Terry Galbraith, and Armstrong added: “It reminded me of the first ten games of the season, and it makes you wonder how that happened. Tez was missing, he’s our captain and leader, he organises so he was a big miss.

“I’m absolutely fuming. I apologise to the fans because that second half was not us and we know that. People that have seen us will know that is not us. I can’t understand why that happened and I will be speaking to the lads because that cannot happen again.”

Darlington did not just lose three points, they also lost the momentum and belief generated recently, evaporating inside 45 dispiriting minutes plus the added time during which Telford nabbed the winning goal.

It would not have reached that stage, however, had Quakers had taken more of the chances they created in a strong first-half, going 2-0 up through Alex Storey and Justin Donawa.

Storey stabbed home at close-range on 18 minutes after a short-corner routine, while Donawa atoned for an early poor miss by taking a harder chance, receiving Jack Lambert’s cross from the right before finishing expertly.

They looked set for more goals and a home win, yet within 60 seconds of the restart instigated their own downfall.

Adam Campbell, helping out left-back Michael Liddle, passed directly to Telford’s Ellis Deeney, Ryan Barnett crossed and substitute Dinanga side-footed home, giving the visitors hope and Darlington did not recover.

Armstrong said: “We made our own problems. We had to said to them that we had to turn them and play in their half in the first ten minutes, keep the pressure on them.

“It was a criminal mistake, Cams knows it. He’s not normally like that but it has cost us unfortunately. It wasn’t just him, there were mistakes all over the park. We didn’t keep the ball anywhere near good enough in that second half, that mistake seemed to set the tone.

“Everyone seemed to go back in their shells a little bit and onto the backfoot. It was a crucial moment, but then you could say the same about the first half when Will could’ve put us 3-0 up.”

Armstrong had made four changes to his starting XI, with the ill Omar Holness and Jarret Rivers on the bench, the latter coming on in the second half.

“You try and fix it by bringing on fresh legs in Jarrett Rivers, but there was no impetus,” added the beleaguered manager.

“Justin was great first half, second half I don’t think he impacted the game one little bit.

“Thommo found it tough second half because we didn’t get the midfield close enough to support him, we were far too deep and invited them, and that had been my instruction at half-time – do not invite them, stay high, be brave and get in their faces.

“They did everything opposite to what they had been told.”

Another Quakers cock-up led to Dinanga’s equaliser on 76 minutes. Darlington switched off at Deeney’s quickly-taken free-kick, the striker strolling through before beating Liam Connell.

It was not one-way traffic, and without repeating their standards of the first half Darlington did have their moments, most notably when Stephen Thompson hit the bar and Donawa’s follow-up was saved.

But in the fifth minute of added time came Telford’s final blow, and again it was self-inflicted with Connell’s scuffed kick going straight to Brendon Daniels who played in Dinanga and he made no mistake.

Don’t look back Dinanga, indeed.

“To be in such a comfortable position and then end up losing in the manner we did is not acceptable,” added Armstrong.

“Really disappointing, especially after the first half, we need to make sure we put it right on Tuesday.”

Quakers, now with one win in six matches, go to Leamington tomorrow evening under pressure to provide a major improvement.