Hereford United 5 Darlington 1

Wearing their new away kit for the first time, when Darlington took to the field on Saturday they looked like a different team from the one which had started the season so well.

And for the most part they played like one too as their previously impressive defensive record was destroyed.

In all 13 of their previous league matches Quakers had lost just once while wearing black and white hoops. They had conceded just five goals and kept an amazing nine clean sheets, including four in consecutive matches, prior to facing Hereford.

But on Saturday there was something very unfamiliar about Dave Penney's side, and unfortunately their appearance in a new kit was merely coincidental as their goals against tally doubled in 90 miserable minutes at Edgar Street.

From the moment Richard Rose rose highest to head home from a corner in only the fourth minute, Quakers appeared off key against the team who leapfrogged above them into third place with Darlington dropping to fifth.

It was Darlington's biggest margin of defeat away from home since losing 7-1 at Scunthorpe United in November 2001, but at least that day Quakers could point to two first half dismissals - Mark Ford and Barry Conlon - as mitigating circumstances. On Saturday however, there were no such excuses. There were no glaring individual errors, just slack defending combined with a pacy Hereford attack.

Penney reasoned that, at 3-1, Darlington had no choice but to try and salvage something from the game, and that left gaps which Hereford fully exploited.

But Penney was quick to point out that it was only Quakers' second league defeat. He said: "I'm not going to be ranting and raving. Before today we'd lost only one game in 13 so hopefully this was a blip and we'll be back at it on Tuesday against Shrewsbury.

"I'm not going to pick on certain players and say he was poor, I won't do that in public. We do that in the changing rooms.

"I was never going to throw tea cups around, this is not an ongoing situation, hopefully it's a one-off. We had only conceded one goal away from home so there's no crises."

There is certainly no crises, but perhaps there should be concern at the manner in which Rose was allowed space after evading his marker, Tommy Wright, to head the opening goal.

Defending set-pieces has been a Darlington's forte, but two minutes later Rose almost repeated his feat but this time his header went straight to keeper David Stockdale.

Nevertheless, Rose's goal presented Darlington with an unusual test: how to respond to going behind.

Until Saturday the only previous occasion they had trailed in a league game had been for the dying seconds at MK Dons when the hosts scored in the 89th minute.

Quakers initially passed the test as the on loan Joe Colbeck restored parity on 16 minutes with his first goal for the club.

With the returning Julian Joachim, back after missing two games with a knee injury, upfront alongside Tommy Wright, Colbeck kept his place on the right and repaid Penney by scoring from 12 yards after good work by Joachim.

However, despite scoring an equaliser for the first time this season, there was to be no answer to Hereford's second goal. Or the third, fourth and fifth.

Quakers had previously not even conceded a goal before half-time, but Theo Robinson's strike meant they were 2-1 behind after just 22 minutes when a quick passing movement tore though Darlington's defence.

Penney's men finished first half the stronger side, and at half-time there will have been optimism in the visitors' dressing room that the day's next goal would be a second equaliser.

But 60 seconds after the restart it was 3-1 thanks to a fluke Ben Smith goal. Alan White attempted to clear the danger inside his own penalty area but the ball simply cannoned off Smith and into the net from eight yards.

At this point Darlington had no option but to attack, but just before the hour mark it was 4-1 after the lively Lionel Ainsworth raced past Tim Ryan and, with Steve Foster having been dragged out of position to cover, crossed for Trevor Benjamin to score.

Ryan had started after returning from a hamstring strain but was almost immediately replaced, as was Clark Keltie, with Micky Cummins and Gregg Blundell coming on as Penney tried to salvage some pride.

But a second Darlington goal would not come with Blundell unlucky to see a downwards header well saved by keeper Wayne Brown who also tipped Colbeck's shot around the post. With 15 minutes to go, 4-2 would have given Quakers a slim chance of saving a point.

The misery was completed in the final minute when Clint Easton side-footed home from inside the penalty area after Trent McClenahan's run up the right.

Penney added: "At half-time we said the next goal would be important, perhaps we were a little bit gung-ho after half-time.

"We were not going to accept a 3-1 defeat so we were chasing the game, but perhaps we should have been a little bit tighter and not conceded a fourth and then a fifth. We just weren't tight."

Fortunately for Darlington, they have an immediate opportunity to put right Saturday's wrongs when they host Shrewsbury Town tomorrow