DARLINGTON are back down to earth with a bump.

In the seven days since the euphoria of beating League One Swindon Town in the FA Cup, they have put in two deeply disappointing displays at Blackwell Meadows.

The jury is out on last Tuesday’s game with Boston United, abandoned late on with Quakers 2-0 down. It may be replayed depending on the National League’s verdict.

What is not debatable is how poor they were that night, and Saturday against AFC Telford United was not much better, particularly the second-rate second half.

Poor defending led to both goals for Telford, who went 2-1 ahead soon after the restart, and thereafter Darlington rarely looked like mounting a comeback.

The first half was promising and ended 1-1, but the second 45 was flat, uninspired and a world away from the spirited display that helped the team win at Swindon.

It was after losing at home last season to Telford - who have now won four of their six trips to Blackwell - Alun Armstrong labelled the second half “embarrassing”.

He stopped short of such condemnation this time, his ire was instead focused on the defence, particularly centre-back pairing Louis Laing and Alex Storey.

Nicky Hunt was unavailable having been knocked unconscious against Boston, but was in attendance and Quakers sorely missed him as Telford striker Jason Oswell was a handful.

Holding the ball up for his team and getting up the pitch, he made it 1-0 after six minutes when given the freedom of Quakers’ penalty area. Afforded time to control Jordan Davies’ pass from the right, Oswell took a second touch and then a third before blasting high into the net.

In fairness to Laing, it was his first competitive start since March, and an injury meant he hardly played in pre-season.

Armstrong blasted: “I can’t get over the manner of the goals, that was the most disappointing thing. It was so weak, I think I could’ve played up front for Telford and caused them two problems. They allowed themselves to be bullied and I had a go at them in the changing room for not being on the front foot, not being first to the ball, just allowing him to dominate them.

“He’s a good striker, fair play to him, but allowing people to run across you, not blocking runs, it’s just simple football nous. With the ball, I thought we were quite good in the first half, there was some really good football and we dominated after we conceded the first goal.”

Quakers responded well to Oswell’s opener and were in control for a long period, moving the ball around and creating chances, Telford’s 5-3-2 formation and deep defending succeeding in blocking a number of shots though goalkeeper Russ Griffiths was called into action several times.

He was beaten on 23 minutes, however, tricky winger Erico Sousa scoring his first goal for Quakers when sliding the ball under the keeper after Sean Reid had cut out Theo Street’s under-hit clearance.

For all their possession and passing, however, Darlington were unable to add a second goal and it was Telford who netted next six minutes after the break.

In the build-up Oswell outmuscled Laing on the touchline, Adam Walker crossed from the left and Dom McHale steered a low shot past Johnny Saltmer for 2-1.

Faced with playing two games per week - Quakers are at Guiseley tomorrow - Armstrong always has one eye on the next game and is attempting to extract the best out of his squad while simultaneously sharing the burden.

He made five changes to his starting XI, Joe Wheatley among them after suffering a family bereavement while Luke Charman was injured.

Having an eye on the bigger picture saw Adam Campbell substituted midway through the second half when Darlington needed a goal, the striker’s body language saying it all as he sloped off.

Armstrong said: “At half-time they were asked to replicate the first half in the second, but still run in behind because we need that threat. But we didn’t hurt them, it was tippy-tappy in front of them and that doesn’t hurt anyone, it’s easy to defend against.”

Liddle had a free-kick saved and Storey was off-target with a close-range header, and that was as good as it got.