Darlington 0 Carlisle United 3

MARK COOPER will give Darlington’s three trialists another opportunity to impress against Whitley Bay on Monday night after accepting the first friendlies of the summer have been difficult.

The Quakers were defeated 3-0 by Carlisle United at The Northern Echo Arena, bringing to an end a six-day run of matches against higher league opposition, which also included Sunderland and Sheffield Wednesday.

But Cooper, waiting to hear whether an offer to former Chesterfield defender Kevin Austin has been successful, insists he will give former Grimsby right-back Jamie Clarke, Durham City midfielder Andy Stephenson and defender Joe Cornforth a further chance to shine.

“It’s not fair to judge them on a couple of games against the teams we have faced,” said Cooper. “We need to see them against teams that are a bit nearer to us in terms of quality.

“We have had three games and we can’t get too disheartened.

The three games we have had, we could have done with having games against lower teams. We have not seen much of the ball, it’s been more about defending.”

Cooper already knows he would like to bring 37-year-old centre-back Austin to the North-East, but the former Chesterfield defender has also been targeted by Barrow, where he has been on trial.

“We are desperately trying to bring in one or two bodies that would just finish us off and give us a bit of experience,”

he said. “We keep going and it’s not easy. We want to make sure we bring the right people to the right club and it’s not easy.

“I have spoken to him. He is speaking to a couple of other clubs and he has to decide who he wants to join. I have made him an offer and I hope he signs. He is a big lad, played loads of games and he would be right up our street.”

Darlington started brightly against Carlisle last night until referee Ross Joyce decided to intervene. As Carlisle’s trialist, Francoise Zoko, worked his way into the box, he looked well guarded by Paul Arnison and Danny Hone.

However, after the slightest of touches from Hone, the Ivory Coast forward went to ground and was awarded a controversial penalty. Ian Harte, the former Leeds fullback, slotted the spot-kick in off the post.

Liam Hatch, on loan from Peterborough for six months, almost delivered the perfect response. Sent clear by a flick from Michael Smith’s head, Hatch was denied by goalkeeper Adam Collin before knocking the rebound wide.

Even though Curtis Main and Tommy Wright, who were injury doubts beforehand, were introduced from the bench, opportunities were few and far between after the break for Darlington.

Carlisle, whose manager Greg Abbott moved on 14 players at the end of last season, lacked a bit of sharpness in the final third until first-year pro Ryan Bowman showed some quality.

Just a minute after Main’s low, driven cross should have been converted at the other end, Bowman was allowed the space to turn just inside the area and unleash an unstoppable drive high into the top left corner of Sam Russell’s net 17 minutes from time.

From then Darlington struggled to halt the visitors’ attacks and only goalkeeper Russell prevented more goals until Andy Cook, on for Craig Curren, added a third with a near post header.

DARLINGTON (4-5-1): Russell; Arnison (Clarke 46), Hone, Miller (Burn 82), Werling; Smith (Wright 46), McReady, Brough (Cornforth 68), Chandler (Stephenson 46), J Gray (Moore 46); Hatch (Main 46). Subs: Thompson.

CARLISLE (4-3-2-1): Collin; Kane, Long, Harte (Murphy 46), McDaid; Taiwo, Thirlwell (Kavanagh 71), Berrett (Bridge-Wilkinson 46); Zoko (Bowman 60); Madine (Price 46), Curren (Cook 83). Subs: Hurst.