0 Hayes & Yeading 1

THERE cannot be a much more humiliating experience in football than 27 Hayes & Yeading fans cheering every touch as their team plays keep-ball in the closing stages of a home defeat.

That was the ignominy Darlington suffered as they approached the end of Saturday’s dismal 1-0 loss – easily the lowest point so far of a season which is threatening to go into meltdown.

Quakers were awful against lowly opposition – Hayes were 20th before Saturday and home games attract around 350 fans – and now the future of manager Mark Cooper is in the spotlight.

York City and Lincoln have had approaches to speak to Cooper turned down.

Darlington have dropped to 13th and Saturday’s defeat, the third in a row, was played amid speculation over his future.

That was fuelled by Cooper’s absence from the touchline aside from one brief moment midway through the second half, a tactic he explained was intended to ‘let the players relax’.

Whatever its intentions, leaving assistant Richard Dryden in the technical area ensured the rumour mill cranked into action, especially after chairman Raj Singh did not take his seat for the second half until the 60th minute.

A soporific first half did little to appease anxious supporters who booed the team off and, predictably, there were more boos at full-time.

Cooper was at a loss to explain his team’s latest insipid display, saying: “It’s a low point.

I just can’t put my finger on why the players aren’t performing.

“It wasn’t acceptable, the last three games haven’t been acceptable and I don’t know why.

“That might be a strange comment when you’re the manager but we’ve gone from losing only one game in 12 to losing three in a row and I don’t know why.

“We looked totally devoid of ideas and passion.”

Asked if the players had stopped playing for him, Cooper said: “Possibly and that might have been the case for the last couple of years. There’s a lot of players from last year in the squad still.

“But I’m struggling to explain that performance.”

Quakers’ cause was not helped when Paul Terry limped off injured inside the first ten minutes. He is expected to miss the rest of the season.

His replacement, Gareth Waite, had a shot cleared off the line by Tom Cadmore, but otherwise chances for both sides were few although debutant striker Jefferson Louis had two efforts that were both off target but frustration steadily began to brew.

When a Hayes attack was not snuffed out and led to Peter Holmes firing across goal, some angry fans let their feelings known, firing a volley towards the Darlington dug-out.

Somewhat unwisely, Dryden turned to one spectator and proved himself equally adept at hurling insults.

Cooper was more sympathetic to the supporters and, in keeping with recent criticism of his players, said: “I think they think it’s okay to get beat, I’m not sure how much it means to them to lose a game. They’ll still get their money.

“The supporters have paid good money to come and watch, but the players will go back home and enjoy their Saturday night.”

After a turgid first half the chairman perhaps expected not to miss much after the break, but Adrian Patulea’s winning goal came in the 49th minute.

He capitalised on a defensive slip in the centre of Darlington’s defence that led to the Romanian striker rounding Sam Russell to roll into an empty net.

Cue more boos and Darlington immediately responded by sending on striker Tommy Wright who soon forced keeper Josh Lennie into his first save of the day, diving to his right to keep out a powerful header.

It sparked Quakers, briefly, into action with Ian Miller having a shot cleared off the line from a Gary Smith corner and then all eyes looked towards the directors box as Singh belatedly returned.

He emerged from the boardroom with operations director Gary Pallister and managing director Graham Fordy while around the same time Cooper made his first, and last, appearance on the touchline.

His cajoling preceded an Aaron Brown effort saved by Lennie who then pushed Chris Senior’s follow-up out for a corner, but that was about as close to a goal as Darlington went with the visitors comfortable for the most part.

Frustrated fans even ironically joined in the ‘ole’ chants with the small band of Hayes & Yeading supporters.

It was that sort of day – either laugh or cry.

Cooper was closer to the latter.

Asked if he had considered quitting, he said: “It’s crossed my mind –‘are the players asking what I want them to do?’.

“It’s difficult to say if that’s true or not but I’m not the type to want to give in. But at this moment in time I am the manager.”

Only a couple of weeks ago Darlington were a stubbornly defensive team that was unbeaten in eight matches and appeared to be playing within themselves: they looked capable of much more. Suddenly they have lost three in a row.

Which leads to the conclusion that surely a quick return to their previously promising form is equally possible.

But after the last three performances, and with the next two league games at Mansfield and Wimbledon, it is tough to see where the next win will come from.


0-1: Patulea (48, capitlised on a defensive slip to round Russell and roll ball over the line)

Booking: Waite (74, foul)

Referee: Seb Stockbridge (Tyne & Wear) – got the booking correct though appeared to award Darlington a throw when it should have been a corner 7

Attendance: 1,536

Entertainment: - DARLINGTON (3-4-1-2):

6 Russell: The visitors’ wayward shooting meant he had little to do and couldn’t be faulted for the goal;

5 Miller: Unfortunate to see a goal-bound effort cleared off the line:

5 Hone: Won plenty of challenges but it’s his distribution that lets him down,

4 Austin: Subbed early in second half as Quakers changed formation;

5 Arnison: Lobbed a series of high balls into the penalty area but few came to fruition

5 Terry: Injured in an innocuous challenge early on and now out for the season

5 G Smith: Attempted to dictate play by getting the ball down and passing but not a lot came off

4 Brown: Plenty of effort but there was nowhere near enough quality in his passing;

5 McReady: At least he tried to be positive by making several dribbles forward;

4 Powell: Game completely passed him by so it was no surprise when he was replaced

4 Louis: What a game to make your debut. Featured infrequently and had off-target shots


Waite (for Terry 9): Had to come on much earlier than planned due to Terry’s injury but clearly isn’t fit enough yet 5

WRIGHT (for Austin 49): Came close to scoring with a fierce header and at least showed some fight 6

Senior (for Powell 57): Flinging himself towards the ball and injury the keeper was the closest he came to any meaningful involvement 4

(not used): Lowson (gk), J Gray

HAYES & YEADING (4-5-1): Lennie 7; Ferrell 6 (Wassmer 83), Cadmore 7, Bygrave 6, Brown 6; Yiadom 7, Hand 6, Holmes 7, Pritchard 7, Malcolm 5; PATULEA 7 (Enver-Marum 72). Subs (not used): Mulley, Buchanan, Appiah


BRADLEY Pritchard - Energetic midfielder was central to Hayes’ play.