Grimsby Town 3 Darlington 0

Darlington’s hold on the FA Trophy lasted just 90 minutes as a patched-up side fell at the first hurdle today at Grimsby Town.

There was no lack of effort, but they lost 3-0 in today’s first round tie at Blundell Park, seven months after winning at Wembley against Mansfield Town.

Mansfield also lost today, to Droylsden, but that will be off little consolation to Quakers whose chances were undermined somewhat by not having a either a recognised right-back or striker.

Paul Arnison served a one-match ban while Liam Hatch this morning stunned caretaker manager Craig Liddle when he told him that he was unable to play due to illness.

His unexpected absence meant that the work Quakers had done in training became redundant and required a reshuffle that resulted in the team lacking a goal scoring threat.

Centre-back Graeme Lee had to play as a striker with youth team player Scott Harrison, filling in at the back, and the teenager was one of four from the under-18s in the squad.

Dale Hopson was again the XI while Jordan Nixon and Rob Ramshaw, who both played in the FA Youth Cup defeat to Newcastle United on Thursday, were among the substitutes. Right-winger Danny Lambert travelled with the squad too, but did not make the bench.

Both teams went into the game having kept a number of clean sheets of late, but it was not a cagey beginning with each side forced a handful of opportunities during the opening stages.

Sam Russell had to save low down from Luke McCarthy after striker Liam Hearn had escaped Harrison to hold the ball up.

Another teenager, Adam Reach, on loan from Middlesbrough was recalled to the side and he almost latched on to an Adam Rundle ball over the top, but keeper James McKeown was first to react.

McKeown made two fine saves during the game, the first coming to stop Marc Bridge-Wilkinson. Russell’s punt was brought down by Lee and allowed Bridge-Wilkinson to fire at goal from 25 yards, but McKeown tipped the ball wide for a corner.

After Darlington’s bright start, Grimsby fired their first warning shot with Michael Coulson charging forward after collecting a loose ball in midfield and unleashing a shot that rolled wide of goal, but it was not long before the midfielder put his side ahead.

In possession 20 yards from goal, the right-sided player was given space and time to shoot and the ball bounced under Russell’s hands.

At 1-0 up the hosts upped their game with Russell twice having to save from striker Liam Hearn, but Quakers continue to play some neat football.

A superbly-timed Hopson pass around the back of the hosts’ defence almost reached Reach, but Charlie I’Anson just got to it first.

There had been little between the sides before the break, but the half ended 2-0 with Anthony Elding adding a crucial second goal.

After his initially shot was saved by Russell, the ball was worked back to the unmarked striker who finished with an emphatic volley.

Any hopes Darlington had of recording a remarkable comeback in the second half were effectively extinguished soon after the restart when Coulson made it 3-0, thanks in part to slack defending.

Emmanuel Panther passed to Hearn in the penalty area and, despite Darlington having enough men back, he pulled the ball back for Coulson who fired across Russell and inside the far post. Unlikely as it was that Darlington could salvage a draw, to their credit they did not give up. Only a the second fine save of the day from McKeown prevented Reach from scoring his first goal for the club.

The left-winger found himself directly in front of goal where he met Hopson’s inviting ball, but Reach’s header was magnificently stopped by the keeper which suggested the luck was not with Darlington.

It certainly was not seconds later when Will Antwi’s attempted clearance from a Brown cross rebounded off Lee, but rolled just the wrong side of the post.

But the Mariners finished strongly. Darlington’s work-rate dropped, something that Liddle expressed his anger with after the game, as a result Russell was called on to make a couple of saves while the home fans greet their team’s touches with ‘oles’.

It was sad way to exit a competition that Darlington won so gloriously 217 days ago. But much has changed since then, and the fact there were ten teenagers in the 18-man travelling said much for the squad’s lack of senior pros.

Goals: Coulson (22, 1-0), Elding (44, 2-0), Coulson (49, 3-0)

Bookings: Townsend (15, foul); Taylor (33, foul)

Referee: Richard Wigglesworth (Doncaster)

Attendance: 1,527

Grimsby Town (4-4-2): McKeown; Wood, Antwi, I’Anson, Townsend; Coulson (Thanoj 83), Disley, Panther, McCarthy (Artus 75); Hearn, Elding (Duffy 74). Subs (not used): Silk, Pearson

Darlington (4-4-1-1): Russell; Taylor, Miller, Harrison, Brown; Rundle (J Gray 63), McReady, Bridge-Wilkinson, Reach; Hopson; Lee. Subs (not used): Nixon (gk), Atkinson, Ramshaw, Sanchez-Munoz