TWO-NIL up at half time and cruising. Darlington looking confident. Telford looking jaded. The game had five goals written all over it and it wouldn’t have been unreasonable to think Darlo would have scored them all as the players walked off at the break.

Nobody in the ground could have predicted how the second half would pan out which probably explains why everyone exited at full time in shock at what they’d seen. We had some spectacular capitulations last season but this one was right up there if not beyond.

The football on display this season has been reasonable. On the whole, it has done pretty much what was asked of it in terms of achieving runs in cups, but there is one nagging little issue that seems to be a recurring theme – the capacity to have a truly awful 45 minutes. We saw it in the first halves at Farsley and Brackley. Saturday’s defeat to Telford was the first time we saw it at Blackwell Meadows.

A big difference between the catastrophic first halves at Farsley and Brackley was it happened after the break. Unlike the other two games, we had built a healthy advantage rather than facing an insurmountable deficit. To throw away that lead against a Telford side which had looked leggy and disinterested was an eye-opener.

No doubt since Saturday evening a post-mortem has been undertaken. Were the lads complacent? Were they tired? Did Telford find several extra gears not evident in the first half? I suspect the reality is a little bit of everything. Tired legs and tired minds make mistakes. There were plenty of individual errors in the second half to suggest that. Once momentum had shifted and fatigue had set in, there was little we could do to stop Marcus Dinanga getting his hat-trick.

I can imagine some will no doubt find the manner of defeat frustrating. However, I think most of us can see the building blocks of how we got there. The squad look seriously fatigued from their recent exploits. The games, particularly the two against Walsall, appear to have taken their toll both physically and mentally. You can see players aren’t making great decisions and they don’t have the energy in the tank to rectify them. Add to that the lack of a real striker and it is pushing the rest of the team to the limit.

In recent games Alun Armstrong has appeared to feel the need to move away from what appeared to be a well-functioning 4-3-3 set-up and it hasn’t really clicked for us. Five at the back at Brackley did nothing to stop the onslaught and in the last couple of games at Blackwell Meadows playing Jack Lambert in an advanced midfield role has left us looking a bit exposed in the centre of the park.

With the lack of the real quality up top which Tyrone O’Neill brought, it feels like the rest of the side are over-compensating going forward which appears to leave us vulnerable to the counter. Sadly, with a new striker still not being on the horizon as I write this, we are just going to have to deal with what we’ve got.

However, frustrating all this is, we need to stick together and get behind the lads. This is about the worst possible time for us to be looking jaded. A midweek trip to Leamington is just brutal. Then, we have a run of games through December against sides that are either full time or are lot closer to being full time than us. These games will strain every sinew.

Hopefully, with the fans’ backing, the players can eke out every last ounce of energy and we can defy the odds and get some positive results. Of course, a striker would be a massive help, but I guess we’ll just have to bide our time and hope Santa Claus can stuff one down the chimney. If not, you never know what we might be able to pick up in the New Year sales.