“We’re absolutely miles away,” was Alun Armstrong’s damning verdict after his Darlington side concluded pre-season with defeat at Whitby Town.

Quakers lost 2-1 today at the Turnbull Ground, meaning they start the National League North campaign next weekend having failed to win any of their friendlies.

Particularly eye-opening was how weak the centre of Darlington’s defence was, and a lacklusture second half in which Whitby goalkeeper Shane Bland did not have a save to make.

Armstrong held a post-match debrief on the pitch lasting 15 minutes, inviting the players to have their say on the team’s failings.

But it took a fraction of that time for him to offer a blunt assessment of the performance when speaking to the media.

Whitby went ahead on 11 minutes when striker Jacob Hazel held off stand-in Darlington centre-half Alex Purver before lobbing Tommy Taylor from 20 yards. Jake Cassidy equalised seven minutes later, but Hazel got the winner in the second half.

Armstrong said: “For 25 minutes I thought we were really good and could’ve been three or four goals up with the chances we created, but then we hit a brick wall. The intensity just stopped.

"It was schoolboy defending, not having cover. We’ve been saying it all pre-season.

“You could see the lads’ heads dropped a bit. They dug in and got their rewards with a goal, but we’re miles away, we’re absolutely miles away at the minute.

“I’ll defend them a bit because they’ve trained or played eight day out of 12, which is different from what they are used to, but that is still no excuse for that second half, it was so flat.”

With Alex Storey absent with a thigh strain, Purver partnered Lexus Beeden in the centre of the defence, but Beeden did not last the 90 minutes as he sustained an injury late on.

His substitution led to left-back George Smith playing alongside Purver at the heart of the defence, summing of Quakers’ troubles in that area of the team.

Armstrong explained: “A centre-half that was meant to be coming in ended up having a blowout on the A19, so I had to put Alex Purver in there.

“Lexus is struggling, Alex is struggling so I ended up putting George in there. I’ve been trying since the end of last season to try and get centre-halves in and we just seem to be hitting brick walls.

“Everyone I speak to seems to want one, you just cannot find one for love nor money. We’re going to be on the phone 24/7. I was even on the phone at 11.30pm last night, but it was someone further down the country and the logistics would’ve been a nightmare getting him up here.

“Every club you speak to seems to be having a shortage of centre-halves, and it’s a bit baffling if I’m honest.

“We’ve got to work with what we’ve got, but we’ve got to be a lot better and the lads know that. There’s no way we’ll accept that and they’ll be gone if they keep performing like that, that’s a certainty.”