Back in the early 1990s after a controversial refereeing display at Feethams, the man in black was struck by an apple thrown with anger and accuracy by an irate Darlington supporter in the East Stand.

Saturday’s referee Paul Cooper can be thankful a frustrated fan brandishing a yellow card in his direction was as bad as it got for him at Blackwell Meadows, plus a fair amount of booing, despite a string of bizarre decisions.

His performance was unacceptable and Darlington are to file a report with the FA, which will be no surprise to those who witnessed Cooper’s calamitous afternoon.

His poor judgement had an impact on the outcome of Darlington’s 2-2 draw with Gloucester City.

Little wonder Alun Armstrong stormed onto the pitch at full-time to offer Cooper a blunt assessment.

“Going away from this game today, he needs to have a good, long hard look at himself if he wants to be a referee at any level,” Armstrong said. “I’ve seen Sunday league referees referee better than that.

“He looked like he’d just won a raffle and was running around out there for fun.”

The frustration triggered by Cooper almost inevitably means less focus on Quakers’ own below-par performance, which was not worth more than a point against a team third-bottom of the table.

They failed to get going before the break, a drab first 45 in which scoring chances for each side were few and Darlington missed the influential Will Hatfield.

Sciatica sidelined the skipper – he may return on Tuesday at Boston United – but without his penetrating runs Quakers were lacking.

“It wasn’t a great performance,” admitted Armstrong. “The first half an hour was slow and laboured, we had little spells where it was decent.”

The first Cooper clanger came toward the end of the first 45, awarding a free-kick against Jake Cassidy despite the striker being elbowed by Gloucester defender Ben Nugent. Nugent would have been sent off had the laws of the game been correctly applied, instead Cooper gave him a free-kick.

Armstrong sought a meeting at half-time, and later explained: “You ask him what he’s seen, and all he says is ‘haven’t you ever made a mistake?’

“I’ve been involved in football 25 years and I’ve never seen a more blatant elbow in my life. Everyone has seen it, but he gave the foul the other way.

“It looked to me like he didn’t want to give anything our way.

“I’m certain the assessor watching will have words with him.”

The second period was more entertaining, and it started with a terrific goal by Gloucester’s Oliver Hulbert.

Darlington contrived to concede a corner within seconds of the restart, and Hulbert’s well-hit volley gave Gloucester a 1-0 lead.

And on 54 minutes it was 2-0 with Hulbert, on loan from Bristol Rovers, again the scorer. He reacted quickest to head home when a team-mate’s shot had rebounded off the bar, though Armstrong argued Jack Lambert was fouled in the build-up.

Though there was plenty of time on the clock, a Quakers comeback appeared unlikely such was their laboured play, which was not at the standard of previous weeks at Kettering and Chester.

But they were given a helping hand by Ben Gerring, the Gloucester defender heading into his own net when attempting to stop a Jake Lawlor cross.

The goal from nowhere cranked up the noise, and fans and players alike had something else to shout about when Cooper failed to spot Cassidy being rugby-tackled inside Gloucester’s penalty area.

“It was the most blatant penalty I’ve ever seen,” was Armstrong’s view.

“There were loads of things today he or his assistants didn’t see.”

With Blackwell galvanised by sense of injustice, the Tin Shed was raucous and the atmosphere crackled as Darlington sought an equaliser. It came with 13 minutes to play, Lambert the provider.

He danced into the penalty area before pulling the back for stand-in captain Alex Purver to side-foot home.

A draw was fair, though Darlington would have had an injury-time penalty had Cooper spotted substitute Danny Ellis being pushed to the ground.

Darlington’s report on Cooper’s will not change anything – the game’s gone, focus now turns to Boston on Tuesday.

But it can be hoped Cooper is not sent to Blackwell again, as he’d risk receiving a second yellow card...