DARLINGTON'S play-off hopes suffered a blow when they were beaten at home by Curzon Ashton.

Quakers created very few chances, and were beaten by two set-pieces. The defeat means that they have dropped to tenth in the table, four points behind the play-off positions with five games remaining, with their next game coming up at leaders Gateshead on Monday.

Darlington manager Alun Armstrong said: “It was so disappointing that the players let themselves down after working ever so hard in every single game – today there was nothing.

“We maybe missed too many key players because of injuries, but we picked a team that we thought was good enough to win, but it certainly wasn’t.

“There wasn’t enough energy for me. We were on the back foot, we looked nervous and the pitch was lively and bobbly.

“We never got settled on the ball. I don’t think they had a shot and nor did we, it was an absolutely horrible game. There was just nothing there.

“I tried to change things at half-time and bring some energy and pace into the game, but there still wasn’t much there.

“We gave away two goals from stupid free-kicks that we should have done better with.”

There were chances for both teams in the opening minutes.

Kevin Dos Santos had a right-foot shot deflected wide from a Junior Mondal pull-back, then Jake Lawlor headed an out-swinging corner from Jarrett Rivers over the top.

Curzon had a good chance when a weak headed back-pass by Danny Ellis was seized upon by striker Craig Hobson, but Darlington keeper Tommy Taylor blocked his effort with his right foot at his near post.

Jake Cassidy also made a good run down the right, and his right-foot diagonal shot was held by Curzon keeper Chris Renshaw.

The visitors stunned Quakers by taking the lead on 34 minutes. They were awarded a free-kick for a foul about five yards outside the Darlington box, and Jordan Richards accurately placed the ball into the bottom right-hand corner.

In first-half stoppage time, Taylor held a looping header underneath his own crossbar from Thomas Peers.

Quakers made two subs at the start of the second half, Cameron Thompson and Dominic McHale coming on for Rivers and Cassidy, but it was Curzon who had the next chance to score when the Darlington defence failed to deal with a bouncing ball in their box, and Hobson blazed wide.

Alex Purver split the Curzon defence with a good through ball for Mondal, but the forward’s shot was blocked.

Richards’ set-piece ability showed again on 66 minutes, when he curled a free-kick from almost next to the corner flag over to the far post, where Marcus Poscha bundled the ball home.

The game was nearly out of sight on 70 minutes when Hobson raced through one-on-one, but he blazed his shot over the top.

Quakers continued to put in plenty of effort, but they couldn’t get past the Curzon defence until the last minute when Mondal’s shot was parried by Renshaw.

Darlington will attempt to spark their play-off hopes back into life when they return to action on Monday, although they face a stiff task as they head to the International Stadium to take on league leaders Gateshead, who thrashed Guiseley 6-0 yesterday.