DARLINGTON manager Alun Armstrong says that a moment of madness cost Quakers the points at home to promotion-chasing Brackley on Saturday.

Quakers looked as if they might edge the game and complete a double over the Northamptonshire side, until two goals in eight second-half minutes gave the visitors the three points and almost certainly put Darlington out of the play-offs. They are now five points behind the play-off positions with just three games left to play.

“I thought we were the better team by a mile until a moment of madness by Danny Ellis,” said Armstrong. “He came out when he shouldn’t have done and made it easy for them to score.

“It seems to be a habit that our players have got. We seemed to be in control of that game – even their players were saying how good we were – and we missed some gilt-edged chances.

“And then Kallum Griffiths needlessly gave away a penalty. Two baffling decisions by two experienced lads. They know that.

“It seems to be a recurring theme that we make rash decisions at the wrong time. I thought Brackley couldn’t live with us at times, but we just needed that goal. Once we don’t put the ball in the net, we end up conceding.

“Brackley’s clean sheet record is unbelievable, I can’t remember one mistake that they made.

“I was confident in what we were doing, but you can’t prepare yourself for a moment of madness.

“It’s a pity, because I thought our three midfielders worked very well, and controlled the play really well.

“We have three games left now, and I can’t see us getting into the play-offs. We need to be better in both boxes next season – I know what we need, somebody to put the ball into the back of the net.”

Quakers nearly scored in the second minute. Nathan Lowe, who had a good game in midfield alongside Adriano Moke and Danny Rose, opened up the Brackley defence for Cameron Thompson to run into the box and have a shot saved low down by Brackley keeper Danny Lewis.

Lowe saw a 30-yard free kick fly just wide from the same distance from which he scored at Gateshead on Easter Monday, but then Brackley came more into the game and created two good chances.

Darlington keeper Tommy Taylor saved at point-blank range from Janaai Gordon, then Wes York hit the crossbar from the edge of the box.

But as the half went on, Quakers put some good passing moves together, but they couldn’t break down the best defence in the league until the second half started.

The impressive Lowe broke down the right and played the ball inside to Thompson, whose right-foot shot beat Lewis but slipped past the far post.

Quakers went even closer a minute later, when Kallum Griffiths won possession on the edge of the box and set up Moke, who side-stepped a challenge, fired goalwards, but Lewis tipped the ball over the top.

Quakers continued to play some good football on a bobbly bitch, but Brackley nearly took the lead on 64 minutes when sub Fabio Lopes had a close-range effort scrambled off the line by Ellis, then a follow-up blocked by Kevin Dos Santos on the other side of the goal.

The visitors weren’t to be denied though, and they took a grip on the game when a long ball was flicked on by Gordon with Ellis stranded for Lee Ndlovu to run though and stroke past Taylor.

It was 2-0 on 78 minutes when Griffiths tripped Gordon, and Jimmy Armson sent Taylor the wrong way from the spot.

Quakers had all the game after that, but there was no way Brackley with the best defence in the league, were going to concede twice in the time that was left.