DARLINGTON manager Steve Watson was unhappy with the penalty decision that leaves his side with a steeper mountain to climb in their fight to avoid relegation.

Quakers were beaten by a controversial 16th-minute penalty for a foul by Darlington goalkeeper Tommy Taylor on Brackley forward Morgan Roberts, which means that they stay seven points adrift of safety with 16 games remaining.

“The game turned on one decision,” said Watson. “Both dug-outs didn’t think it was a penalty. Decisions like these are too important for a referee to guess at, he should be 100 per cent sure to give a penalty.

“It was a big, big decision which is far too important to guess at. If you’re not 100 per cent sure, don’t give it. I thought there was a handball in the build-up as well.”

Quakers were better than the 2-1 defeat at Banbury, in that they did a lot more with the ball in Brackley’s final third, but they didn’t create many chances.

“I thought we played well in the second half," said Watson. "We changed the system at half-time to get somebody to play alongside Cedric Main. We played with a better tempo and we were a bit braver. Brackley had the lead and were sitting back, which is testament to us.

“Our second-half performance was pleasing to a degree. We had lots of good scenarios, good-quality balls, but we needed to be a bit cleverer with our runs into the box.”

Quakers nearly scored from their first corner in the second minute, when Kallum Griffiths curled the ball into the six-yard box where Cardo Siddik, on his return to the starting line-up, put in a powerful header that Brackley keeper Danny Lewis pushed over the bar.

Quakers continued to look bright, even though Brackley had a chance on 12 minutes that Roberts fired left-footed into Tommy Taylor’s hands.

The play-off chasers took the lead with what looked like a harsh penalty on 16 minutes. Shep Murombedzi fired in a 25-yarder that Taylor parried low down to his left and appeared to get his left hand on the loose ball as Roberts closed in, but when Roberts went down, the referee awarded a penalty that Danny Newton blasted into the top corner.

Quakers steadily regained some of their confidence, and thought they should have had a penalty themselves when Siddik seemed to be pushed at the near post as he went for a Griffiths corner from the right, but the referee waved play on.

But just on half-time, Brackley nearly got a second with a left-foot shot by Roberts that Taylor punched away, and Newton put the rebound wide.

Quakers dominated the possession in the second half and got into some good positions, but couldn’t create enough chances.

They picked up the pace of the game with Adriano Moke on for the injured Jake Lawlor, and on several occasions put in some good crosses from wide positions but nobody could get on the end of them. The best of them came when Siddik got round the back on the left and drove the ball across the face of goal without anyone getting a touch.

They nearly broke through on 76 minutes when Matty Cornish tried his luck with a 25-yarder that deflected off a defender, looped in the air and dropped just over the bar with the keeper beaten.

Instead of pushing for a second, Brackley dropped off and put 11 men behind the ball, which made it all the more difficult for Quakers to put their goal under pressure.