ASHINGTON CFC manager Gary Middleton pulled no punches after his side were hammered 6-1 by Darlington at Bishop Auckland’s Heritage Park ground on Saturday.
The boss, who compared his side’s inept showing to their FA Carlsberg Vase exit at Shortwood last season, thought they were outplayed from start to finish and has called on them to eradicate defensive frailties.
A dejected Middleton said: “We made a great start by taking the lead and that was important to try and take the momentum out of the game.
“We knew they would throw everything at us and within five minutes we were 2-1 down.
“The game then panned out and we were certainly not out of it at half-time.”
Middleton emphasised to his troops at the interval that chances would come their way – but they would have to defend better.
“I told the players to stick with it but we also knew it was never going to be easy,” he added.
“Darlington have lots of good quality all over the pitch and we had to dig in.
“With the players we have got I knew we would get opportunities, but we would also have to defend better.”
Within two minutes after the resumption, the Quakers added a third from the penalty spot.
“We conceded straight after half-time and then it was all downhill,” said Middleton.
“I was bitterly disappointed in the way we conceded goals today.
“Take nothing away from Darlington because we were beaten by a good team – but they have exposed defensive frailties.
“I thought we paid them too much respect throughout the 90 minutes – but we were nevertheless totally outplayed from start to finish even though we took the lead.
“Had we taken one point then I would have been happy, but quite simply we weren’t at the races, and it was a performance on par with the Shortwood defeat in the Vase last season.
“We need to understand that we cannot defend like we did and expect to get anything.
“For me there was not enough desire. It was a great opportunity and stage for the players to express themselves and they should have looked to have stood up and be counted.
“Instead there were not many positives to come out of the game for us at all.”
Just to compound to Middleton’s day of woe, the boss will now have to reckon without lynchpin defender Craig Scott who damaged ankle ligaments after landing awkwardly following an aerial challenge and who is expected to be ruled out for several weeks.
Gareth Williams was also substituted at half-time through injury.