Darlington could have few complaints about going out to Ossett Town in the Doodson Sports Cup at Heritage Park last night.
With an eye on the clash at Warrington on Saturday, Quakers manager Martin Gray omitted as many regular players as he was permitted by the rules, but just like the 183 fans he would have been disappointed with the lacklustre performance, especially after Quakers had convincingly beaten Ossett Town twice already this season.
New signing Dale Hopson almost opened the scoring after just 20 seconds, but Quakers did take the lead in the fifth minute.
A build up down the left ended with a cross from another new signing, Steven Hetherington, to the far post where Alan White headed past Chris Wood.
Injury and illness has struck Ossett meaning they had to select Wood, a striker with eight goals this season, in goal.
The visitors who had already lost in the league and FA Trophy to Quakers this season, nearly equalised on 12 minutes with a 30 yarder by Danny Eyles, that keeper Peter Jameson saved one-handed.
Ossett deservedly levelled two minutes before the break when a corner by Fernando Moke went unchallenged into the six yard box where Ryan Qualter turned the ball past Jameson.
Darlington gave newcomer Theo Furness from Billingham Synthonia an outing in the second half in place of Chris Moore, but it was Ossett who looked the more likely to score, and Shaq Clarke-Adams burst through, but Jameson saved at his feet. And on 51 minutes Eyles also got away, but Jameson again blocked.
Quakers created their first chance for some time on 56 minutes when Steve Johnson laid the ball off for Hetherington to drag a right foot shot wide.
Ossett's enterprise paid off on 65 minutes when Eyles beat Paul Weldon on the right and crossed low into the middle for Ward to bundle over the line.
Ward's next goal was more refined, when he beat Jameson with a blistering right foot shot into the top corner from the edge of the area.
It was nearly 4-1 when Ward sent Eyles away again, but the striker blazed his right foot shot wide.
Assistant manager Brian Atkinson said: "We were lacklustre and a few players underachieved, especially after beating them twice already this season.
"One or two players looked rusty, but that's no excuse, we should have been better than that."