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Woeful Darlington slump to new low
Lincoln City 5 Darlington 0
RELEGATION-BOUND Darlington sank to their lowest point of the season as they suffered a humiliating defeat at Lincoln City.
Their performance on Saturday against Grimsby indicated that they still had some fight in them, but yesterday’s display was embarrassing and manager Craig Liddle said it was “nothing short of disgraceful”.
It was 4-0 by half-time against a team who were not clear of the relegation picture themselves.
Perhaps Saturday’s 0-0 draw took too much out of Quakers who stuck with the same line-up while Lincoln were able to make a small number of changes in response to a 4-0 hiding at Stockport.
Whatever the reason, the performance was the club’s worst since losing 5-0 at Torquay in December 2009.
That game came midway through their last relegation season, but yesterday’s result all but confirmed Darlington’s demotion to the Conference North.
They are not yet relegated - they are 11 points from safety with 12 to play for - but they are doomed to the drop.
From an early stage the Imps were in control and it stayed that way.
Left-back John Nutter curled a free-kick wide of the wall and post inside the first ten minutes after Kris Taylor had fouled Danny Lloyd who went on to become a key figure.
Quakers’ John McReady showed glimpses of his talent when he made two bursting runs with the ball, but it was not long before the Imps took the lead.
From a free-kick, conceded by Haydn Hollis, the ball was played to Lincoln’s Taylor whose rasping drive was parried by Jordan Pickford and Lloyd was on hand to play the ball into the empty net.
The lead was doubled just after the half-hour mark with the first of three goals inside seven minutes.
Power crossed from the right and Taylor out-jumped the Darlington defence to head home from ten yards.
It was poor defending from Darlington given that Taylor was among the smallest players on the pitch.
Power was again the provider when Lincoln added a third. His free-kick into Quakers’ six-yard box was allowed to bounce before Jefferson Louis glanced past Pickford.
Given the ageing Louis’ lack of threat during his short spell at The Northern Echo Arena last season, conceding such a soft goal made for another embarrassment.
That embarrassment soon turned to humiliation, particularly for Neil Wainwright as his gaffe led to a fourth goal.
The makeshift right-back got the ball caught under his feet inside his own half under pressure from Taylor, and Lloyd nipped in to hit a deflected shot over the keeper.
The ball took a significant diversion off Johnson, though he will not want to be credited with the goal, but he could not absolve himself of responsibility for the red card which saw him sent off just before the break.
He hauled down Louis on the edge of the penalty area and as the last man referee Richard West had no hesitation in sending-off the defender.
Taylor reverted to centre-back and Wainwright was withdrawn at the break with Paul Arnison sent on and at the beginning of the second half ten-man Darlington showed more resilience.
Numerically disadvantaged they may have been, but Darlington demonstrated the spirit lacking before the break.
However, it was the Imps that had the scoring chances.
Louis powered a free-kick against a post and Taylor should have made it 5-0 on 65 minutes, but he somehow missed his kick when he had the whole goal to aim at inside the six-yard area when meeting Paul Robson’s delivery.
Tyrone Thompson blasted an effort wide when unmarked, but the scoring was completed when Louis scored another header.
He rose at the near post to meet Robson’s cross, capping Quakers’ misery on a woeful day.
Lincoln supporters chanted for a sixth goal, to which the 172 visiting fans responded with “we want one”.
Their support was unstinting and deserved a goal to cheer, but it would not come though there could have been a penalty for handball when Adam Rundle saw a shot blocked.
Late on Arnison flung himself to deflect wide a shot that prevented Lloyd from scoring his hat-trick, but it did not lessen the shame of losing so emphatically and after the match Liddle was furious.
He said: “The fans clapped the players off after that, it’s laughable.
“I’m choked that they’ve clapped us off after an absolutely disgraceful performance.”