Darlington 0, Mansfield 2

A Darlington side crippled by injury and illness slumped to their sixth successive defeat.

A Darlington side crippled by injury and illness slumped to their sixth successive defeat.

Manager Dave Penney already had a spate of injuries to deal with when a bug swept through the club, leaving them without 12 players. Even though youth team players were drafted in Darlington's starting line-up included just seven fit players.

It took Mansfield, who had won only one away game all season, just four minutes to exploit the weakness, top scorer Richie Barker racing through unchallenged to go round keeper David Stockdale and roll in his 15th goal of the season.

Darlington must have feared the worst, but Mansfield missed several chances, while Stockdale turned Michael Boulding's header over the bar.

Darlington briefly rallied and teenage striker Shaun Reay, on his debut, fired narrowly over, Patrick Collins suffering the same fate with a header.

Darlington's situation worsened when experienced defender Mark Albrighton was unable to come out for the second half because of a hamstring strain. But brave Darlington applied 15 minutes of pressure, Anthony Griffith seeing a shot deflected narrowly wide.

However they were unable to force a single save out of Mansfield keeper Jason White and the visitors doubled their lead on 61 minutes. A quick free kick was worked to substitute Nathan Arnold who fired in off the post.

Barker missed a gilt-edged chance before Darlington handed a debut to youngster Josh Wright. But as Quakers faded only a string of saves by Stockdale kept the score down.

Penney refused to blame any of the players. He said: "We asked the Football League whether we could call the game off but they said we couldn't.

"It's not fair on the players or the paying public. Martin Smith was physically sick at half time but he bravely played on and we had others out there who were not well.

"But we just have to get on with it. The situation may be no better by Saturday's game with Shrewsbury. But if we had not played we would have been fined and lost the points."

Journalists

David Whetstone
Culture Editor
Graeme Whitfield
Business Editor
Mark Douglas
Newcastle United Editor
Stuart Rayner
Sports Writer