Moors were knocked out of the FA Trophy on Tuesday night as local rivals Darlington produced a powerful first half performance at The Brewery Field.
The Quakers were three goals to the good inside half an hour as Jack Lambert opened the scoring before a double from Jacob Hazel saw the visitors take the tie by the scruff of its neck.
Moors improved after the break and pulled a goal back when Corey McKeown came off the bench to open his account for the Club but there was no recovery, and it was Darlington who progressed to Round Four.
Jason Ainsley’s men made a fairly positive start to the game and could even have snatched the lead in the early stages after good work from Glen Taylor down the left, but Paul Blackett couldn’t divert his low cross in at the near post.
Things started to unravel for Moors on 12 minutes though when a long ball forward fell kindly to Mark Beck and he showed great awareness to lift a pass over the top for Lambert who cleverly lobbed a finish over Bellagambi for 1-0.
Less than two minutes later the visitors doubled their advantage. This time they knitted together a lovely move which culminated in a low ball into the penalty area which was laid off beautifully for Hazel to drive home a second goal.
Taylor had a chance for Moors but dragged a shot wide, while Beck did similar for Darlington as Ainsley’s side looked for a foothold back in the tie.
However, hope was all but extinguished just before the half hour mark when Moors made a mess of trying to clear a ball into the box and Hazel managed to squeeze a shot into the net from close range.
There was a wonderful opportunity for Moors to reduce the deficit almost immediately when Rob Ramshaw did well down the right and slipped a low ball into the path of the arriving Elliott Whitehouse, but the on-loan midfielder sliced a left-footed effort wide of the target.
Darlington could have added a fourth in the closing stages of the first period when Hazel once again got a sight on goal and lobbed the ball over Bellagambi, only for Michael Ledger to recover in time to clear the ball off the line.
The Quakers could afford to take their foot off the pedal after the break, but they still managed to keep Moors at arms’ length during the opening exchanges of the second half, Lambert even going close to adding their fourth but shooting straight at Bellagambi.
Tom Allan’s introduction at the interval made a difference and Corey McKeown also looked lively from the bench, earning his rewards for some persistent play when he got in down the right of the penalty area to prod home his first Moors goal on 76 minutes.
It gave a shred of renewed hope for the crowd inside The Brewery Field, and they were almost celebrating again moments later when Taylor unleased a low shot on goal which unfortunately flashed into the side netting.
Good work between Allan and Lewis Thompson provided another opening and the latter’s low cross found John Lufudu, whose driven shot was blocked and then Thompson saw his follow-up effort squirt wide via a deflection.
In the end, Darlington saw the game through with relative comfort and it will be they who progress to the Fourth Round for a trip to face Southend United at Roots Hall in the New Year.
Full Time: Moors 1 Darlington 3
Moors: Bellagambi, Lufudu (Anderson 73), Cousin-Dawson, Tait, Ledger, Thompson, Boyle, Whitehouse (McKeown 64), Ramshaw, Taylor, Blackett (Allan 46).
Subs not used: Flatters, Wheatley, Watt, Garratt.
Darlington: Taylor, Dodds, Sukar, Hedley, Moke, Hazel (Almond 82), Lambert (Rivers 92), Beck, Purver (Liddle 75), Felix, Griffiths.
Subs not used: Rose, Martin.
Referee: Gareth Thomas