TWO second half strikes from visitors Darlington ended Leamington’s FA Cup hopes for another season in a 2-0 loss in the penultimate round of qualifying.
Tyrone O’Neill put the County Durham side ahead on 64 minutes with a well-taken finish before substitute Justin Donowa made sure of Darlington’s progression in the dying minutes.
Brakes manager Paul Holleran made a couple of changes to the side which lost to Hereford, handing starts to Jack Lane and Connor Taylor, with new loan signing Dexter Walters named on the substitutes bench for the first time since moving from Coventry.
It was the hosts who enjoyed the best of the early chances, going close when Josh March connected with Jack Edwards’ downwards header into his path, although not getting the necessary purchase required on the strike.
Lane then tried his luck with a strike at goal, although the direction of the shot was lacking and made easy work for Darlington’s Liam Connell.
A header from Taylor threatened to break the deadlock when rising to meet a ball from Kaiman Anderson at the far post, before March thumped a drive at goal over the bar.
Edwards again made use of his stature to thump a header goalwards from Reece Flanagan’s corner, forcing Connell into a jaw-dropping stop to claw the ball away on the goalline.
Brakes kept knocking on the door but were unable to demonstrate the cutting edge required to find the net, March doing well to beat his marker but failing to match his run with his dragged finish past the post.
Down the other end, the visitors finally threatened when Will Hatfield teed up Adam Campbell for an effort which narrowly drifted over the bar, proving the last chance of the first half.
Despite all of the first half action being in Darlington’s third, it was the visitors who emerged the brighter of the two sides in the second half.
Eventually the Quakers’ pressure told when O’Neill turned with his back to goal before picking out the far corner of the net to take the lead midway through the half.
Holleran’s side felt unfortunate not to drag themselves on level terms straight away when Anderson was put through on goal, though his strike lacked conviction and gave the keeper a chance to tip the ball away.
Connell was then called into action to keep out Flanagan’s blistering strike at goal, followed by another drive by March which failed to hit the target.
Darlington compounded a disappointing display of finishing from the hosts by doubling their lead two minutes from time, when Donowa tapped home from close range after Brakes failed to clear.
Leamington return to National League North action on Saturday (3pm) when hosting Alfreton Town.