Dartford 1-2 FC Halifax

News Shopper: Connor Essam scores Dartford's late consolation Connor Essam scores Dartford's late consolation

THERE was no pre-Christmas cheer for Dartford as they slipped to an eighth straight Conference defeat at home to FC Halifax on Saturday.

The real turning point in this vital fixture came in the opening minutes when a blatant hand-ball by a visiting defender was ignored by the referee.

It was so noticeable even the otherwise silent home fans behind the Academy End goal erupted in disbelief.

Sadly, when it’s not going your way these things happen.

By all accounts the visitors were weakened by the unavailability of five regulars and for much of the game there was nothing in it.

That was reflected by the poor response from behind the visitors’ goal.

Oh drummer, where art thou?

The first half was pretty well even but Halifax had possibly the best chances when Alan Julian made a couple of smart saves from Joe Ironside.

Lee Noble was back to his mercurial best for the hosts and was forever driving hard at the visitors.

What is sadly missing at the minute, though, is someone to actually plant the ball in the net.

Also noticeably absent is the injured Ryan Hayes, whose ability to mix his crosses from the right causes confusion among defences.

Injuries have been a major headache to the management team all season because as one player gets fit, another is ruled out.

Just before half-time Halifax almost had a lucky break when the always reliable Kenny Clark mis-headed a clearance to concede a corner.

Villain became hero when he rose to head the right-side flag kick to safety.

Halifax were obviously under instructions to up the pace after the break.

They were rewarded in the 63rd minute as a Dan Gardner cross found Ironside, whose shot on the turn beat Julian to put the visitors in front.

Ten minutes later an Adam Smith cross found its way to Josh Wilson at the far post to double Halifax’s advantage.

The final quarter of an hour was nail-biting on the terraces as Darts strove to get back on terms.

And with time running out, a Connor Essam header from a Dave Martin curling free-kick gave them renewed hope, although ultimately it was too late in the day to rescue a point.

Darts travel to Alfreton Town on Saturday (3pm).

Dartford: Julian, Burns, Clark, Essam, Stirling, Noble (Cornhill 83), Stevenson, Bradbrook, Martin, Birchall (Harris 60), Godden. Subs not used: Mitchel-King, Collier, Woodyard. Att 952.

* Dominic Solanke grabbed a hat-trick as Dartford’s gallant youngsters were beaten 4-0 by Chelsea in the FA Youth Cup last Thursday evening.

The Premier League side’s other goal came courtesy of Fankaty Dabo.

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