Dartford 0-1 Bishop's Stortford

WITH the prestige money-spinners against Charlton and Crystal Palace and the warm-up regional engagements behind them, Darts took on Blue Square South Bishops Stortford last night in a proper test.

Despite going down to a narrow defeat, Tony Burman's side emerged with credit against a club which always seems to have a slice of luck when playing the Darts.

Last night was no exception as the visitors acquired a rather fortuitous goal eight minutes after the interval when Craig Edwards was on hand to guide an effort past Tony Kessell from six yards out.

Contrast this with a real opportunity for Darts shortly before half-time when a swift break carved open the visitors' rearguard, freeing Lee Noble.

However, just as Noble was about to pull the trigger, he was laid low, probably by a Rugby League divot.

Short of only Jamie Coyle, Darts' defence gave a polished display against opponents used to going into battle armed with the up-and-under ammunition provided by a typically no-nonsense Isthmian-style defence.

For spells in the first half Darts worked the ball through the midfield and along the flanks, finding their men in space.

This was a tactic which Bishop's countered with tight marking and simplistic 60-yarders out of defence.

They were very good and effective at this and one of the problems is you have to be careful not to be sucked into it.

At the same time, it is an education for the onlooker who can end up admiring the sheer relentness of it all.

Chances were few and far between, particularly after the half-time team talks. However, Bishop's Stortford had to thank keeper Nicky Eyre for keeping their goal unsullied by providing two fine saves and one prodigious one to keep Darts out around the 75 minute mark.

With the bonding weekend and some local skirmishes coming up, Darts have the time to appraise and adjust ready for the arrival of Bromley who, doubtless ask similar questions.

Dartford: Kessell (Ibrahim 83), Ketchell (Osborne 45), Holding (Green 45), Flanagan, Guest, Dafter, Hayes (Lewis 65), Barnes, Howarth, Powell (Butterworth 45), Noble (White 65). Att: 454.