THOSE little rubs of the green which had served Darts faithfully in the league since mid-December deserted them on Saturday.

First, Deren Ibrahim was on Kent County duty, then John Guest was ruled out just prior to kick-off time.

Darts kicked down the slope in the first half, backed by a high sun blazing from a steel-blue sky and once the opening sparring was over, their first attack of note ended with a Jamie Day corner being cleared from under the bar.

For a while it was the Day-Flanagan show, with this combination causing problems and the general terrace feeling was Darts might well win at a canter.

When Ashford did make headway, it was usually through the wraith-like Ricky Wellard who was operating on the right but cutting diagonally to towards the left corner-flag. The end product was invariably a safe field from Andrew Young. A four-minute bout of treatment to James White certainly disrupted the rhythm of the half and delayed the interval whistle blow.

On the restart, a good move between Brendon Cass and the ever-reliable Rob Haworth saw the latter’s header comfortably gathered by home keeper Paul Burgess. The half ended with Darts possibly slightly ahead on points as Cass set up Lee Noble who shot wide with two minutes on the clock.

There was a slight delay to the start of the second period while the goal-netting was attended to, but on 50 minutes Ashford took the lead. With the ball roughly on the Dartford penalty spot, a moment’s indecision in Darts’ erstwhile immaculate defence allowed Byron Harrison to hit a low shot into the back of the net.

Darts responded with determination but their usual precision deserted them. Crosses which usually found their targets were now arriving a micro-second early and, thus, headed wide. And that, really, was the tale of the half, Darts’ league colours being lowered for the first time since 13 December.

The NLP correspondent gave man-of-the-match to Rob Haworth and, to be sure, he was figuratively, as well as physically, light years ahead of everyone else. Tommy Osborne, making starting performance number 245, was his usual immaculate self and was a comfortable second.

Dartford: Young, Eferakorho, Gross (Bunn 72), Flanagan, Coyle, Osborne, White (Dingri 46), Day, Cass (Whitnell 78), Haworth, Noble. Sub not used: Holding .