DARTFORD suffered their third consecutive 2-1 defeat when they were beaten by Chelmsford City on Monday.

The latest reverse, however, saw a marked improvement in Darts’ performance and that, at the very least, is encouragement enough as the club faces a busy 2011 – fortunately with the bulk of fixtures to come at Princes Park.

Things continue to act against the team. The latest was the nasty injury to Tom Champion following an accidental clash of heads which resulted the Dart being substituted, patched up and transported to East Grinstead in order to get the required immediate treatment.

Thus, in a trice, Darts’ use of substitutions as a tactical weapon were reduced by a third.

It also meant an enforced rearguard reshuffle.

The opposition in the last three fixtures had several things in common, not least a bevy of pacy, low centre-of-gravity midfielders willing to run the ball at and into defences and it was this ability which was most prominent once Chelmsford went behind early in the second half.

Seven minutes after the restart, Darts won a corner on the right and Ryan Hayes delivered an astute kick into the visiting penalty area where it was headed firmly home to put Dartford in front.

The goal was claimed by James White but given to Carl Rook by the tannoy man.

In response, Chelmsford made a double substitution with Reed replacing Ake and Edmans replacing Lock.

This did the trick and City scored two quick goals – the first from Billy Bricknell a minute later and the eventual winner from a Chelmsford player who, in former days, was clearly offside.

C'est la vie!

Overall, Chelmsford had the edge but there were clear signs that Darts will be able to face the rest of the season with quiet confidence, particularly if the Purcell-Rook combination continues to prosper as it showed clear signs of during the game.

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Dartford: Young, Bruce, Bonner, Champion (Harris 25), Goodacre, White (Shinn 77), Hayes (Burchell 77), Burns, Rook, Purcell, Bradbrook. Subs not used: Sheringham, Burgess. Att: 1,321.