DARTFORD marked their return to the Conference with a 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Tamworth.

Peter Till and Adam Cunnington put the visitors in command before Elliot Bradbrook’s free-kick on the stroke of half-time gave the Darts hope.

Cunnington added a third in the second half and even though substitute Harry Crawford reduced the deficit, Tamworth held on for all three points.

Lloyd Kerry’s sixth minute effort took a deflection and was easily gathered by Darts keeper Louis Wells.

Tom Marshall headed over at the back post after rising high to meet Marcus Kelly’s 10th minute corner and only a super stop by Wells denied Tommy Wright four minutes later.

James Rogers saw his 17th minute shot blocked as the visitors struggled to deal with a corner before the danger was eventually cleared.

Rogers should have put the darts in front when he headed over after meeting Lee Noble’s free-kick but it was Tamworth who took the lead seconds later as keeper Tony Breeden’s long clearance wasn’t dealt with by Adam Green, allowing Till to capitalise and lift the ball coolly over Wells.

Marshall’s audacious overhead kick almost doubled the Lambs’ advantage three minutes later.

There was a mass confrontation on the halfway line following a foul on Noble, with Jacob Erskine and Tamworth's Sam Oji both cautioned as a result.

Dartford’s afternoon went from bad to worse when they conceded a second five minutes before the break and again it was from a defensive mistake as Tom Bonner gifted possession to Cunnington, who punished the mistake by firing past Wells.

Danny Harris saw his shot put behind a minute before the break for a corner and the Darts grabbed a lifeline deep into first half stoppage time after being awarded a free-kick on the edge of the box.

Connor Gudger was adjudged to have fouled Noble, a decision which infuriated the Tamworth bench, and Bradbrook stepped up to smash the free-kick home with a low drive which beat the wall and Breeden.

Tamworth could have added a third within a minute of the second half after they were awarded a free-kick on the edge of the same box, the exact same spot in fact from which Darts had scored their goal.

Wells came out to try and punch clear Cunnington’s effort but the ball only went as far as Scott barrow, who headed over from close range.

Harris almost met a right wing cross but was beaten to it by a Tamworth defender who put it behind for a corner.

Dartford should have been back on terms on the hour when Noble’s delightful pass picked out Harris but his lob sailed just wide of the post.

Tony Burman made a double change on 64 minutes by replacing Rogers and Erskine with Ryan Hayes and Crawford.

Noble placed a header wide from Hayes’ 75th minute delivery but it was Tamworth who pulled further clear within 60 seconds as Cunnington unleashed an unstoppable curling shot from just outside of the box which gave Wells no chance.

Dartford were almost back in it immediately but Breeden punched clear Harris’ shot but it was game on in the 79th minute when Crawford connected with Bradbrook’s flick on and headed home.

Jon Wallis came on for Noble with seven minutes remaining in Dartford’s third and final change.

Tamworth skipper Richard Tait cleared Bradbrook’s 88th minute shot off the line following a goalmouth scramble and Bradbrook went close again with an overhead kick that went just wide.

But despite five minutes of injury time, and a gallant second half display, Dartford just couldn’t find the elusive equaliser their efforts probably deserved.

Next up is Woking away on Tuesday.

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Dartford: Wells, Burns, Green, Champion, Arber, Bonner, Noble (Wallis 83), Rogers (Hayes 64), Erskine (Crawford 64), Bradbrook, Harris. Subs not used: Rose, Collier. Att: 1,370.