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Chelmsford City 1 Dartford 1 match report

By Steve Tervet

Dartford's injury list got even longer at Chelmsford on Saturday.

Andy Pugh and Lee Noble both limped off at Melbourne Park, where a Luke Wanadio header was cancelled out by Shaun Jeffers as it finished 1-1.

This was a good point for the Darts, particularly in the circumstances, although manager Tony Burman now has real selection issues ahead of Tuesday night's home game against Gosport.

Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture Andy Payton

Dartford manager Tony Burman Picture: Andy Payton

Dartford arrived in Essex already missing three key players.

Elliot Bradbrook's damaged ankle ligaments kept him out again, so Tom Bonner wore the captain's armband, while Ronnie Vint and Duane Ofori-Acheampong were sidelined by the injuries they picked up during Wednesday's 1-0 defeat at Whitehawk.

Centre-half Vint suffered concussion in Brighton and also broke his wrist, while Ofori-Acheampong had to come off with a hamstring problem. Following a late fitness test at Melbourne Park, the big centre-forward was rested as a precaution.

Pugh and Noble both started for the first time this season, with Keaton Wood dropping back into central defence to partner Bonner in Vint's absence.

Chelmsford boss Rod Stringer was forced into a solitary change.

Former Ebbsfleet striker Billy Bricknell failed to shake off the knock he sustained in midweek so Shamir Mullings started up front for a City side which also included Dartford old boy Max Cornhill and Robbie Willmott, released by Fleet in the summer.

After a quiet opening 10 minutes, Dartford came so close to taking a spectacular lead.

Wanadio forced a corner down the left and when Noble's ball in was only cleared as far as Ryan Hayes, he played the ball back to Noble. The midfielder stepped inside and hit a shot from all of 40 yards which rattled the top of the far post with goalkeeper Joe Welch totally beaten.

Chelmsford then enjoyed a good spell, Jeffers forcing a simple save from Deren Ibrahim before Wood positioned himself well to block a goalbound shot from Mullings.

The same player craned his neck to meet a cross from the right moments later but Mullings' header dropped wide of the far post.

At the other end, Wanadio and Noble failed to hit the target with shots from distance.

Things seemed to be opening up for Chelmsford when Willmott fed overlapping right-back Ashley Miller but his ball into the middle was quickly cut out.

Play was held up when Pugh went down near the centre circle and the striker, after treatment, had to come off. Academy graduate Ben Francis was sent on in his place and Pugh immediately took a seat next to the club doctor in the dugout to discuss the problem.

City tried to turn the screw in the last 15 minutes of the first half, pushing Dartford back.

Mullings fired over, Jeffers hacked an effort wide and captain Anthony Church then had Ibrahim scrambling with a long shot which bounced just in front of him.

Church glanced a header wide from Willmott's left-wing corner in what was Chelmsford's best chance of the half, before Francis did well to head clear another dangerous set-piece from Willmott.

But the visitors almost took the lead six minutes before the break.

Wanadio counter-attacked to good effect down the Darts right, turning away from two defenders and crossing well for Danny Harris. His header looked to be creeping in but Welch managed to grab the ball before it crossed the line.

Noble wasn't moving too freely at the start of the second half but he did well to get a shot away from 25 yards, the ball swirling over Welch's crossbar.

And the visitors, primarily looking to strike on the break, took the lead on 54 minutes.

Hayes floated over a cross from the right and Wanadio, climbing well at the back post, squeezed a good header inside the far post.

Chelmsford had a good chance to equalise soon after but although Jeffers managed to get beyond Tom Wynter, he skied his shot from a good position.

However, it was all square on 65 minutes when Jeffers turned smartly in the box and fired low beyond Ibrahim's left hand.

Chelmsford, with their tails up, almost scored again. Cornhill thundered a shot towards the top corner from long-range and only a flying save by Ibrahim denied his former team-mate.

The visitors were rocking now and after Noble had limped out of the game, it needed a save of the highest quality from Ibrahim kept the scores level. Bagasan Graham skipped inside a challenge and drilled the ball towards the bottom corner but Ibrahim somehow got fingertips to it.

Chris Bush curled a free-kick just over and Dartford survived an almighty scramble in the six-yard box before Jeffers glanced a header onto the roof of the net from Willmott's inviting cross.

But the Darts negotiated three minutes of added time to claim a hard-earned point. 

Chelmsford: Welch, Miller (Daley 79mins), Blanchett, Cornhill, Bush, Haines, Willmott, Church, Jeffers, Mullings (Skepelhorn 60mins), Graham (Reid 89mins). Subs not used: Bailey-Dennis, Merrifield.

Dartford: Ibrahim, Gardiner, Wynter, Bonner, Wood, A Brown, Hayes, Noble (E Brown 73mins), Harris, Pugh (Francis 25mins, Dembele 88mins), Wanadio. Subs not used: Seixas, Coxall.

Attendance: 780.

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