Boxing Day Woes for Clarets
Andy Pugh’s strike on the hour succumbed the Clarets to a Boxing Day defeat as Dartford extended their unbeaten run to eight league games.
Chelmsford City started the game well and were deservedly level at the break after an impressive defensive performance, but they found themselves chasing when Pugh fired home from the edge of the box on the hour.
It left the Clarets without a home win since mid-September while the Darts maintained their fine-form and play-off push.
The Clarets made one alteration from the starting eleven that lost 2-0 to Wealdstone last week, with Mark Haines returning from suspension and thus forcing Harry Morgan to a place on the bench. City chief Mark Hawkes put two new signings on the bench though, with striker Billy Hunt and left-back Dexter Peter ready to make an impact.
With their Christmas dinners still settling it would’ve been forgiven had there been a slow start to the match, although that wasn’t the case as the Clarets attacked from the off, only for Bagasan Graham’s cross to fly wide.
The Darts, on a fine run of results having not tasted defeat in their last seven league games and sitting just two points off the play-offs at the start of Saturday afternoon, took a while to find their feet but showed a resilience that the Clarets found difficult to get by.
They were almost undone though when the ball dropped to Luke Daley in the box but, instead of taking his time and picking his spot, drilled disappointingly over the bar.
It was a let of for the Darts although for all of the Clarets’ early possession they struggled to sting the gloves of Deren Ibrahim, although he was well protected by the imposing, former West Ham youngster Callum McNaughton and Ronnie Vint.
Ibrahim did have to be alert to Ben Marlow’s curling shot from outside the box after they failed to deal with Graham’s long, teasing throw, but it was a routine save in the end from the custodian as the Clarets looked to force a breakthrough.
Dartford kept knocking, skipper Elliot Bradbrook went close with a headed effort on the half hour mark, but the best chance came ten-minutes before the interval after some harrying pressured Marlow into conceding possession. The ball then broke and found its way to the feet of Andy Pugh who moved inside Haines before firing a shot at Tim Brown. It was well-struck but the West Ham loanee was equal to the effort and strongly palmed away.
With the Clarets making it to half-time level, and after an organised performance that’s been a marked improvement in recent weeks, they looked to make a fast start after the break and came close when Billy Bricknell’s shot on the turn had to be diverted away.
But within minutes the Darts countered and forced Brown into another save, this time full-back Mark Onyemah was allowed to venture forward, sending a rasping shot into the gloves of the shot stopper.
Dartford continued their attacking onslaught and Brown made a full-stretch stop to prevent Danny Harris’ curling effort to ripple the back of the net, and the Clarets suddenly looked under pressure.
City were unable to cope with the sustained attacks and found themselves trailing on the hour mark. Andy Pugh’s cushioned touch from the edge-of-the-box following Ibrahim's punt up-field allowed him space to fire a ferocious shot past the helpless Brown and into the bottom corner. It’s not what the hosts deserved, but the goal was always coming.
Chelmsford attempted to work their way back into the match, Bricknell came closest but was denied by a last-ditch block at the near post, but it just wasn’t coming as their dreadful home record continued.
Next up is a trip to St Albans on Bank Holiday Monday, and with the Clarets not recording a win for four matches, a win will be crucial against a side who are occupying the league's relegation zone.
1. Tim Brown
2. Rob Girdlestone
3. Bagasan Graham
4. Lee Sawyer
5. Marvin Ekpiteta
6. Rory McAuley
7. Ben Marlow
8. Mark Haines
9. Billy Bricknell
10. Matthew Whichelow
11. Luke Daley
12. Jake Gordon (On for Luke Daley, 73’)
14. Billy Hunt (On for Marvin Ekpiteta, 88’)
15. Harry Morgan (On for Lee Sawyer, 73’)
16. Damien Green
17. Dexter Peter
1. Deren Ibrahim
2. Tom Gardiner
3. Mark Onyemah
4. Ronnie Vint
5. Callum McNaughton
6. Ebrima Adams
7. Lee Noble
8. Elliot Bradbrook (C)
9. Andy Pugh
10. Tom Wynter
11. Danny Harris
12. George Sykes (On for Andy Pugh, 84’)
14. Ben Francis
15. Dajon Golding
16. Ryan Hayes (On for Lee Noble, 85’)
17. Barry Cogan
Referee: Mr. Lloyd Wood (Romford)
Assistant Referees: Mr. Craig Pullen and Mr. Dean Skipper
Chelmsford City: None
Dartford: Andy Pugh (60’)
Chelmsford City: Mark Haines (41’, dissent), Ben Marlow (71’, foul)
HT Score: 0-0
FT Score: 0-1
City Man of the Match: Matthew Whichelow