DEFENSIVE mistakes at crucial points in the game were the reasons Chelmsford City surrendered a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 at league leaders Salisbury according to manager Glenn Pennyfather, who saw the hosts' first strike moments before half time as the turning point in an entertaining clash.
The Clarets merited the cushion they constructed through Jamie Slabber and Max Cornhill by the 33rd minute but James White netted a reply for Darrell Clarke's men nine minutes later, and further goals after half time from Stuart Sinclair and Dan Fitchett completed the job.
When assessing how the commanding position disintegrated, Pennyfather looked back at Salisbury's first goal as the point where cracks began to appear.
He'd been pleased with the match until then, claiming: "We changed the pattern of our game after ten minutes and, although we had a young and inexperienced team out there, we were in complete control.
"At 2-0 we were cruising, and the soft goal we conceded from a needless corner - which we should have dealt with - was always likely to trigger a reaction from Salisbury. Then we've fallen asleep again for their leveller and, suddenly, their tails are up."
Glenn was forced to make several changes to his last line-up at Crawley Town in the FA Cup. Regular goalkeeper Stuart Searle dislocated his finger in midweek, meaning an appearance for Tom Warren between the sticks. Vice-Captain Kenny Clark returned from suspension to assume the armband in place of Mark Haines at centre-back.
Tom Bender, who'll be cup tied for Monday's FA Trophy clash against Hampton & Richmond Borough, was brought in for ever-present Aiden Palmer to make his full debut at left-back.
Fellow Colchester United loanee Bradley Hamilton was handed his own first start, as was ex-Sutton United striker Kyle Vassell. Sam Corcoran was also picked in central midfield as Anthony Cook, Ishmael Welsh and the injured David Rainford stepped aside.
There was plenty of action to keep both 'keepers occupied in the first quarter of an hour, Warren being called upon to make a save in the 7th minute and the rebound fell to White, who somehow missed the target from ten yards.
A cheeky 40-yarder from the Clarets' Corcoran then tried to catch Will Puddy out shortly afterwards but he had it well covered, as well as watching Hamilton's side-footer from the edge of the area loop over.
On 20 minutes Chelmsford did find the net when Corcoran helped play develop down the channel to Donovan Simmonds who smartly cut back for the arriving Slabber to convert.
Several 33rd-minute crosses threatened to add a second without success but, from a resulting Corcoran corner, Cornhill headed beyond Puddy to double Chelmsford's lead. Even for a team full of belief, this was a surprisingly heady position.
However, the 37th minute saw Fitchett poke straight at Warren from a one-on-one situation and White blazed the loose ball over Chelmsford's bar. It was a reminder of Salisbury's capabilities, as was Dutton's subsequent lofty strike after Ricky Wellard's swinging corner.
They couldn't afford to waste any more opportunities so, when Dutton's header across goal was dropped by Warren three minutes before the break, this time White did score from close range.
Straight after half time Corcoran and Slabber combined for the latter to strike at Puddy but it was to be one of few Chelmsford attacks in the second period.
Salisbury were keen to bombard the visitors' goal in search of at least a point and they were successful on 55 minutes when a quickly taken free kick found Sinclair, who had time to chest down and fire home.
Just beyond the hour the Clarets almost went back ahead against the run of play through Simmonds, whose audacious lob smacked Puddy's crossbar with Cornhill unable to force in the rebound.
But that was merely an interruption to Salisbury's stream of forward play which included Clarke firing across the face of goal after dispossessing Bender.
It was no less than they deserved, capping their sensational comeback with a third on 67 minutes. There was an element of good fortune, though - Fitchett's effort deflecting off defender Justin Miller and dipping over Warren into the net.
Jamie White found the side netting as they threatened to make it four but, apart from an intense, 94th-minute scramble in front of their own goal, they scarcely had to defend to see the game out.
Salisbury stayed top as a result, with the Clarets falling two places to sixth in the table.
Glenn summarised: "We're missing some big players at the moment with the likes of David Bridges and David Rainford out injured, and it was a baptism of fire for young Tom in goal to come in for such an important game. On reflection, I think the balance of the play suggested that we deserved a point, but defeat is a bitter pill to swallow."