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Post match interview following Dorchester Town 1 Dartford 0

Interview with Tony Burman following the 1-0 defeat at Dorchester Town in the Blue Square Bet South match.

February Review

There was a distinct lack of Conference South action in February due to the slow start to the month caused by poor weather conditions.

A slow start to February caused by the weather conditions

In the first two weeks of the month only two fixtures had been completed neither of them involving Dartford. The Darts started February with a F.A Trophy tie on Valentines Day which had twice been previously postponed. Faced with an opportunity to progress into the Quarter Finals Dartford drew 2-2 with Isthmian Premier League side Wealdstone.

Pressure from the Dartford attack was rewarded on 27 minutes when The Stones goalkeeper Jonathan North spilt the ball, Danny Harris followed up and put Dartford in front. On the stroke of half time Wealdstone equalised courtesy of Richard Jolly’s header.

Five minutes after the break Lee Noble’s shot took a deflection off Stones defender Alan Massey and the ball nestled in North’s goal. Wealdstone pushed for an equaliser and in the last ten minutes managed a second leveller when Chris O’Leary’s stunning header hit the underside of the cross bar and went in.

Dartford had to wait for another four days for their Conference South action begin again. In an eagerly anticipated fixture The Darts took on top side Woking looking to avenge the 3-2 defeat at Princes Park. Dartford entered Kingsfield in an all blue third kit with Lee Burns slotting to right back following Matt Jones injury against Wealdstone.

Alan Inns and Woking completed a double against The Darts

Alan Inns gave the hosts a lead on three minutes when he nodded Keiran Murtagh’s corner into the net. It was his second goal against The Darts, Inns also opened the scoring at Princes Park. Despite the set back Dartford played exceptionally well, Danny Harris went close but his shot was deflected over and Tom Bonner’s header was cleared off the line by Wayne Gray.

Woking’s Moses Ademola went close with an audacious back heel only for Louis Wells to gather the ball comfortably. Harris also hooked a volley wide before a Jon Wallis free kick made Woking’s goalkeeper Aaron Howe tip the ball over.

There was still time for both sides to hit the woodwork before half time. First Elvis Hammond went through on goal one on one with Wells only for his powerful strike to rattle the crossbar. Lee Noble took a chance from long range which was tipped onto the crossbar by Howe, Harris followed up to stick the ball into the empty but was rightly ruled offside.

Dartford carved out numerous chances in the second half. Harris rounded Howe but his shot found the side netting from a difficult angle, then he managed to shoot over from close range. Richard Graham’s cross deflected onto Howe’s crossbar and Tony Garrod also missed an opportunity to square the match. Unfortunately, The Cards held on to take three vital points and leave the Surrey club fourteen points clear at the top of the Conference South.

The defeat at Woking was the first league match in 21 games in which Dartford failed to score. Three days later another blank was to see The Darts knocked out of the F.A Trophy. On a disappointing night Wealdstone caused another cup upset with the hero being Lee Chappell. To compound Dartford’s misery James Rogers was dismissed after picking up two cautions. The Stones ran out 1-0 winners despite having two men of their own sent off. Days later The Stones continued their run with another shock when they defeated Conference Premier side Cambridge United to reach the semi-finals.

Defender Luke Wilkinson has started his loan spell well with The Darts

Whilst Wealdstone took part in the F.A Trophy Quarter Final Dartford bounced back in the league. The visit of Salisbury City turned out to be the best weekend of February for The Darts. Tony Burman signed 21 year old Luke Wilkinson on loan from Dagenham and Redbridge giving Paul Goodacre a rest. Lee Burns was still in for the injured Jones and Elliot Bradbrook was still out with injury.

Wilkinson came close on his début with a header straight at goalkeeper Mark Scott. Burns and Wallis were denied goals as the sides went into the break level. The second half came alive in no time at all, Jacob Erskine scored his fifth league goal in his eleventh league start hooking the ball over Mark Scott. Rogers then made up for his red card in the week by doubling the lead tucking away his fourth league goal of the season. On the same weekend Woking were held at lowly Hampton and Richmond so Dartford’s win keeps them just in touch of automatic promotion.

Monday night’s blistering second half performance against Basingstoke Town saw The Darts reduce the deficit at the top to single figures. Harris made amends for his misses at Woking by coming away with a man of the match performance and the match ball. In a stale first half Harris opened the scoring two minutes before the break with a great finish drilled low into the net.

Danny Harris impresses with a hat trick against Basingstoke Town

In the second half The Darts upped their game and blew Basingstoke away. Harris doubled his goal tally for the night by following up Tom Champion’s header with one of his own. Three minutes later a Basingstoke Town free kick was bundled over the line by Stuart Lake to half the deficit. With twelve minutes remaining substitute Tony Garrod sealed the match thanks to some hard work from Harris. After a defensive calamity Harris won possession and squared the ball to Garrod who converted his second goal in a Dartford shirt. The icing was on the cake nine minutes from time when Harris completed a hat trick with a curling effort into the bottom corner.

At the end of February Woking continue to set the pace going into the two busy months left of the season. The playoff contenders are tightly packed with six points separating second to fifth. Welling United defeated Havant and Waterlooville followed by Dover Athletic but surprisingly dropped points at Staines Town.

Chelmsford City won their first two league matches of the month before losing their first away fixture of the season to Bromley. Sutton United enjoyed a 100% record for February with a 2-1 against Boreham Wood, a 1-0 victory versus Basingstoke Town and a 3-2 triumph over Weston Super-Mare. Harry Beautyman netted a goal in each of those home games to leave The U’s nine points clear of sixth place.

In sixth place thanks to their tremendous home form is Eastleigh. Struggling with the transition to a full time club earlier in the season The Spitfires have gone eleven games unbeaten at the Silverlake Stadium. Currently seven matches without defeat the Hampshire club have been assisted by Bradley Bubb’s scoring prowess.

Bradley Bubb back to his best

Bubb impressed at Farnborough last season before transferring to League Two side Aldershot Town in the summer. After nine professional matches the Grenadian international went to Basingstoke Town on loan until his deal expired. Ian Baird picked up Bubb and he has now scored nine goals in his last six league games.

One side that have started to lose touch with the top five is Weston Super-Mare. The Seagulls have conceded three goals in each of their last five league matches losing every one.

Farnborough won all their February fixtures but had a mixed month. The Boro have also struggled with transition to full time football but seem to be settling with five wins from their last six. The only other form side to note is Bromley who started the month two points and a position above the bottom three. The Lillywhites ended January with their first win in fourteen and have since remained unbeaten picking up 11 points from the last 15 available. However, the Football Conference docked five points of the Hampshire side for financial irregularities which has seen them slip from twelfth position to sixteenth.

Bromley have leap frogged Eastbourne Borough who are having a torrid time. The Sports gained a meagre four points in ten league games losing six times. After Staines Town’s result on Monday night the Sussex club have slipped into the bottom three and risk a second successive relegation.

Staines Town won their last two Conference South games beating Eastbourne Borough 1-0 and more dramatically Welling United 4-2. The Swans were 2-0 up when they had Jake Gallagher and Richard Butler sent off within three minutes of each other. Welling’s new signing Ryan Flack pulled back a goal before Mark Nwojeki extended The Swans lead. Flack scored again prior to his team mate Ben Martin receiving his marching orders. With three minutes on the clock Adam Everitt secured another important three points for the nine men of Staines.

The results of Staines has left Hampton and Richmond six points from safety who did gain an exceptional point at home to Woking. Thurrock continue to struggle and look certain to be relegated unless they can overturn a twelve point deficit. The Fleet have now gone three months and fourteen matches without a league win.

Did you know…

5 – Salisbury City broke the Conference South record of consecutive away draws. From 10 January 2012 to 14 February 2012 The Whites drew five in a row

21 – Dartford’s impressive run of 21 consecutive league games without failing to score came to an end on 18 February 2012 against Woking, this seasons best in the Conference South

156 – The lowest attendance at any league game this season set by Thurrock against Weston Super-Mare in August 2011 and matched again by The Fleet this month against Maidenhead United

645 – The average attendance in this seasons Conference South

1000 – Danny Harris scored the Conference South’s 1000th goal this season with his second goal against Basingstoke Town. In total 1008 goals have been scored at an average of 3.10 goals per game

January Review

What a start to 2012 for The Darts winning all five Conference South fixtures, moving up to second position and progressing to the third round of the F.A Trophy.

A successful January has left Dartford closer to league leaders Woking than at the end of the year and it all started in the Kent derby on second day of 2012. The Darts hosted a Welling United side who were occupying second place at the time and who drew with Dartford on Boxing Day. Although the sides were even at the interval, The Wings came out the better side in the second half keeping the excellent Louis Wells busy. But a Ryan Hayes corner headed back into danger by Tom Bonner and flicked in by Danny Harris earned an important win for The Darts.

Bradbrook opens up the Havant defence and scores

Havant and Waterlooville awaited Tony Burman’s team five days later and the journey down to Hampshire was worth it. Burman was delighted with the result and said: ““It was a really good performance, all the team was excellent, it was a good all round performance”. Elliot Bradbrook commenced his January scoring spree with a well taken opener, the hard working Harris put away a fantastic lob. The Hawks grabbed a goal back via Scott Jones in the second half, however Harris and Bradbrook netted again in a 4-1 victory.

Jason Lee’s Boston United visited Princes Park in the second round of the F.A Trophy. Jacob Erskine decided to take the cup tie into his own hands and his audacious back heel opened the scoring early on. The lead was cancelled out when Spencer Weir-Daley nodded in from a corner. The second half came to life when the Boston United fans decided to stay put on the terrace standing next to The Darts following. The fans were rewarded for their lively support when Erskine somehow flicked in number two. Lee Noble reacted the quickest to make it three before Leon Constantine pulled back a goal for The Pilgrims. It was Erskine completing a well deserved hat trick which sealed the tie and the striker took home the match ball.

The unbeaten run continued with three more wins in the Conference South. Approaching the first of the fixtures against bottom four teams Burman warned his side of complacency. The manager expressed his view that the next eight days were going to be tough and crucial. The players went about their job ‘professionally’ and added a further nine points to their total becoming the leagues top scorers in the process.

Hampton and Richmond who took the lead through James Simmonds on eight minutes were the first of the three clubs to suffer. Bradbrook equalised with a looping header but the best was yet to come. Bradbrook scored a goal of the season contender when his stunning long range volley put The Darts ahead. To rub salt into Hampton’s wound Erskine, a former player of theirs scored the third.

Three days later, for a second match in a row Dartford found themselves a goal down when Staines Town striker Ali Chaaban gave The Swans an advantage. Tom Bonner’s brave header on the stroke of half time ensured the sides were level at the break. Loanee Connor Essam scored his first Dartford goal in the second half with a powerful header and later on in the week his spell with The Darts was extended. Harris found the net with eighteen minutes to play and Adam Green’s deflection rounded up the triumph.

Ryan Hayes has now made 300 appearances for The darts

On Saturday Dartford became the leagues top scorers in some style. Hosting bottom club Thurrock who had not won in nine league matches The Darts took full advantage recording their biggest win in the Conference South. Bradbrook celebrated his 27th birthday by opening and closing the goalscoring. In between Harris blasted the ball into the net and James Rogers made it 3-0 inside the first forty five minutes. Lee Burns rifled in the fourth goal in the second half and on Ryan Hayes 300th appearance he set up Tony Garrod who scored his first for the club. The Darts demolished Thurrock 6-0 to record their biggest Conference South win.

It took 120 minutes of football for Dartford to stave off Tonbridge Angels in the Kent Senior Cup on Tuesday and complete a perfect start to 2012. The Angels led at half time when Chris Piper opened the scoring. Nathan Koranteng scored against Dartford for Boreham Wood earlier in the season and he was at it again for his new club to put Tonbridge two up. The cup holders looked down and out but were given a crucial lifeline when Hayes crossed for Jack Pallen to half the deficit. To complete the comeback Richard Graham equalised to send the tie into extra time and during the additional thirty minutes he netted his second of the night. The comeback was completed when Lee Burns netted the fourth to earn a semi final clash with Charlton Athletic.

All in all, January was an excellent month for The Darts. The club moved up two places and closed the gap on Woking. Bradbrook scored six goals in four games, Harris netted five goals in five appearances and Erskine claimed a hat trick. Essam continued to impress at the back and stays with The Darts for February and the club has progressed in league, F.A Trophy and Kent Senior Cup. To cap of a super month Tony Burman was awarded with Manager of the Month and Elliot Bradbrook won Player of the Month.

At the end of 2011, The Darts were seventeen point adrift of league leaders Woking. By the end of January the lead has been cut to eleven with The Darts having a game in hand. The deficit has been reduced making the fixture between the two sides on 18 February very important.

The reason Dartford have made ground is because Woking inexplicably slipped up first against Staines Town then versus Salisbury City. The Cards went down 1-0 to Staines who kept their first clean sheet of the season and inflicted Woking’s first home defeat, the result is probably the surprise result of the season so far. In losses came in between three victories for The Cards so they still have a cushion at the top for the time being.

Ali Chaaban scored a shock winner against Woking

Welling United and Chelmsford City who drew with each other Saturday occupy third and fourth. The Wings highlight of the month was a 5-1 home win against Truro City to keep them unbeaten at Park View Road. Chelmsford City were also shocked by Staines Town when they lost by a solitary goal but two wins keeps them in the playoff spot. The final team in the playoff zone is Sutton United who defeated Chelmsford City in a five goal thriller with a one goal margin.

The biggest movers in January were Dorchester Town who moved up five positions. New manager Alan Knight has started to see his team gel, the Dorset club has lost just once in fourteen league fixtures, keeping clean sheets in half of those matches. The Magpies are a win away from the play offs and only Weston Super-Mare stand between them in the league standings. Another big mover in the league were Maidenhead United. Also known as The Magpies the Berkshire club climbed four places to give them breathing space at the wrong end of the table.

One team on the slide is Eastbourne Borough dropping three places to eighteenth. The Sports picked up a solitary point in January out of a possible fifteen losing 4-1 and 5-1 in successive weeks. Their poor form has seen the Sussex club part company with manager Garry Wilson in an attempt to stop the rot.

Bromley did stop their rot winning for the first time in the league since 8 October 2011. A dreadful run of fifteen winless games left the club in the bottom three. The 3-0 victory over Weston Super-Mare lifted the Kent club from the drop zone leaving the bottom three the same as it was at the end of 2012.

Hampton and Richmond and Staines Town traded places numerous times in January both occupying the final relegation place during Bromley’s poor form. The Beavers beat The Swans on New Years Day to swap places and leap out of danger before a defeat against Dartford left them back in relegation. The Swans shocked Woking and Chelmsford City to capitalise on Hampton’s set backs but they then lost to Dartford as well to slip back into the bottom three.

One constant from the teams at the bottom is Thurrock who are having a torrid season. The Fleet are now seven points adrift and nine points from safety. The Essex club picked up some promising draws against Salisbury City, Sutton United and Havant and Waterlooville after wholesale changes from new manager Lee Goodwin. A trip to Princes Park compounded further misery for the club when they were demolished 6-0 to suffer the heaviest defeat this season.

Did you know…

3.09 – The average amount of goals per Conference South match this season

17 – The amount of different goalscorers Hampton and Richmond have had in the Conference South this season (including an own goal). The highest amount by any club this season, Dartford have had 16 different goalscorers also including one goal.

156 – The lowest recorded attendance so far this season in the league when Thurrock played Weston Super-Mare at Ship Lane on 20 August 2011.

3014 – The Woking versus Farnborough derby attracted the biggest attendance so far this season on Boxing Day

 

Post Match Interview v Havant and Waterlooville (A)

Interview with Tony Burman following 4-1 victory versus Havant and Waterlooville in the Blue Square Bet South.

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December Review

Dartford followed up an unbeaten November with progression in two cup competitions and mixed fortunes in the Conference South’s final month of 2011.

December started off in the best possible fashion with a win against Kent rivals Dover Athletic. In the first half the two sides were even and deservedly so. Elliot Bradbrook won a penalty which was finished calmly by Adam Green, the full back opened Dartford’s scoring for a third successive league match. Six minutes later The Whites were level when Agustien Battipiedi headed in a free kick on the right.

Dartford are delighted with Bradbrook's stunning strike

In the second forty five Dartford came out the blocks to earn the bragging rights. Ryan Hayes caused Dover all sorts of problems on the wing and just passed the hour bent home a free kick from a tight angle. The match was sealed in superb style when Bradbrook curled a 25 yard pearler into the top corner with two minutes remaining.

Two cup ties followed which The Darts got through succesfully. In the Kent Senior Cup Folkestone Invicta were comfortably beaten 4-1 with goals coming from Jacob Erskine, Tom Bonner and a brace from Richard Graham. The Darts travel to Tonbridge Angels in the Quarter Finals, a side they beat on their way to winning the cup last season.

In the F.A Trophy first round Brackley Town were eased off with a 3-0 victory. Bradbrook scored from the spot and it was Erskine’s turn to record a brace of goals. The second round will take place on 14 January at home against Conference North side Boston United.

Dartford entered a Tuesday night fixture against league leaders Woking unbeaten in eight competitve matches. The Surrey club stormed into a two goal first half lead with both goals coming from set pieces. Alan Inns opened the scoring after four minutes and Craig Doyle netted three minutes before the break. James Rogers pulled a goal back mid way through the second half and as Dartford pushed for an equaliser a clearance from Louis Wells was punished by the experienced Elvis Hammond with two minutes to play. The Darts refused to lie down and Erskine grabbed a consolation. Woking couldn’t wait for the full time whistle to go and Dartford almost stole a point in injury time.

If The Darts failed to steal a point at home to Woking they managed it the next time at Princes Park for the visit of Dorchester Town. The Magpies hit the target with twenty minutes remaining when Jamie Symes scored a beauty 25 yards from goal. As the Dorset side defended the last frantic minutes substitute Danny Harris popped up from close range to rescue a point.

Boxing Day: Many teams recorded their highest home crowds of the season

Supporters began their Christmas recovery sessions on Boxing Day with a short trip to a former home. Dartford took on second placed Welling United at Park View Road and for second match in row scored a last minute equaliser. Lee Clarke gave The Wings a first half lead from the spot when Loick Pires was upended. Clarke took a second penalty in the final minutes of the Kent derby which was saved by Wells. The Darts went straight down the other end Noble headed in a last gasp equaliser.

Throughout December injuries have began to take its toll on the squad. Noble, Lee Burns, Harris and Paul Goodacre all faced time on the sidelines. Goodacre’s knee injury against Woking being severe enough for Tony Burman to sign Gillingham’s Connor Essam on loan. Essam made his début in the draw with Dorchester Town and has made a promising start. Erskine continues to make steady progress up front often playing as the lone striker. He has now scored six goals in seven starts and three substitute appearances. However The Darts have drawn four of their last six league games but can take heart from their never say die attitude having scored in the last minute in their last three league games.

Woking remain top of the table and in formidable form

Once again, Woking remain a formidable force at the top of the Conference South. The Cards have stretched away at the helm and have a twelve point cushion. Such is the Surrey’s side dominance in 2011 they have won 109 points out of the 144 available this calendar year.

Chelmsford City cemented a play off spot by moving into third behind Welling United. The Clarets have now put a sixteen match unbeaten league run together only matched by the current league leaders. The Essex club also held Macclesfield Town in the F.A Cup second round but bowed out in a replay.

One side who did make the big time third round draw was Salisbury City. The Wiltshire club beat Conference Premier team Grimsby Town in a replay. After a creditable 0-0 draw at The Raymond McEnhill Stadium, Salisbury travelled to Grimsby and took 120 minutes to win a dramatic replay 3-2.

The final play off spot is taken up by Sutton United who have had a superb 2011. The U’s won promotion without losing a home match in the Isthmian Premier and now find themselves in fifth. Like Chelmsford the Conference South newcomers reached the second round of the F.A Cup where they lost 2-0 to Notts County. Striker Harry Beautyman has netted four goals in four league matches top scoring in December joint with Dover’s George Purcell and Truro’s Jake Ash.

Ex Dart loanee George Purcell netted four this month

George Purcell’s hat trick against Bromley and goal versus Staines has helped Dover Athletic keep in touch with the top six. The Whites defeat at Dartford left fans fuming at chairman Jim Parmenter who then had a clear out of the squad. Out went Luke L’Anson, Sam Cutler, Ross Kitteridge and Nathan Ashton and since then the Kent club are unbeaten.

Mid table remains close with no teams really making an impact. However fortunes in Hampshire have turned for two full time clubs. Eastleigh took seven points from nine in December keeping two clean sheets in the process, The Spitfires are now in a  comfortable eleventh place. Farnborough looked doomed in November after seven straight defeats including 8-2 and 5-0 drubbings within a week. The Boro have now won three out of their last five league matches and only lost to Woking. Both Hampshire sides have been busy signing ten new players between them this month.

The Conference South has seen two new managerial changes this month. Alan Knight was appointed Dorchester Town’s boss and he won his first match in charge. The victory against Maidenhead United was The Magpies fourth clean sheet in a row as they went 395 minutes without conceding.

Another former Dart: Robbie Garvey quits Thurrock

Robbie Garvey resigned as the Thurrock manager after their 2-1 defeat at home to relegation rivals Staines Town. The Fleet remain at the foot of the table four points behind The Swans. Since Garvey’s departure Thurrock have re-hauled their squad under caretaker managers Lee Goodwin and Grant Gordon. The management duo have brought in a staggering fourteen players in an attempt to improve the Essex clubs position.

Victory for Staines was coupled with another important triumph over Hampton and Richmond who also remain in the relegation zone. Although The Swans are far from safe they have beaten their closest rivals this month and have kept in touch with Bromley and Maidenhead United, the teams above them.

December in numbers…

0 – Only Staines Town have failed to keep a clean sheet so far in the 2011/2012 campaign

8 – Number of clubs who set a new highest home attendance of the season over the Boxing Day set of fixtures

14 – Amount of own goals registered in the league this season

639 – The average league attendance in the Conference South this season

2011 League Table (includes teams competing in the Conference South for the whole of 2011)

Team Pld W D L F A Points GD % Pts
Woking 48 33 10 5 99 39 109 60 75.69%
Chelmsford City 50 26 14 10 96 51 92 45 61.33%
Welling United 47 27 10 10 94 56 91 38 64.54%
Dartford 47 23 12 12 81 59 81 22 57.45%
Dover Athletic 48 22 13 13 80 53 79 27 54.86%
Eastleigh 48 24 6 18 77 68 78 9 54.17%
Farnborough 46 22 7 17 81 76 73 5 52.90%
Basingstoke Town 47 17 14 16 71 69 65 2 46.10%
Boreham Wood 48 18 11 19 58 66 65 -8 45.14%
Havant and Waterlooville 48 16 13 19 69 67 61 2 42.36%
Weston Super-Mare 43 17 8 18 62 66 59 -4 45.74%
Dorchester Town 51 14 15 22 60 76 57 -16 37.25%
Bromley 46 11 11 24 54 82 44 -28 31.88%
Staines Town 47 10 13 24 48 76 43 -28 30.50%
Hampton and Richmond 47 9 13 25 51 75 40 -24 28.37%
Maidenhead United 47 10 9 28 50 89 39 -39 27.66%
Thurrock 46 9 11 26 50 93 38 -43 27.54%


November Review

It’s been an interesting month for Dartford, despite rumblings about recent performances the black and white army went through November unbeaten in league and cup.

The month started excellently when The Darts faced a difficult away fixture at The Raymond McEnhill Stadium. Salisbury City boasted a brilliant record at home under Darrell Clarke and against Dartford. Goalkeeper Andrew Young was released by Tony Burman days prior the match and former Staines Town keeper Louis Wells was signed as the replacement.

Louis Wells (far left) applauds with his new team mates

Wells début couldn’t have got off to a worse start when after just two minutes a wicked deflection wrong footed the 29 year old putting The Darts a goal down. In all fairness no goalkeeper could have adjusted his feet quick enough to stop Stuart Anderson’s effort. Dartford battled back and a Jon Wallis free kick tied the scores halfway through the first half.

In the second half it was Salisbury’s goalkeeper who had a day to forget. Conor Gough could have done better to keep out Wallis equaliser but when Jacob Erskine collided with the goalkeeper to head the ball in for the winner Gough ended up with a fractured rib and was unable to continue. The Darts defended valiantly to earn an exceptional victory.

A week later Weston Super-Mare turned up at Princes Park and took the lead after half hour courtesy of Nat Pepperall. Adam Green levelled the scoreline approaching up to half time. The Seagulls were reduced to ten men in the second half but Dartford failed to break down their visitors to claim a second win, instead The Darts had to settle with a disappointing draw.

For a second weekend in a row Tony Burman’s side failed to see off ten men. Travelling to Hampshire to face Eastleigh was bound to be tough considering Dartford’s terrible record at Silverlake Stadium. Once again, Green scored Dartford’s first goal this time from the penalty spot and the hosts were reduced to ten men shortly after. The lead was stretched to two through Wallis second of the season. Dartford were cruising and in control until conceding just before the break. Danny Smith’s goal was added to in the second half when Tom Jordan earned Eastleigh a draw. Ten men, a two goal lead and two points dropped.

The attention turned to the F.A Trophy in the last weekend of the month. The Darts were drawn out against fellow league opponents Eastbourne Borough. The trip to Priory Lane ended 0-0 in very blustery conditions but the performance was better than previous weeks according to Burman.

Tom Champion is delighted with his strike

Back at Princes Park the Tuesday night replay ended with a 2-1 win. Tom Champion’s scorcher put the home side in front and Danny Harris made it two nil. A dubious penalty let Eastbourne Borough back in the tie when former Dart Carl Rook pulled a goal back. Eastbourne’s Clark Masters was then red carded for handling outside the box and Dartford progressed to the first round. Due to the replay Dartford’s anticipated clash with table toppers Woking had to be re arranged for another day. Dartford face Brackley Town in round two.

Woking lead the Conference South for a third month in a row and look favourites for promotion at this stage. Scoring for fun they are now ten matches unbeaten. The only two sides taking points off The Cards since 3 September 2011 are Salisbury City and Chelmsford City. During this unbeaten spell the Surrey side have netted 26 times, conceded only six goals and kept five clean sheets. Garry Hill has also added Crawley Town’s Ben Smith on a months loan to bolster the squad. However, Woking were stopped in their F.A Trophy tracks when Chelmsford knocked them out with a 2-0 win.

Despite four consecutive wins Welling United trail The Cards by four points. Welling have now won eight of their ten home matches, drawing the other two. Jamie Day’s side look every bit the settled side but with striker Andrew Pugh hinting he would like to go full time the Kent club will be hoping he stays. Pugh has scored a third of Welling’s league goals and is the leagues second top scorer.

Unsurprisingly Chelmsford City are starting to find the right gear. It seemed only a matter of time before The Clarets turned draws into wins and they are now unbeaten in 12 Conference South matches. In November the Essex club demolished Bromley 6-1, drew with league leaders Woking and knocked them out of the F.A Trophy.  The Clarets also tasted F.A Cup success by convincingly beating AFC Telford 4-0 in the first round. A second round home tie awaits with League Two’s Macclesfield Town.

Sutton United continue steady progress and remain in the playoffs with The Darts. The U’s beat struggling Staines Town 4-1 before picking up a point in their last two league matches. Sutton have failed to score in their last two Conference South fixtures but managed a 1-0 F.A Cup win against Conference Premier side Kettering Town. The U’s will look forward to the televised second round sell out at home to League One’s Nott’s County.

Dicks: Dorchester's potential boss

Two managers have lost their jobs since October’s review. Ashley Vickers left Dorchester Town on 29 October and since then the Dorset side have picked up form. The Magpies conceded just one goal in November and have gone 297 minutes without conceding, they are now five matches unbeaten. One notable scalp was inflicting Basingstoke Town’s first defeat away from home. Former Premier League defender and Grays Athletic manager Julian Dicks is reportedly favourite to take charge of The Magpies.

Spencer Day earned a managerial role at Farnborough when they departed company with Garry Haylock. The Boro lost seven in a row, this seasons worst losing streak, before Day took charge. The ex Chertsey Town boss crowned his début with a 3-1 win against Salisbury City, who have now lost there last five and slumped to sixteenth place.

At the bottom of the table Staines Town and Thurrock continue to struggle. Staines have picked up just two points from the last 27 available and Thurrock’s lack of fire power has left them just a point above The Swans. Thurrock did defeat Hampton and Richmond but a couple of wins from The Beavers have given some hope to their supporters as they close the gap on Maidenhead United.

Maidenhead United are now without a win in ten matches and an F.A Cup run has been a welcome distraction for The Magpies. In the F.A Cup first round the Conference South was represented by six clubs. Maidenhead United forced a replay against League Two’s Aldershot Town, the Berkshire club was just twelve minutes away from an upset. In the replay Aldershot Town won 2-0.

Basingstoke Town and Bromley were knocked out by Brentford and Leyton Orient respectively. However, Chelmsford City, Salisbury City (3-1 winners over Arlesly) and Sutton United are all still flying the Conference South flag.

In November the Conference South sides also entered the F.A Trophy third qualifying round. Eleven sides progressed to the first round which will take place on 10 December 2011.

Did you know…

0- Welling United and Woking have not lost a home league match yet and Chelmsford have not been defeated away. Thurrock are the only side who have failed to pick up three points at home and Staines Town are still looking for their first away win.

7- Farnborough’s victory against Salisbury City on 19 November 2011 stopped a run of seven consecutive defeats, the longest losing streak in the Conference South so far.

10- Maidenhead United have not won in ten Conference South fixtures since 13 September 2011, the longest winless streak this season so far.

57- Goals have been scored by a penalty (9%) out of 629 goals scored in the Conference South this season. Tonbridge Angels have netted the most with six. Basingstoke Town, Eastbourne Borough, Eastleigh and Farnborough have yet to score a penalty.

299- The number of first half goals scored in the Conference South this season.

330- The number of second half goals scored in the Conference South this season.

 

Princes Park – Five Years and Counting

Fans are waiting full of excitement by a brand new entrance having passed through the Dartford F.C gates. Supporters gather in the temporary beer tent; people surround the entertainment stage. After years of waiting a new era is beginning.

Watling Street's Daniel Homes Stand

It’s been nineteen years since Dartford’s darkest day when, after four league fixtures, the club withdrew from the Southern League. Watling Street had been sold to creditors and within months destroyed, crushing any hopes of playing there again. The Daniel Homes Stand was no more, the amber seats removed, the ground nothing but a memory and the perimeter wall.

The club returned and Tony Burman gave his side a pep talk from the dressing room. The Darts were back and the anticipation of the hardy souls on the terraces greeted the team as they entered the pitch, 1993, Oxford Road. A ground share with Cray Wanderers meant Dartford were able to compete in the Kent League and start over again: the club had survived, albeit without a home.

Loyal supporters stayed but the good old days had gone and in their first season as a reformed club a sixth place finish was achieved. An average attendance of over 300 seems small, but in the Kent League no one could match the loyalty of Dartford fans home and away. After three years in the Kent League Dartford won the Kent Senior Trophy under Tony Burman, and in May 1996 promotion was achieved to the Southern League.

From Oxford Road to Park View Road to Ship Lane to Stonebridge Road, from Kent League to Southern League, from Weymouth to Corby. Dartford travelled half the country for 14 years. Tony Burman, Gary Julians, and Tommy Sampson led the black and white without a home; the club soldiered on but at least they existed.

10 April 2004 and there was hope amongst the club and supporters. News broke to the Dartford faithful when the Borough Council announced it would provide funding for a new abode. The months counted down, planning, budgeting, meetings, obstacles and approvals.

14 November 2005 construction started. By this time Tony Burman was back in charge having taken over as caretaker manager for the second time. At last there was a buzz back around the club, something to look forward to.

Dartford enter the Princes Park pitch

Tommy Osborne proudly leads out the team. They line up to shake hands with opponents and officials. Fireworks and smoke greet the teams. A minute’s silence to remember the fallen on a day to remember.

New fans, old fans and townsfolk gather inside shoulder to shoulder. A wonderful new home had opened to the Dartford public and Horsham YMCA are the first guests. An unusual atmosphere develops mainly because everyone was taking in the new surroundings and features Princes Park offers. Everyone siding with The Darts want the side to win their homecoming match so a sense of nervousness, curiosity and excitement mixed beneath the grey skies. For the Dartford fans following the side through thick and thin, for the town and everyone involved in making the new stadium happen, the afternoon gathers pace.

Ryan Hayes sends in a cross from the right and Brendon Cass nods the ball into the net. The striker darts to the left corner flag and slides on his knees The first goal at Princes Park brings euphoria.

Cass scores the first ever goal at Princes Park

The visitors plug away in an attempt to spoil the party and win a corner. Andy Ottley whips the ball into the penalty box, his brother Matt heads the ball goalwards and a few cheers come from the Horsham bench. Dartford stunned, the game level; how dare they gate crash our party?

Ryan Briggs delivers a free kick, the ball falls to the feet of the prolific Cass. He shapes his body, the ball bounces up and on a half volley slams in his second goal. Running to the opposite corner flag Cass celebrates in front of a delightful section of the crowd. The Darts in front again.

Half time brings a brief respite and a chance to take in what exactly has happened so far. A band and a couple of freestyle footballers out on the pitch entertaining the sell out crowd keep the show going.

Dartford kick off the final forty five minutes and crowd favourite Eddie McClements is putting in an exceptional performance. The midfielder smashes a shot from distance with his left foot and the ball screams past the Horsham goalkeeper, the top corner of the net bulged. A terrific strike sends fans into ecstasy.

Horsham begin to find a way back and showing promising signs with half hour or so to play. The Darts not over the finishing line yet. Another corner is sent in by Andy Ottley and Steve Davies leaps to header the ball beyond Kevin Hudson, the Sussex club pull back a goal.

Nick Barnes enters the pitch as a substitute returning for his second spell with The Darts not knowing what was to come. Barnes cuts in from the right, hits a long range shot, a deflection loops the ball over the stranded goalkeeper and seals the match. The homecoming couldn’t get any better.

Dartford fans celebrate a great occasion

How apt it is for Tony Burman to begin another new era and how fitting it is for Dartford to score the first goal at a new home and win. No one wants to leave, the players and management parade around the pitch exhausted but appreciating the support. Spectators overwhelmed by a hectic day full of emotion, the odd tear shed, the occasional lump in the throat. Dartford F.C could not be more together.

The players step off the turf, the terraces still packed, the town still buzzing, and the supporters full of excitement. 11 November 2006, Princes Park was born. Happy Birthday.

Did you know…

The first team line up at Princes Park was: Kevin Hudson, Tommy Osborne, Anthony Hogg, Anthony Henry, Richard Avery, Lew Watts, Ryan Briggs, Ryan Hayes, Brendan Cass, Eddie McClements, Dave Martin. James Carter, Nick Barnes and Steve Hafner were used substitutes. Glenn Billinness and Brad Potter were unused substitutes.

Ryan Hayes is the only player left from that season’s squad

Dartford’s competitive record at Princes Park is Won 73, Drawn 32, Lost 31, For 295, Against 172

 

 

October – League Review

So far October has been Dartford’s toughest month this season with two league defeats, the loss of star striker Charlie Sheringham and an F.A Cup exit on Saturday.

Having started the month in second place The Darts travelled to Boreham Wood, a difficult place to go considering recent results against the Hertfordshire club. Typically, The Wood came out trumps and recorded a 3-1 victory.

Sheringham earned a move to AFC Bournemouth

Charlie Sheringham appeared for the final time in a Dartford shirt in the F.A Cup Qualifier win against Cray Wanderers. The Wands, a division lower took a shock lead but Dartford’s resolve ensured progression to the final qualifying stage.

When Dartford faced Thurrock there was a sense of deja vu. Last season Tony Burman’s side went to Ship Lane after Thurrock had lost 6-1 and 7-2 leading up to the match. This season The Darts played Truro City a week before after they had suffered heavy 5-2 and 7-2 defeats prior the match, Truro turned the form book upside down. The White Tigers inflicted the first reverse at Princes Park after a blunderess first six minutes from The Darts, for the first time this season the black and white army lost two league matches in a row.

So you can excuse Dartford fans for thinking it wouldn’t be easy travelling to a former home patch. However with the help of new signing Jacob Erskine, summer signing James Rogers and young prospect Jack Pallen the Darts were victorious.

The F.A Cup returned, set pieces were the order of the day and Ryan Hayes rued his penalty miss. On the plus side, despite the setbacks Dartford end the month in fourth place seven points from the top with a game in hand. Deren Ibrahim and Jack Pallen picked up more minutes of first team experience with Pallen netting in his last two games. And, although Sheringham left, Burman reacted quickly and brought in Erskine who has started life with Dartford well.

Woking remain the table toppers increasing their lead to six points on Saturday. The Surrey side look strong and have dropped just two points from the last 24 available, only a draw against Salisbury City at beginning of October stopped them from achieving eight wins on the spin. Up front they have depth and only Dover Athletic have kept more clean sheets at the back. The Cards attempt to return to Conference Premier after a three year absence will be aided by their strong support and attendances.

The surprise package, especially after an opening day thrashing against the table toppers is newly promoted Sutton United. Last season’s unbeaten home record is returning, aside from the 5-0 defeat to Woking they have dropped just two more points at the Borough Sports. The U’s did not concede a goal in October and ended the month with a 5-0 victory against Salisbury City, who failed to score all month. Paul Doswell’s squad have moved into second place after a nine match unbeaten run and just about remain in the F.A Cup after drawing 3-3 with Isthmian Premier League bottom side Leatherhead.

The biggest movers started their impressive run against The Darts. Boreham Wood have leaped eleven places up the table from twentieth to ninth. Beaten by Slough Town, who are two levels lower than The Wood in the F.A Cup Second Qualifying round, fortunes have turned since Ian Allinson introduced David Hutton, Sam Cox and Michael Thalassitis to the squad Snce then they have won all four league matches in October. The Wood have picked up three 1-0 wins in succession and Elliot Bradbrook’s goal is the only one they have conceded in 485 minutes of league football.

Shan McAuley hit form in October for Basingstoke Town

Welling United and Basingstoke Town occupy the final playoff positions with the latter going steady. The Stoke are now nine games unbeaten in the league and midfielder Shaun McAuley has hit form with five goals in four fixtures. Chelmsford City picked up their first home win last weekend and have not been beaten since the beginning of September. Whilst Dover Athletic now managed by former league striker Nicky Forster are starting to turn draws into wins and have an eye on the playoffs.

One result which caught the eye of supporters was Truro City’s emphatic first half scoreline against Farnborough who continue to struggle. The White Tigers led the full timers from Hampshire 7-1  after the first forty five and ended up recording an emphatic 8-2 victory, the second biggest score in Conference South history.

Farnborough took no points in October, were knocked out of the F.A Cup and are conceding goals left, right and centre. In four league matches they scored two and conceded a whopping 18 and have the worst goal difference. The Boro are three points clear of the dreaded drop zone which is occupied by Staines Town, Thurrock and Hampton and Richmond. Not a good month for the full timers.

Season in numbers so far…

6 – The number of teams representing the Conference South in the First Round F.A Cup draw. (Chelmsford City or Gloucester City v AFC Telford United / Sutton United or Leatherhead v Kettering Town / Leyton Orient v Bromley / Salisbury City v Arlesey Town / Brentford v Basingstoke Town / Maidenhead United v Aldershot Town)

7 – Dartford have won all seven fixtures against teams in the bottom half of the table (after games played on 29.10.2011), the best record of all the Conference South clubs

12 – Chelmsford City have scored the most goals scored in the opening 15 minutes of matches

13 – Woking have scored the most goals scored in the final 15 minutes of matches

43 – The percentage of home victories so far this season, 69 wins in total. There have been 35 draws (22%) and 56 away triumphs (35%)

500 – Ollie Palmer’s 38th minute strike in Havant and Waterlooville’s 5-0 win against Farnborough on Saturday was the 500th goal in the Conference South this season

Post match interview v Bromley – FA Cup

Interview with Tony Burman following 2-1 defeat against Bromley.

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September – League Review

Clubs in the Conference South face a two week break from league action so now is a good chance to reflect on the first two months of the 2011/12 season.

Elliot Bradbrook has netted five goals from midfield

Dartford’s form has continued and finishing month two in second place has the fans buzzing for a promotion push. If Princes Park remains a fortress the target of reaching the playoffs could be upgraded to being involved in the title race. Picking up points away from home will be just as crucial as Woking are currently ahead of The Darts on goal difference.

So far the only slip up was the away match at The Camrose where Basingstoke Town remain the only side to beat Tony Burman’s side. That reverse was at the beginning of the month and since then Dartford have overcame Eastleigh, Farnborough, Staines Town and Tonbridge Angels in a four match winning run.

Charlie Sheringham has continued to find the net scoring five in five in September and in the fixture against Staines Town it was only the second game in which he failed to score. At the start of the season the talk on the terrace was if The Darts had enough recognised strikers. However, Burman has often used one up front in Sheringham and it has worked because of the support play from the midfield, down the middle and out wide. Elliot Bradbrook has netted five goals from midfield in ten games, a ratio of a goal every other match.

With Ryan Hayes and Richard Graham performing on the wings they are supported by Adam Green and Matt Jones in the full back positions. The squad can also look towards last seasons player of the year Lee Noble and the versatility of Danny Harris who can play wide or up top and Lee Burns who has played in a number of positions for The Darts.

It is a much more attacking look at Dartford and it will need to be to keep pace at the top end of the Conference South. But like last years champions Braintree Town found out that clean sheets and a solid defences are just as important. With Tom Champion holding in midfield, Tom Bonner and Paul Goodacre (prior his recent injury) forming a good partnership at the back and Andrew Young between the sticks there is lots to look forward to over the next seven months.

Moses Ademola scorer of seven goals for The Cards

Woking, the best supported club in the division at the moment lead the way but only just keeping their noses ahead of Dartford. The Cards mirrored Dartford’s results with a defeat followed by four straight wins. The Surrey side are just ahead because of their better winning margins helped by in form striker Moses Ademola who has scored five goals in September. The only defeat for Woking was against Welling United who led the table at the end of August. Welling United lost at Dorchester Town, fell to a shock result at Boreham Wood and were held by Bromley so The Wings have dropped to third after an five point turnaround.

Sutton United and Basingstoke Town make up the rest of the play off spots and The U’s will be delighted with fourth position after promotion last season. Sutton United have overcome the 5-0 opening day drubbing against Woking. The defeat was certainly a shock to the system after finishing last season unbeaten at home. In September they recorded four wins and a draw scoring fourteen and conceding just three. For the latter, Basingstoke Town have climbed the most positions this month from twelfth to fifth. An organised outfit with the talented Delano Sam-Yorke and experienced Tim Sills up front, The Hampshire club are looking steady.

With teams jockeying for positions we are starting to see who will be there or thereabouts come the end of April and we can already see a few sides struggling. Hampton and Richmond recorded their first victory on Saturday to lift them off the bottom, Thurrock continue to struggle and Boreham Wood are making a similar start to last season at the wrong end of the table.

Sides like Weston Super-Mare and Maidenhead United are still finding their place after an inconsistent first two months. And the two Hampshire sides, Eastleigh and Farnborough that went full time over the summer are not meeting expectations.

Martin Hayes: ex Dover Athletic boss

One of the biggest surprises in the Conference South is the lack of goalmouth action at The Crabble. Despite the signings of George Purcell and Billy Bricknell only Eastleigh have fired more blanks in front of goal, yet the Kent club have the best defensive record. Dover have only been beaten twice but currently in twelfth place it was enough for Martin Hayes to get the sack.

With two months down things are looking rosy at Princes Park but with seven months to go a lot can happen.

 

Season in numbers so far…

5 – Most consecutive home draws set by Dover Athletic, one more would beat the Conference South record

6 – The most consecutive home wins in the league set by Dartford (and still counting) and the most consecutive wins set by Welling United

11 – Most goals scored by a team in the last quarter of the match set by Woking

165 – The number of goalscorers this season excluding own goals

336 – The number of minutes without a goal at The Crabble (from 23 August 2011 when Billy Bricknell scored against Dartford to 24 September 2011 when Havant and Waterlooville’s Wes Fogden opened the scoring)

629 – The average league attendance