Rss

Archives for : June2011

Season Review Part Six – A look back on 2010/2011

6 – The Wonder of You

The Birth of Flagzilla

It had been just over two decades since Dartford’s last appearance in the F.A Cup First Round. For the first time ever Princes Park would host a Football League side in a competitive match. A sell-out crowd was expected and four days before the big day a sell-out was announced. The unlucky Dartford supporters who were unable to buy tickets did get a second chance when Port Vale returned some of their allocation.

Walking towards Princes Park, Vale fans displayed their away shirts looking for decent public houses. Dartford supporters were already there lubricating their vocal chords, the build-up was friendly; the charm of the F.A Cup had entered the town. The Darts were under no pressure, had nothing to lose but dreamed of what might happen. The Port Vale following, aware of a possible cup upset, was still confident enough to pull through. After all Micky Adam’s side were flying high in League Two in second position.

As three o’clock approached the atmosphere was cranked up a notch. F.A Cup fever had reached its peak and what better way to celebrate than unleashing Dartford’s new signing. Paid by the fans, its black, its white and its pure dynamite…Flagzilla made its debut.

Flagzilla warms up the action at against Port Vale

Dartford started with intent and in the opening minutes left Port Vale shell shocked. In the commentary box Gary Clark and Paul Philpot described the action: “Burns across field to Hayes, Hayes left footed looking for Danny Harris, Harris, Danny Harris is through, Danny Harris, ohhhhhhhhhh off the line”. The crowd gasped, The Darts were incredibly denied, what a start, the crowd were lifted, as if the match wasn’t enough in the first place!

After a Hayes free kick flashed wide, The Darts grew in confidence, the performance was steady and with the Princes Park crowd behind Tony Burman’s men the nerves had disappeared. Half way through the first half a controversial moment arrived, Carl Rook laid the ball off but Vale midfielder Gary Roberts miss controlled the ball. Michael Shinn stood his ground to win the ball, Roberts lunged two footed and Shinn was fouled. Tony Burman and Paul Sawyer were incensed at the side of the pitch; nearly every player got involved as a brawl broke out, Shinn made no fuss, surely a red card and advantage Dartford. The referee called the Captains over and spoke to Roberts and Shinn. Yellow card, Roberts was lucky to stay on the pitch.

The Darts looked more like the Football League side and almost went in front when Lee Burns fired wide. Then Carl Rook worked tirelessly to hold up the ball, Hayes’ trickery created a crossing opportunity and when it found the feet of Rook he scuffed the shot into Stuart Tomlinson’s hands.

Bradbrook nets a shock opener

Rook and Hayes battled on down the left and when Hayes persistence paid off he was brought down on the edge of the box near the goal line.  “So it’s a free kick about a yard outside the penalty area and three yards from the touchline. Shinn and Hayes now stand over the ball, I think it’s going to be Hayes, it is. Delivers it in, a cross, YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. CAPTAIN ELLIOT BRADBROOK, GOAL TO DARTFORD, GOAL!” Princes Park erupted, The Darts were in front.

At half time Dartford fans could not quite believe what was happening, forty five minutes away from glory. If you thought about it too hard then nerves would kick in, the only cure was to sing a long, get behind the boys and hope time would tick along quickly to four forty five. Port Vale feared the worst, Micky Adams made a triple substitution. The second half kicked off…

The Vale played with more urgency but Dartford stayed strong and continued to create chances. Paul Goodacre headed straight at Tomlinson, Hayes sent a free kick over, the clock ticked away. The Darts defence were resolute, Harris was the Patron Saint of Lost Causes troubling Port Vale with his pace, Hayes troubled The Vale with his trickery and Rook worked hard to keep possession up top on his own. Charlie Sheringham then entered the equation as Tony Burman swapped him with the tired Rook. Six minutes remained.

McCombe saves Vale

A hopeful through ball was played forward from The Vale midfield, Hayes swiped at the ball to cut it out about 30 yards from goal, and the slice on the ball spun it towards Andrew Young’s touchline. Out came Young who caught the ball, unfortunately he was unable to save the corner. Tommy Fraser went over to take the corner kick; right footed he swung the ball out towards the middle of the six yard box. Players were tugging at each other, jostling for position when the ball broke loose to John McCombe who bundled the ball towards goal, heartbroken, silence. Port Vale escaped Princes Park with a draw.

The full time whistle blew and the Dartford faithful proudly clapped every player off the park. Time passed and everyone had time to reflect on an exhausting day, no one knew whether to be proud or gutted, in the end we settled for both…six minutes, just six more minutes.

Dartford 1 Port Vale 1 – F.A Cup First Round Highlights

Away Day Blues are Dover

Searching for the first away victory in the league Dartford were on a high after their F.A Cup heroics. Over recent years Dover Athletic had got the better of The Darts and had just come off the back of an F.A Cup giant killing themselves. The Whites had famously defeated Gillingham to make national headlines. A Tuesday night at The Crabble turned out to be satisfactory night for Tony Burman and his men. Both sides were tired and Dover looked the better side creating better chances. Dartford dug deep and was certainly up for it.

Ryan Hayes opened the scoring  after just eleven minutes, Hayes sent in one of his corners which goalkeeper Ross Flitney let slip, fortunate or poor goalkeeping it did not matter, 1-0. Andrew Young was kept very busy and again put in another outstanding performance. Eight minutes into the second half Michael Shinn brought down the ‘unstoppable’ Adam Birchall. Birchall scorer of eleven goals in Dover’s opening twelve league matches picked himself up to take the penalty, Young saved. Dover pushed on, continued to create chances and spurn them. Then on 82 minutes The Darts launched a counter attack, Elliot Bradbrook crossed towards Ollie Berquez who nodded in to win the game for sure. Only the travelling faithful witnessed a terrific win for The Darts, the away press were allowed no cameras.

First Defeat at Home

Dorchester Town were next up at Princes Park, confidence was high in the Dartford dressing room after the past week. The problem was that the players had one eye on the F.A Cup replay in three days’ time. With the match level at half time, The Magpies exploded into action in the second half. Ryan Moss scored in the sixty fourth minute when he followed up from Andrew Young’s fine save.  A break away from Dorchester two minutes later resulted in a second goal, this time taken by Mark Jermyn from six yards. Dartford tried to find a way back but was caught out for a third time when experienced midfielder Nick Crittenden finished off a counter attack in the eighty seventh minute. To rub salt into the wound Moss completed a brace in the final minute, Dartford were well and truly beaten.

Dartford 0 Dorchester Town 4 – Highlights

An Evening in Burslem

Two coach loads travelled up to Burslem on a Tuesday night not expecting victory but still hoping for a giant killing. Even with the dodgy air conditioning this did not deter the Dartford faithful from a memorable occasion. Micky Adams learnt from the first match and played a stronger side. The winners would take on Accrington Stanley or Morecambe at home in round two. The coaches arrived and fans from both sides mingled in the bar, bottles of Titanic Ale went down well until seven forty five arrived. The Darts travelling contingent of just over three hundred entered Vale Park which looked huge compared to the non-league surroundings we had got used to in recent years. Dartford flags were draped over the spare seats and nonstop singing throughout the ninety minutes made sure this was an evening to be proud.

A tribute to the travelling support

Dartford supporters gather at Vale Park in the F.A Cup First Round Replay

The wide pitch was used to full affect by Port Vale, playing with width, using their wingers and overlapping full backs, Dartford were stretched. Football League experience paid off and from the outset The Vale controlled the game.

The boys gave it their all but it was a step too far. The support was fantastic, 314 fans travelled but it sounded like we took 500. Andrew Young was kept busy and had a super game but he was unable to keep out Marc Richards’ penalty on seven minutes.  Eight minutes later the lead was doubled when Richards netted his second. Sean Rigg scored number three on 56 minutes and Justin Richards scored the goal of the night with fifteen minutes left.

Dartford fans could be excused for thinking they had lost 4-0, after all we did score five imaginary goals. Altogether now, “let’s pretend, let’s pretend, let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” cue cheering and goal celebrations. After the third imaginary goal the Dartford supporters really didn’t let the defeat spoil their party. “Let’s pretend, let’s pretend, let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” cue cheering and goal celebrations, “four nil and you ****** it up, four nil and you ****** it up”. What a comeback, oh no wait a minute why not make it five, we never did have our match with Accrington Stanley.

Dartford players applaud the support, the fans applaud back

Dartford players and staff applauded the crowd, appreciating the tremendous support. The support applauded back appreciating the tremendous effort put in by the players and staff. It was a night to be a proud Dartford fan, the fans belted out Elvis Pressley’s Wonder of You, scarfs displayed above heads, the evening closed.

Port Vale 4 Dartford 0 – F.A Cup First Round Replay Highlights (1st Half)

Port Vale 4 Dartford 0 – F.A Cup First Round Replay Highlights (2nd Half)

Now for the Trophy

One cup run ended, another one began. The F.A Trophy represented Dartford’s only realistic, albeit slim chance to reach Wembley. Not since Peter Taylor was in charge at Watling Street had The Darts came close to a repeating their run to the final in 1974. Of course, this was a long way off but you never know.

Dartford returned to Ship Lane to take on Thurrock who held The Darts in their league match back in September. Thurrock had not won any of their opening fourteen league matches and was propping up the Conference South table, in their match before meeting Dartford they recorded their first win against Staines Town.

Rook scores twice

Carl Rook headed in an eighteenth minute goal to give The Darts some breathing space. Before the opener, there was little to choose between the two sides.  Thurrock looked for a way into the tie but could not break down the Dartford defence. With eight minutes left Rook doubled his tally from six yards out to secure a place in the First Round. Next up…Crawley Town.

After the F.A Trophy tie Tony Burman confirmed Lee Noble had been given a chance to prove his worth at Concord Rangers and Ollie Berquez also went out on loan to Billericay Town.

Thurrock 0 Dartford 2 – F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Highlights

Debutant arrives

Tony Burman was in the loan market again and on 23 November 2010 announced the arrival of George Purcell from York City. Purcell was to make his first start against Woking, three times F.A trophy winners.

The Darts were off to a tremendous start when Ryan Hayes opened the scoring with a deft lob on seven minutes for Dartford. Hayes ran to the away end, back facing the audience and celebrated with a jig, a great finish from the winger. Woking looked strong up front and had the experience of former football league stirker Elvis Hammond who equalised mid-way through the first half. Woking passed the ball well and when Hammond went through his scuffed effort wrong footed Andrew Young and trickled into the Dartford net. The Cards then went into the break with a lead courtesy of Craig Faulconbridge’s header in first half stoppage time, the cross was pin point and the header was well placed beyond Young.

In the second half it did not take long for parity to be restored. Only five minutes had been played when loanee and debutant George Purcell finished in style. With a looped ball forward Purcell chased onto the ball waited for the bounce then almost karate kick like lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper, an exquisite finish, top goal indeed. Purcell was lively all afternoon and was foiled twice by Andrew Little in goal and blasted two opportunities over the crossbar. The game ended 2-2 to leave Dartford in eighteenth place, three points above the bottom three.

Woking 2 Dartford 2 – Highlights

November Completed

Cup games and wintery conditions made the league campaign slightly unsettled during November. Bromley and Braintree Town shared top spot. Ebbsfleet United continued where they left off in October and were now unbeaten in ten matches. Havant and Waterlooville finished the month on four consecutive wins. Braintree Town and Staines Town played out an astonishing 4-4 draw, Welling thrashed St Albans City 6-0 and Thurrock lifted themselves out of the bottom three by winning two in a row.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 16 10 3 3 29 11 +18 33
2 Bromley 16 9 6 1 26 17 +9 33
3 Welling United* 17 10 3 4 35 22 +13 27
4 Chelmsford City 14 8 3 3 27 18 +9 27
5 Dover Athletic 14 8 2 4 29 19 +10 26
6 Ebbsfleet United 14 7 5 2 22 12 +10 26
7 Farnborough 16 8 4 4 28 19 +9 28
8 Havant and W 13 6 4 3 20 11 +9 22
9 Eastleigh 15 6 4 5 24 18 +6 22
10 Bishop’s Stortford 17 7 2 8 19 30 -11 23
11 Staines Town 16 5 6 5 23 21 +2 21
12 Weston-super-Mare 17 6 4 7 20 27 -7 22
13 Woking 16 5 5 6 16 20 -4 20
14 Maidenhead United 15 5 3 7 15 25 -10 18
15 Dorchester Town 16 5 4 7 19 20 -1 19
16 Hampton and Richmond 16 4 7 5 19 23 -4 19
17 Basingstoke Town 14 4 3 7 12 17 -5 15
18 Dartford 15 3 6 6 20 25 -5 15
19 Thurrock 16 2 6 8 20 30 -10 12
20 Lewes 17 3 3 11 15 24 -9 12
21 St Albans City 16 1 7 8 15 31 -16 10
22 Boreham Wood 14 1 4 9 16 29 -13 7

*Welling United deducted five points

 

Stuart Maidment

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins, videos courtesy of Ray Cherry.

 

One Goal I Will Never Forget…

One Goal You’ll Never Forget

On social networking site Twitter recently, one topic that was trending (one of the top things to be posted around the world) was #1goaliwillneverforget. Whether or not this was a football thing in the first place is not clear, but it was soon turned around to a football slant. Many people were including their memories, and these included “Diego Forlan breaking all South African hearts when he scored against South Africa in WC2010”, “Ian Rush’s winner against Germany in 1991 and seeing German fans crying into their beer” and “Stuart Pearce slamming in a spot kick vs Spain in Euro 1996” among many others.

However, I got thinking and I thought I’d share my personal goal I’ll never forget. Some would include a match winning goal, or a pearler from 45 yards into the top corner, but mine was a tap in from 8 yards.

Potters Bar Town v Dartford – 5th April 2008 – Ryman League, Division One North

The Darts were top of the league, going to 18th placed Potters Bar Town on a damp Grand National day, having been defeated by Brentwood Town at Princes Park in the previous week’s match by a soon-to-be-Dart Lee Noble goal. Our nearest rivals were AFC Sudbury, who had won in the previous match, and they were away to Wingate and Finchley that day.

Potters Bar Town took the lead after only 1 minute, giving Dartford the worst possible start. The Darts struggled to make an impression on the Potters Bar Town goal, spurning several chances within the first half hour, including Jamie Coyle missing the target from a yard out. If the Darts felt things weren’t going to plan, they got a whole lot worse when AFC Sudbury took the lead. Ryan Hayes, the mercurial Dartford right winger, almost brought the Darts back level before half time when his free kick rattled the crossbar.

AFC Sudbury conceded 15 minutes into the second half, meaning that they were back level and were only going to gain a point on the Darts had things stayed the same, and things got worse for the East Anglians when they conceded again against Wingate and Finchley with only ten minutes to go. However, the Darts had seemingly blown their chances when they conceded again, with some poor defending undoing their chances of pulling the game back. However, fate had other ideas…

Adam Flanagan’s hopeful cross was only cleared to the edge of the penalty area where Jay May lashed the ball into the bottom corner. The Darts rushed the ball back to the centre-circle and focused their minds on an equaliser which very nearly came when substitute Eddie McClements drove goalbound from 25 yards, but the Potters Bar keeper pushed the ball over the crossbar. Hayes then lobbed a cross into the box but substitute Luke Piscina’s shot from close range was poor and the ball flashed over the crossbar. Things were beginning to look worse for the Darts when AFC Sudbury netted a late equaliser at Wingate and Finchley.

However, the Darts did get their equaliser, and 100th goal of the season, in the 93rd minute. The move started in the Darts own half with skipper Alex O’Brien finding Jay May who chested the ball down and passed to McClements. McClements found Hayes, who brought the ball onto his favoured left foot and launched a high ball into the penalty area, nodded down by Adam Flanagan into the path of the onward rushing O’Brien. Alex, who hadn’t scored for the Darts before (or as it transpired, since),

took one touch on his left foot and then slotted the ball past the keeper from 8 yards to spark incredible scenes. Subsitutes ran round the pitch to celebrate behind the goal with O’Brien and about a large proportion of the travelling Darts fans

. The final whistle blew not long after, and the Darts went into the final three games of the season, six points ahead and with a +10 goal difference.

Some would say that one individual goal from Alex O’Brien would be the most important goal of the season –others would state that it would only be part of the story. Either way, it was a goal I will never forget.

Gary Clark

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins, video courtesy of Ray Cherry…

Season Review Part Five – A look back on 2010/2011

5 – The Start of a Long Winter / The Run Continues

Dartford start October with a defeat

Woeful at The Wood

Tony Burman’s men visited newly promoted Boreham Wood in the first fixture of October. The Wood went up via the playoffs, 25 points behind The Darts, to reach the highest level in the clubs history. Dartford’s opponents had failed to record a single win in the first two months. The Darts were confident of a result and for getting their first away win of the season.  After a goalless first half the floodgates opened in the second. Unfortunately, it was the home side that scored three unanswered goals. Tom Bonner scored an unlucky own goal on 46 minutes when trying to cut out a cross. Mario Noto netted a brace, on 70 minutes he scored from the penalty spot and on 84 minutes Noto made it three nil. Lee Noble came on as a substitute and managed to net a consolation at the end, a terrible result, a lethargic performance, this did not bode well for the cup games up next.

Boreham Wood 3 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Penalty Drama –Part One

F.A Cup day arrived again at Canvey Island’s Brockwell Stadium. The Darts had been a bit of a bogey side for The Gulls in recent years. In Essex the two sides shared 13 goals over the last three seasons with Dartford winning on every occasion, 1-0, 3-2 and 5-2. On a blustery afternoon near the Thames Estuary, Canvey took the lead on just eight minutes through Danny Heale’s unchallenged header. The Darts had a goal ruled out, hit the bar and missed a number of chances. James Russell, Canvey’s keeper was in fine form and so Dartford could not find the breakthrough in the first half and went in a goal down.

Dartford take the lead in the F.A Cup

Andrew Young kept The Darts in the game on 64 minutes with a good stop and six minutes later Danny Harris was upended in the box. Up stepped Ryan Hayes from the penalty spot, all level. Hayes started to cause problems and just seven minutes passed when he looped the ball forward for Elliot Bradbrook to nod Dartford in front. It looked over but Canvey pushed for the equaliser, injury time arrived, one minute, two minutes, three minutes, how much longer? Young rushed out to punch the ball clear, Jason Hallett went down, penalty. Four minutes into injury time and Robbie King scored. Dartford blew it in the last moments, the game ended 2-2 and a replay was needed.
Canvey Island 2 Dartford 2 – Highlights

Penalty Drama –The Sequel

Princes Park was not a happy ground for Canvey Island. If you thought their record against Dartford on their own patch was bad then think again. In 2007, Dartford won 6-1, the following season ended 4-0 to The Darts and last season 2-1.  Before the F.A Cup match at Brockwell Stadium Dartford had won all six fixtures against Canvey Island scoring 21 times. The draw, just days ago, was a great result for The Gulls.

If the first match was exciting then the replay was enough to make any supporter self-combust, surely a four goal thriller couldn’t be bettered, oh yes it could. It took 17 minutes for Canvey to take a shock lead; the Isthmian Premier League side were in front with an unmarked Frank Everett header. Canvey players jumped towards a small overjoyed bunch of Canvey supporters who surged forward to celebrate. Four minutes later Dartford’s penalty claim was turned down for handball but they continued to press. The ball was sent back into the box and headed back across goal by Ryan Hayes for the on rushing Danny Harris to square the tie. Dartford took the lead when Joe Bruce’s hoof forward sent Carl Rook in on goal, Rook was bundled over in the box, another penalty given. Hayes who netted in the first match was given the responsibility to put The Darts ahead. Hayes fired to the keepers right, it was kept out, Hayes followed up, kept compose, took it round the goalkeeper and Rook did the rest, phew.

Another Rookamania moment as Carl Rook scores

In the second half Hayes continued to tease Canvey’s left back and on 64 minutes he cut outside his opponent and floated a pin point cross, Paul Goodacre was there, another header, another goal, 3-1 and Dartford were in control. The Princes Park hoodoo looked to continue for Canvey but they didn’t know when to give in. James White lost possession in the middle of the park trying to dribble out from defence. The Gulls won possession and the ball was played out to Alex Rhodes about 40 yards from goal. He strode forward and unleashed a pile driver from 30 yards into the Dartford goal, we had reached the halfway point of the second half and it was 3-2. Robbie King hit the crossbar, Dartford supporters were looking nervous, if only they knew what was to come.

Dartford’s defence became hesitant as Canvey pushed and pushed and pushed. A long looping diagonal ball found Alex Rhodes who whizzed past Tom Bonner. One on one with Andrew Young this was the moment, Rhodes slotted home, Canvey went ballistic as they came back from the brink. Still fifteen minutes to go and the scores were level again at 3-3. Both sides traded blows and came close to nicking victory but extra time was required.

Both sides had given it their all and the extra 30 minutes of play was very cagey. Jason Hallett crashed a volley off Young’s crossbar and toe poked wide. The momentum was swinging towards The Gulls but neither side could find the winner. The full time whistle blew and players slumped to the ground.

And so for the climax…after 210 minutes of football and ten goals the players legs were tired, the fans hearts were racing. A penalty shoot out was to follow, to watch or not to watch, no one could take anymore. In front of the home fans the shoot out began. Goal after goal no one would give. Charlie Sheringham, Robbie King, Elliot Bradbrook, Craig Davidson, James White, Ashley Dumas, Ryan Hayes, Alex Rhodes, Danny Harris, Danny Heale all successful, 5-5, sudden death.

Up stepped Joe Bruce, side footed towards the top right corner, James Russell guessed wrong, the crossbar rattled, game over? Bruce walked back head in hands not knowing where to look, just hoping for a miracle, feelings mutual with the Dartford faithful. Matt Game, for a place in the next round versus Andrew Young, to save the cup run. Game went left, Young guessed and the cup run continued. Cries from the bench, “get in Youngy, get in”. Young and Russell passed each other tapped hands as if they were in a goalkeeper’s pact, knowing they have little chance against the outfield players. Supporters of both sides were wondering ‘please no more’…

Andrew Young guesses correctly and Dartford progress to the F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round

Adam Birchell was next, Russell tipped the ball onto the post, hearts stopped, and the ball crept in for 6-5, hearts restarted. Ex Dart, Hussain Isa levelled the scores, Tom Bonner netted, Steve Ward converted, Adam Gross scored, Chris Moore equalised, 8-8. The night went on and on and on.

Paul Goodacre was next knowing just the goalkeepers were to follow. He struck the ball left footed, Russell went the wrong way and Dartford was in front again. Goodacre trotted back to his team-mates fist in the air, a sense of relief, job done.  Jason Hallett, the last outfield player remaining to keep Canvey’s dream alive, side footed left, Young dived the right way at full stretch, the ball flew past him…and wide of the post. Dartford won it, players raced towards the crowd, emotions were let out, adrenalin pumped, nobody behind the Dartford goal could contain themselves, what a night.

Dartford 3 Canvey Island 3 – Highlights Penalty Shoot Out – Dartford 9 Canvey Island 8

Richard Graham scores

Defeated at Eastleigh

After an exhilarating week Dartford travelled down to Hampshire to face Eastleigh. The Darts sported an all red kit on what was to end up in more league disappointment. A dreadful display at the Silverlake Stadium ended in a comfortable win for Eastleigh. The Spitfires scored three, The Darts fired a blank. Richard Graham, who recently agreed to join The Darts opened the scoring with two minutes left of the first half when his eighteen yard effort found its way through a crowded box into the corner. A poor cross was deverted into Paul Goodacre’s own net on 63 minutes via his heel . Andrew Young had to run out of his goal to head clear in the last minute but Anthony Riviere capitalised by stroking the ball into the unguarded net from 30 yards. An awful result left the travelling fans bemused and the players being questioned.

Eastleigh 3 Dartford 0 – Highlights

First Round Beckons?

It was always going to be difficult to match last rounds F.A Cup drama but the anticipation and expectancy were taken to the East of England. Dartford had drawn Leiston for an opportunity to reach the F.A Cup First Round for the first time since 1989. Leiston were clear underdogs playing in the Eastern Counties Premier League three levels below The Darts.

Five days before the big match Tony Burman arranged a friendly behind closed doors. A Charlie Sheringham hat trick along with goals from Adam Birchell and Ollie Berquez earned The Darts a 5-0 victory against Thamesmead Town. However, the result could not be repeated at Victory Road as Leiston held Dartford to a goalless draw in a very poor match.

Charlie Sheringham spurns Dartford's best chance in a goalless draw

Sunday arrived and the eyes of the Dartford supporters were glued to their television sets and ears were stuck to their radios. For the first time in 21 years, Dartford were in the famous velvet bag, ball number 74. “Please a home tie”, “please pick out Charlton Athletic”, “no I want us to get Gillingham”, “Hillsborough would be a good place to visit”, for a generation of fans, for the newer supporters this was a first. For the older generation during the Watling Street days it had been too long.

“Number  74”, that’s us, bum to the edge of the seat, television volume turned up, legs twitching, head screaming for a big tie. “Will play number 34”, who tell us? “Port Vale”. C’mon a league club at home, bring it on. Oh wait a minute we have the small matter of replay to get through first.

26 October 2010, a chance to host a football league club at Princes Park in a competitive match beckoned. Fans were confident but still nervous considering recent performances. The sheer scale of the match, the potential ‘banana skin’, we mustn’t blow it, this is our best chance in years, defeat would be disastrous.

Tom Bonner scored what turned out to be the winner

Before the replay Adam Gross was released from the club, John Whitehouse replaced Andrew Young in goal. The wet weather was unable to stop the game going ahead, will it be Dartford or Leiston? Three minutes into the game and a long volley forward by Elliot Bradbrook looked easy to deal with. Leiston’s central defender miss controlled the ball as Danny Harris’ pace increased the pressure. Harris shoulder barged his way to possession and slotted home clear on goal, super start. The darts controlled the opening quarter of the match. Carl Rook spotted Ryan Hayes unmarked on the left, Hayes cut inside and his effort was parried, Rook followed up, cue Rookamania, the lead was doubled on 25 minutes. Straight from kick off, four passes later and Leiston carved out a chance of their own, Andrew Young was rounded but saved by the post, Stuart Broadley followed up, 2-1.

Dartford remained in control but felt another goal was needed, the majority of 1074 supporters feared another Canvey night. On the hour a Michael Shinn free kick found Tom Bonner who rose above everyone to increase the lead to 3-1. More opportunities arrived for The Darts but the score stayed the same, the final whistle edged closer, Port Vale awaited. A minute remaining and surely the job was done, Leiston attacked and managed to get the ball into the box, Leon Ottley-Gooch got the better of the Dartford defenders and nodded Leiston a lifeline, it was too late. For the first time in 21 years Dartford F.C made it to the F.A Cup First Round.

Dartford 3 Leiston 2 (Replay) – Highlights

Bonner rescues The Darts

Four days later The Darts were shot back down to earth. All of the excitement and escapism of the cup was followed up by a league fixture away to Lewes at the wonderful Dripping Pan.  The Rooks had lost eight consecutive games before holding Bromley, they had managed just four points out of 33. Tim O’Shea was appointed the new manager after the eighth successive defeat.

Dartford was searching for their first away win. Ryan Hayes created his own chance with a skilful run but his shot was curled wide. Paul Olima then put Lewes in front when a corner was not dealt with by Dartford, a sloppy goal to concede, more away day disappointment.

A feisty draw at The Dripping Pan

Dartford never settled and was left frustrated, the game became feisty. Lee Burns was hauled over off the ball on the halfway line and a second melee of the afternoon began a minute from time, Jamie Crellin was sent off, James White booked. The clocked ticked as 4.45pm arrived, John Whitehouse took the free kick and punted the ball into the Lewes box. The Lewes keeper attempted to punch clear 12 yards out but his own defender got their first, Tom Bonner stretched out and prodded the ball towards goal, 1-1, Dartford players ran in all directions knowing they escaped the Dripping Pan with a draw.

Lewes 1 Dartford 1 – Highlights

October Leaves

A mixed month for the Dartford faithful, poor league performances were overshadowed by a roller coaster of a cup run. The Darts finished October in eighteenth place without a league win in October. Lewes hit rock bottom, Thurrock were still to record a win. Bromley suffered their first defeat of the campaign to Basingstoke Town after drawing three in a row. Braintree Town took the initiative at the top having kept an impressive ten clean sheets in thirteen fixtures. Farnborough were getting to grips with the league with a 100% record in October, Kezie Ibe netting in each game. Havant and Waterlooville won both their matches including a 5-1 victory against Bishop’s Stortford whose slump continued.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 13 9 2 2 22 5 +17 29
2 Bromley 13 8 4 1 22 15 +7 28
3 Chelmsford City 12 8 1 3 24 15 +9 25
4 Welling United* 13 9 2 2 27 14 +13 24
5 Dover Athletic 12 7 2 3 26 15 +11 23
6 Ebbsfleet United 12 6 4 2 17 11 +6 22
7 Eastleigh 12 6 2 4 20 11 +9 20
8 Farnborough 12 6 2 4 22 17 +5 20
9 Havant and W 11 4 4 3 16 11 +5 16
10 Woking 12 5 1 6 9 13 -4 16
11 Hampton and Richmond 13 4 5 4 15 17 -2 17
12 Basingstoke Town 12 4 3 5 12 14 -2 15
13 Weston-super-Mare 13 4 4 5 14 20 -6 16
14 Maidenhead United 11 4 1 6 11 20 -9 13
15 Staines Town 12 3 5 4 12 13 -1 14
16 Dorchester Town 13 4 3 6 14 18 -4 15
17 Bishop’s Stortford 13 5 0 8 17 30 -13 15
18 Dartford 12 2 5 5 16 19 -3 11
19 St Albans City 12 1 6 5 13 19 -6 9
20 Thurrock 12 0 6 6 14 23 -9 6
21 Boreham Wood 12 1 3 8 12 24 -12 6
22 Lewes 13 1 3 9 8 19 -11 6

*Welling United deducted five points

Season Review Part Four – A look back on 2010/2011

4 – Finding Our Feet?

White-wash

Dartford started the second month of the season in sixteenth place and faced mid table Weston Super Mare at home.  The Seagulls had only managed to score and concede just once away from home, the crowd expected a tough match with few goals, how wrong they were. Dartford shaded the first half with nothing much to report until the stroke of half time. James White was being pushed and pulled in the box and the referee gave a penalty. Weston players were bemused, nine times out of ten a foul wouldn’t have been given unless it was outside the box. Charlie Sheringham tucked away the penalty to give Dartford the lead before the break.

James White's superb curling shot finds the back of the net

Weston came out quickly in the second half and a defensive lapse down the right provided The Seagulls with a chance to level. Marcus Duharty side footed the ball after it was cut back, all square. A sloppy goal to give away but that didn’t deter The Darts creating a couple of chances. James White was everywhere in the middle of the park and twenty minutes later his persistence paid off. Sheringham’s pass was just out of reach for White but he managed to bundle his way through to earn possession, Weston players claimed hand ball but this was unable to put White off his tracks. Cutting onto his left foot he curled a shot from 20 yards into the far corner, a terrific strike, 2-1. Four frantic minutes later left the Dartford faithful in dreamland. Ryan Hayes caused trouble all afternoon and his free kick on the right was turned in by Weston’s Martin Slocombe. Hayes then provided a delightful pin point cross for Sheringham to nod home at the back stick, 4-1 Dartford. With Ryno’s deliveries and White’s midfield domination that afternoon it certainly was a great day at the office.

Dartford 4 Weston Super-Mare 1 – Highlights

Elliot Bradbrook fires in the equaliser in Dartford's return to Ship Lane

Back to an Old Stomping Ground

A short trip across the River Thames to Ship Lane provided many fans with fond memories of The Darts playing outside of Kent. Years without a home after the demise in 1992, years of sharing grounds but the club survived no matter what. Between 1998 and 2001 The Darts shared home with Thurrock (then known as Purfleet). The Essex club had yet to record a victory in their opening seven fixtures, in fact it took a further eight games to earn their first win. On this occasion the two sides shared the spoils. Max Lette Jallow was allowed to waltz into the Dartford area and put The Fleet ahead on 65 minutes. Although the performance was gritty, dogged and sometimes desperate Dartford battled on.  A free kick was whipped in low and Eliot Bradbrook managed to take the ball under his control, a swivel, a shot, a goal from six yards. The skipper rescued a point for Dartford twelve minutes from time.

Thurrock 1 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Captain Bradbrook Saves the Day, Again

Captain Bradbrook scores a dramatic leveller

Bromley visited Princes Park top of the Conference South, an incredible run of seven straight victories (only matched by Woking later in the season) had ended the week before at St Albans City in a draw. Still unbeaten and with Dartford undefeated in three an impressive crowd of 1834 turned up for an entertaining afternoon.

Nic McDonnell put Bromley ahead in the first half when a Tony Finn shot looped over Andrew Young for McDonnell to bundle the ball over the line. However, the drama was about to unfold.  Jerome Sobers brought down Elliot Bradbrook in the box, the referee pulled out a card, the colour red. Ryan Hayes took the penalty, Wes Foderingham’s hand made contact with the ball but not enough to keep out the shot, the scores were level on 74 minutes.

With just two minutes on the clock Harrison Dunk dribbled the ball towards the Dartford goal, his unchallenged run ended in a low 18 yard strike into the Dartford net, disaster. With time running out The Darts pushed for an equaliser, Hayes put in a deep cross to the far post, Foderingham misjudged and Bradbrook nodded home from two yards out to rescue a point, again.

Dartford 2 Bromley 2 – Highlights

The Road To Wembley Begins

For some teams the journey to the hallowed Wembley turf began on 14 August 2011. On that day Dartford were making their debut in the Conference South. Every season for non leaguers, a trip to Wembley in the F.A Cup will never happen, so it’s the dream of a third round tie against the big guns which non leaguers realistically dream about. Dartford set out on their journey on 25 September 2010 in the Second Qualifying Round.

Lowestoft Town stood in Dartford’s way of progression as they visited Princes Park. The Isthmian Premier side were a tough prospect and definitely on the up. The previous season they cruised to the Isthmian North title with a 15 point margin, scoring a whopping 115. They had won three trophies in five years and reached the F.A Vase Final in 2008. In their first season at Isthmian Premier level they had won 5 of their first 7 matches.

The F.A Cup always has something special in store for a number of clubs; Dartford fans hoped it would be their turn. The match kicked off at the traditional time with supporters in good voice. The Trawlerboys brought a respectable following to add to the atmosphere inside Princes Park.

 

The Trawlerboys arrived at Princes Park in good spirits

Ryan Hayes had the first chance of the afternoon but his wild effort was blasted over. Andrew Young was called into action making an excellent save to keep Dartford fans on edge. The two sides traded opportunities but neither could convert their chances, half time arrived without a goal. The second half came alive when The Darts won a corner on 51 minutes. Michael Shinn’s delivery was scrambled towards Carl Rook who instinctively reacted to nod the ball home, a true poacher’s goal. Dartford stamped their authority on the game. Six minutes later a long throw found Danny Harris on the six yard box. Harris delicately took the ball down on his right foot, one touch out of his feet, a turn and low snap shot and the lead was doubled.

Rookamania: Rook celebrates

Lowestoft continued to play decent football and Joe Francis forced Young into tipping his shot onto the outside of post. The Trawlerboys were galvanised and continued to fight back, Dartford fans were not too comfortable. Dale Cockerill hit a terrific strike from 30 yards but Young equalled his effort with a superb save. On the rocks the game turned into a battle despite a two goal cushion, just ten minutes remained. Lee McGlone took the ball round Young, the post saved Dartford for a moment until Cockerill stuck in the rebound. Hearts were really in mouths now. Lowestoft pushed forward in search of a comeback their fans felt they deserved. Dartford was saved by the full time whistle, who would be waiting in the next round?

Dartford 2 Lowestoft Town 1 – Highlights

When September Ends

Bromley’s unbeaten run stretched to nine which included winning their opening seven matches. Welling United suffered a five point deduction and a £5000 suspended fine due to financial irregularities, leaving them eight points adrift of the leaders. Thurrock and Boreham Wood remained winless. Braintree’s Sean Marks managed to score in every fixture throughout September and topped the goalscoring chart with seven. The match of the month was at The Crabble, where a nine goal thriller ended Dover Athletic 6 Farnborough 3.

Dartford was unbeaten in September and moved up two positions in the league standings. Progression to the F.A Cup Third Qualifying Round was also a plus, it seemed as though The Darts were beginning to adjust to Conference South football.

 

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bromley 9 7 2 0 17 8 +9 23
2 Braintree Town 9 6 2 1 16 4 +12 20
3 Dover Athletic 9 6 2 1 18 8 +10 20
4 Chelmsford City 9 6 1 2 18 10 +8 19
5 Welling United* 9 6 2 1 18 10 +8 15
6 Ebbsfleet United 9 4 3 2 13 9 +4 15
7 Eastleigh 9 4 2 3 14 10 +4 14
8 Hampton and Richmond 9 3 4 2 11 9 +2 13
9 Woking 9 4 1 4 7 10 -3 13
10 Maidenhead United 9 4 1 4 11 15 -4 13
11 Bishop’s Stortford 9 4 0 5 10 17 -7 12
12 Staines Town 9 2 5 2 10 10 0 11
13 Farnborough 9 3 2 4 14 16 -2 11
14 Dartford 9 2 4 3 14 12 +2 10
15 Havant and W 9 2 4 3 10 10 0 10
16 St Albans City 9 1 6 2 8 9 -1 9
17 Basingstoke Town 9 2 3 4 6 10 -4 9
18 Weston-super-Mare 9 2 3 4 8 13 -5 9
19 Thurrock 9 0 5 4 12 19 -7 5
20 Dorchester Town 9 1 2 6 8 16 -8 5
21 Lewes 9 1 1 7 6 14 -8 4
22 Boreham Wood 9 0 3 6 9 19 -10 3

*Welling United deducted five points

 

Q & A now up

Tony Burman took time out of his schedule tonight to speak to Pure DFC regarding the Questions and Answers thread on the Pure DFC forum.

http://m.podshow.com/media/21454/episodes/284688/puredfcpodcast-284688-06-13-2011.mp3

You can subscribe via iTunes by clicking the button below. 

Season Review Part Three – A look back on 2010/2011

3- Let The Season Begin – August 2010

Danny Harris celebrates Dartford's first goal in the Conference South

The Opener

The fourteenth of August arrived and The Darts opener against Havant and Waterlooville was the talk of the town. Back in the second tier of non league football, 1302 turned up for the first fixture of 2010/2011 season. Havant and Waterlooville were the bookies favourite to go up having lost just nine games the season before and finishing a point away from the playoffs. Dartford missed Elliot Bradbrook and new signing Tom Champion through suspension. Tom Bonner, Joe Bruce, Paul Goodacre and Ollie Berquez made their competitive debuts. Three o’clock, the referee’s whistle commenced the start of another chapter in Dartford F.C’s history. No one really knew what to expect but Princes Park was buzzing with optimism and on twenty six minutes Danny Harris flicked a Ryan Hayes free kick goalwards, 1-0. The Darts had opened the scoring, the crowd were in full voice, the season was well and truly underway, what a start. The Hawks looked for the equaliser, hit the crossbar and had a goal ruled out for offside. Burman’s side were clinging on and as the half time break approached Hayes handled the ball in his own area, penalty, the home crowd silenced. Bobby Hopkinson converted the spot kick and the teams went back to their dressing rooms all square.

The second half started with a fine drizzle and the Hampshire side took control, the Dartford crossbar was rattled for the second time. With a couple of minutes remaining Dartford were unable to clear a corner, the ball was eventually laid off to Wes Fogden who unleashed a terrific eighteen yard curler into Andrew Young’s far corner, game over. Or was it? In the last minute Young launched a goal kick forward which was flicked on. Lee Burns desperately helped the ball up in the air and into the penalty box, Danny Harris was knocked over and the referee pointed to the spot. Hayes stepped up, the Dartford faithful crossed their fingers, and the Havant goalkeeper was sent the wrong way, 2-2. Dartford had earned their first league point, relief.

Dartford 2 Havant and Waterlooville 2 – Highlights

Paul Goodacre heads for an early bath at The Beveree

Searching For Win Number One

Two away matches followed starting in mid week at The Beveree. Hampton and Richmond were the first team to host The Darts. After two games Dartford unveiled their third kit, green with white sleeves, eyebrows were raised not for the first time that afternoon. Not even ten minutes had passed when Paul Goodacre clipped the last man, the letter of the law was applied and Dartford were reduced to ten men. Despite a numerical disadvantage the boys held their own but it was not enough. A Dean Wells header on 68 minutes inflicted the first defeat for The Darts.

Hampton and Richmond 1 Dartford 0 – Highlights

A second successive reverse was to follow at newly promoted Farnborough. The Hampshire side lost their opening two matches. It took just twelve minutes for Dean McDonald to smash home a superb half volley from 18 yards to give Farnborough the lead. Andrew Young was extremely busy against the lively Boro attack and when he upended Kezie Ibe a penalty was awarded. McDonald doubled his tally and Farnborough’s advantage. Lee Noble nodded in a consolation in the final minute, The Darts were given a wakeup call, welcome to the Conference South.

Farnborough 2 Dartford 1 – Highlights

A First For Everything

At last Charlie Sheringham and Tom Champion made competitive debuts as Bishop’s Stortford travelled to Princes Park. The Bishop’s finished a lowly eighteenth last season but had become an experienced Conference South outfit. The Hertfordshire club were already familiar with Andrew Young, Danny Harris, Paul Goodacre and debutant Charlie Sheringham who all plied their trade at Woodside Park in the past. After a slow start to the season Dartford fans debated over the best line up and the best formation. Importantly of all, they all agreed to get behind the team in search of their first victory. The performance was much improved by the Dartford lads and on twenty minutes Billy Burgess’ long throw was flicked on by Lee Burns, Danny Harris turned and shot, 1-0. Barely a couple of minutes passed and

The Darts run riot and record win number one

Paul Goodacre was in the thick of it again, another penalty conceded. This time, Andrew Young made an excellent stop to keep The Darts ahead and save his first penalty of the season. Two minutes before the interval things got better for Dartford. Sheringham found Ryan Hayes out wide who returned the ball with a delightful cross; Sheringham headed his first goal for his new club, 2-0. Young kept The Bishop’s at bay in the second half with a string of fine saves, the penalty save was looking to be a turning point. With nine minutes remaining a terrible mistake from Bishop’s Stortford goalkeeper Nicky Morgan handed Carl Rook a four yard tap in, game, set and match, the first win of the season was accomplished in style.

Dartford 3 Bishop’s Stortford 0 – Highlights

Derby Day

Dartfordians were on a high after the mid week triumph and for the next 96 hours the emotional journey would continue. It had been eighteen long and hard years without playing our rivals. Back then they were known as Gravesend and Northfleet, now their name had controversially changed to Ebbsfleet United. Only two and half years had passed since The Fleet tasted Wembley triumph in the F.A Trophy final, being the first Kent side to lift the honour. Dartford had lost Watling Street, started all over again in the Kent League and even shared Stonebridge Road with their local rivals, the road had been long. The occasion was full of excitement and nervousness, take the start of the season and multiply it by ten or maybe more. A season’s record attendance turned out, 2781, Dartford’s biggest in the league since the opening of Princess Park. Prior the match supporters of both clubs mingled, some would have to speak to each other after the match at work, down the local. Friends before the game, enemies during and returning to friends again once all is over. In 1992, Dartford destroyed The Fleet 5-0 on New Year’s Day and the reverse fixture ended 1-1. Many fans would remember this as the last time the two sides met in the league; newer fans looked forward to a ‘new rivalry’ for it was Dover Athletic or Maidstone United in recent years. The only similarity between the two sets of supporters was that no one wanted to experience defeat.

Darts fans saviour the atmosphere against Ebbsfleet United

Ebbsfleet started the brighter and struck the left post through Craig Stone. However, Dartford bounced back with half chances of their own via Charlie Sheringham and Lee Burns. Hearts were in mouths shortly afterwards. Callum Willock was sent through who delicately lobbed the ball over John Whitehouse, surely The Fleet had taken the lead? The ball was destined for the goal. Billy Burgess scampered back before sliding in time to clear the ball off the line. The first half went by, scrappy, competitive with both defences resolute, yet the game remained entertaining because of the amount at stake. On the stroke of half time Dartford broke with a counter attack and Danny Harris’ cross was inches away from the toes of Lee Burns, the half time whistle sounded, goalless.

At the half time interval drink was required to nullify the nerves. The only affect this had was to lubricate the vocal chords for the second half. Drums and trumpets continued to stir up vociferous support for the final forty five minutes and the game continued where it had left off, scrappy, competitive and entertaining.

On sixty two minutes Fleet goalkeeper Preston Edwards comfortably dealt with a Dartford cross, he released Willock with an accurate throw who was cynically tripped off the ball by Ryan Hayes, free kick awarded. Although the free kick was forty yards out right on the far side Ebbsfleet United packed the Dartford box. As the ball was hurled in Michael West rose from six yards out to powerfully header The Fleet into the lead. Ebbsfleet supporters were ecstatic, a jubilant roar sounded out over Princes Park. Despite going a goal down the atmosphere of that goal made Dartford realise what they had missed for eighteen years, a big game, a big gate, a higher level of football and support, it was what Princes Park was built for, shame about conceding though.

Seconds later The Darts attacked in search of a quick leveller. Whitehouse’s kick went long, Sheringham flicked it on to Burns who exchanged a one two. Only the keeper to beat from six yards, this was it, 1-1 and we’ve bounced back. Burns set himself, too complacent it was harder to miss and he did. The chance had vanished and over half of Princes Park was in disbelief. The game opened up and straight from Dartford’s opportunity, The Fleet broke away and Willock’s header was brilliantly tipped round the post by Andrew Young.

Nine frantic minutes passed and the setback gave Dartford the impetus to find an equaliser. A hopeful boot into the Ebbsfleet box caused problems for Paul Lorraine as he hauled Harris to the ground, penalty. Sheringham immediately grabbed the ball despite Hayes’ protest that he normally takes the spot kicks. Confusion surrounded the Ebbsfleet players who disagreed with the referees decision, confusion surrounded the Dartford players who couldn’t decide on who should take the penalty. The referee completed formalities; Princes Park held its breath. Sheringham to stepped up, shot to the keepers right into the bottom corner, equaliser. Relief for the Dartford fans, for Sheringham, for Hayes, for Burman’s men. A few more half chances were squandered and when the referee brought an end to the derby, Princes Park was reduced to a credible round of applause, an exhausting yet entertaining fixture had come to an end, the sixteen year wait was worth it.

Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 1 – Highlights

Dartford fans celebrate as Charlie Sheringham converts a spot kick

End of August

After the highs of the last two league fixtures The Darts travelled across to Essex to face Chelmsford City. Just under a year ago the two sides met in the F.A Cup with The Clarets progressing to the next round. A disappointing performance by Dartford ended August on a defeat, goals from Billy Bricknell and Anthony Cook gave Chelmsford a 2-0 win leaving Dartford with five points from the first eighteen.

Chelmsford City 2 Dartford 0 – Highlights

During the opening month of the season Bromley set the pace with a perfect record. Mark Goldberg’s team won every fixture in August. Only Braintree Town and Dover Athletic were unbeaten whilst five teams were yet to record a victory. St Albans City opened with five consecutive draws which was to remain the longest drawing streak of 2010/11 season. The promoted newcomers were all struggling to adapt with Farnborough lying in fourteenth, Dartford in sixteenth and Boreham Wood second from bottom.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bromley 6 6 0 0 12 5 +7 18
2 Braintree Town 6 4 2 0 12 2 +10 14
3 Dover Athletic 6 4 2 0 10 3 +7 14
4 Chelmsford City 6 4 0 2 13 8 +5 12
5 Maidenhead United 6 4 0 2 7 8 -1 12
6 Welling United 6 3 2 1 11 8 +3 11
7 Bishop’s Stortford 6 3 0 3 7 10 -3 9
8 Eastleigh 6 2 2 2 11 8 +3 8
9 Ebbsfleet United 6 2 2 2 7 6 +1 8
10 Basingstoke Town 6 2 2 2 4 4 0 8
11 Weston-super-Mare 6 2 2 2 4 4 0 8
12 Hampton and Richmond 6 1 4 1 7 7 0 7
13 Staines Town 6 1 4 1 5 5 0 7
14 Farnborough 6 2 1 3 5 7 -2 7
15 Woking 6 2 1 3 4 8 -4 7
16 Dartford 6 1 2 3 7 8 -1 5
17 St Albans City 6 0 5 1 6 7 -1 5
18 Havant and W 6 0 4 2 5 8 -3 4
19 Lewes 6 1 1 4 4 9 -5 4
20 Thurrock 6 0 3 3 8 12 -4 3
21 Boreham Wood 6 0 3 3 6 11 -5 3
22 Dorchester Town 6 0 2 4 4 11 -7 2


 

Season Review Part One & Two – A look back on 2010/2011

1- The Ups and Downs of 2010

On 10 April 2010 The Darts were on the verge of securing a place in the Conference South. Faced against second place Kingstonian at Kingsmeadow, Tony Burman’s men emphatically won 6-2 to earn their second promotion in just three years.

Fast forward to 24 April 2010 and a jolly at Bognor Regis saw 868 fans watch Dartford close a triumphant season with a 2-0 victory and Jamie Coyle net the 100th league goal of the season. The Darts cruised to the title by amassing 93 points, 18 clear of runners up Sutton United.

Fans celebrated in the bar (and for the rest of the weekend) and managed to catch the full time scores as the final day of the non league season came to an end. The finale was worth it, with one eye on their beer and one on the television the anticipation of who would be joining the Darts from the Conference Premier grew. Unbeknown to buoyant Dartford supporters Gateshead United looked safe after leading AFC Wimbledon from the fourth minute. Main rivals Ebbsfleet United were ahead 4-3 against Tamworth with just nine minutes to go. Dartford’s main rivals were heading for safety until Eastbourne Borough was awarded a penalty against Oxford United six minutes from time; Simon Weatherstone converted the spot kick.

Isthmian Premier League Winners 2009/2010

Back in the bar the results came in…Eastbourne Borough 1 Oxford United 0, Gateshead United 1 AFC Wimbledon 0, Tamworth 3 Ebbsfleet United 4…a quick glance at the final table confirmed Ebbsfleet United’s relegation, the bar erupted, celebrations continued because Dartford will be playing Ebbsfleet United for the first time in 18 years. The Darts were back where they belonged.

The Conference South welcomed Farnborough who took the Southern League title with an impressive 93 points and 100 goals as they edged Nuneaton Town by five points. Boreham Wood finished fourth in the Isthmian Premier League but earned promotion to the Conference South for the first time in their 62 year history. A playoff final win against Kingstonian ensured the Hertfordshire side will finish in their highest ever league position in the 2010/2011 season.

Leaving the Conference South for greater heights was Newport County AFC, led by Dean Holdsworth the Welsh side won the title by a massive 28 points. Bath City finished fourth and won the playoff final against Woking securing a place at the top level of non league football for the first time since 1997. Weymouth was relegated after finishing bottom, Worcester City moved across to the Conference North and Weston Super Mare were reprieved.

2- 113 Days of Summer – 2010

Fixture list
After a glorious promotion season August could not come soon enough. Forced to watch England’s dismal World Cup campaign in South Africa only two thoughts could enter the mind of a Dartford fan. Firstly, when does the fixture list come out? Secondly, how will the squad be shaping up come pre season?

The excitement of waiting for fixtures cannot be explained to the non football supporter. When the list is published each fan looks for something different. However, there is a commonality and a set of unwritten rules each fan tends to use to assess and cast their eye on the up and coming season.

2010/2011 Fixture List

1. Who do we play first?
2. When do we play our local rivals?
3. Who do we play over the festive season?
4. When do we travel to the best away ground?
5. Who do we play last?
6. Do the big fixtures avoid the important family commitments or holiday I cannot get out of?

For your information Dartford were due to open their Conference South account at Princes Park against Havant and Waterlooville, take on Ebbsfleet United in the first two weeks of the season and again over the festive period, travel to Woking in November, then close the season at Maidenhead United.

Comings and Goings
In preparation for the new season Tony Burman braved difficult decisions bound to split supporter opinion. In May he announced news that would divide views and come as a shock to the Dartford faithful. Isthmian League winning captain and a defensive rock throughout 2009/2010, Adam Flanagan was released along with crowd favourite Robbie Haworth, jaws dropped in astonishment. Jay May’s second spell with the club ended as did combative defensive midfielder Danny Dafter, experienced forward Alan Tait and midfielder Ryan Johnson.

Over the summer months announcements were made one by one, ‘Goodacre becomes a Dart’, ‘Tony pleased to announce new signing’, ‘Berquez signs in!’, ‘Brucie bonus for Darts’ for Burman had captured four new players. Paul Goodacre, Tom Champion and Joe Bruce joined from Braintree Town and Ollie Berquez from Chelmsford City.Then on 17 June 2010 the biggest announcement of all was made. Charlie Sheringham, son of the legendary Teddy

New Signings: Ollie Berquez and Joe Bruce also signed on the dotted line

Sheringham had signed on the dotted line. The 22 year old had plied his trade at a number of league clubs but dropped down to non league. A successful spell at Welling United was followed by a period at Bishop’s Stortford, supporters of these clubs were torn between whether Sheringham reached his potential or not, Dartford fans would have to wait and see.

Pre Season Friendlies
No matter who was in or who was out ‘in T.B we trust’. A mix of enthusiasm, hope, nervousness and anticipation was to build up over the ensuing weeks as players showcased themselves to the playing staff and fans in games against Dagenham and Redbridge, Gillingham, Southend United, Millwall and Leyton Orient.

During July and the first week of August, Dartford played eight friendly matches winning four, drawing two and losing two. Victories came against Dagenham and Redbridge (3-1), Southend United (2-0), Bognor Regis Town (5-0) and Tonbridge Angels (1-0). The Darts earned a respectable draw against Leyton Orient (2-2) and were held in a goalless draw versus Aveley. Only Gillingham (2-1) and Millwall (2-0) defeated Dartford, a promising pre season indeed. Tony Burman added to the squad with the addition of Tom Bonner after a successful trial. The 22 year old centre back scored two goals in pre season had previously come through the ranks of Northampton Town.

Pre Season at Princes Park

The only competitive match was a chance for more silverware in the Isthmian League Charity Shield. Princes Park hosted the League Champions against Leatherhead United, the League Cup winners. Leatherhead United scored the only goal of the game to lift the shield, Dartford were denied.

As always Burman had the chance to assess his squad during these games and the supporters judged and talked about the clubs ambitions, the new players and made predictions. Optimistic Dartfordian’s claimed that a second successive promotion was on the cards, the realist was content with mid table or just plain survival with anything else as a bonus. The one thing we all agreed on was relegation is a definite no go.

Burman was in the realist camp but edging towards the optimist, “We’re new to this league, we’re going to come up here and enjoy ourselves and if I thought for one minute everyone wanted to avoid relegation, I’d be absolutely gutted. “We’re going to have a real good go and see what happens – and let’s enjoy ourselves”[1]


[1] www.kentishfootball.co.uk on Sunday, 18 July 2010 – ‘Burman Unhappy With Player Restrictions For Ryman Charity Clash’

.