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