Basingstoke Town (5th) v Dartford (2nd)
Dartford will have to overcome Basingstoke Town over two legs to reach the playoff final and be in with a chance of promotion.
The Darts finished runners up in only their second season in the Conference South. Thanks to an incredible 2012 and keeping the title race alive longer than expected, Tony Burman’s side can be proud of what they have achieved so far but we hope to go a step further.
From the outset the playoffs were the main target for Dartford and since the first match in August they have remained in the top five. With many people writing off the title when Woking were 17 points clear at the end of 2011, The Darts did cut the deficit to four points at one stage before their chances ended on 14 April 2012.
Dartford’s form has included 15 wins, 3 draws and 2 defeats in 2012, where The Darts have dropped just four points at Princes Park this year and they were in their last two home fixtures. On their travels Dartford three of their last four fixtures drawing the final game of the season 1-1 down at Truro City. Barry Hayles looked to have won the match with three minutes to spare but good work from Tony Garrod set up Jacob Erskine in injury time to level with the last kick of the league season.
Luke Wilkinson returned for The Darts after his suspension and his pairing with Tom Bonner at the back has been solid since he joined on loan from Dagenham and Redbridge. Elliot Bradbrook has chipped in with 14 goals from midfield, Danny Harris top scored with 15 goals and will test defences with his pace.
Basingstoke Town gatecrashed the playoffs last week stealing the final spot from Chelmsford City. The Dragons spent most of the season hovering around the top ten but are the form side going into the play offs. Eight wins from their final ten fixtures propelled them into the top five. The Hampshire club staved off Chelmsford City on the final day with a 1-1 away draw at Welling United, Chelmsford failed to beat champions Woking to ensure Basingstoke Town finished four points clear.
It is no surprise the form Basingstoke Town are on coincides with Delano Sam-Yorke’s return from injury. The striker has top scored for the Hampshire club with 14 goals including one against The Darts, he also scored twice at The Camrose against Dartford last season. Manager Jason Bristow was only appointed in February replacing Frank Gray. Bristow is able to call upon the experienced Tim Sills up front who has netted a dozen times and midfielder Shaun McAuley who has ten goals to his name.
At The Camrose over the past two seasons Basingstoke Town have the advantage. In September, Delano Sam-Yorke opened the scoring on six minutes when he was left with too much space to power the ball beyond Derren Ibrahim. Charlie Sheringham scored from the penalty spot after a retake ten minutes later and Adam Green’s deflected free kick put The Darts ahead. The lead lasted just two minutes when Toby Little’s free kick wrong footed Ibrahim. Shaun McAuley put away a second half winner on 53 minutes.
Last season the journey to Hampshire in March ended in a 2-2 draw. Sam-Yorke opened the scoring in the first minute with supporters still taking up position on the terrace. The lead didn’t last long when Ryan Hayes scored from an excellent solo effort just three minutes later. Danny Harris put The Darts in front mid-way through the first half and Sam-Yorke equalised fifteen minutes later. The second half was just as entertaining with the woodwork being hit by both sides but both teams failed to score.
Did you know…
Dartford have scored in the most amount of league games, netting at least one goal 38 times out of 42
The Darts have lost just twice in their last 22 league matches
Dartford also have the tightest defence conceding 0.95 goals per league game
Basingstoke Town have lost one out of their last eleven league games
The Dragons’ 5th place finish was their highest in the Conference South
Sutton United (4th) v Welling United (3rd)
Sutton United have had a tremendous first season in the Conference South despite getting off to the worst possible start. After losing 5-0 to Woking in their opener they entered the top five back in September and never looked back. Under the guidance of Paul Doswell, The Surrey club consistently put runs together to finish in fourth place.
Up front The U’s have been grateful for the goals Craig Watkins have scored as well as midfielder Harry Beautyman’s. In the last two seasons Sutton United can rely on the solid foundations provided by just three league defeats at Ganders Green Lane. Highlights have include a five game winning streak in February and March and a ten match unbeaten run in September and October resulting in 26 goals and only five conceded. During that spell The U’s recorded their biggest win of the season beating Salisbury City 5-0.
Last season’s Isthmian Premier League champions have eased off a bit towards the tail end of their campaign by winning twice in the final eight fixtures. The run started with a 6-1 defeat at Dartford and as the goals have dried up The U’s are the most out of form team out of the playoff contenders.
The Wings led the Conference South in September for six games before the eventual champions Woking took control. Welling United looked at one stage contenders to pip Dartford and Woking but that was short lived back in early March. After a win at Chelmsford City, The Wings were six points behind top spot. Without back to back away wins since August, inconsistency on their travels denied Welling United a better challenge for the title.
Jamie Day’s team dropped out of the playoffs with two games to go last season and after two years of financial difficulties a third place finish is more than credible. The Wings lost Andrew Pugh to Cambridge United in January and his 16 league goals is still more than any other Welling player. In fact only two players in the Conference South have scored more times. Despite the departure of the prolific scorer the Kent club have a more than capable squad.
At Ganders Green Lane the two sides were involved in a seven goal thriller back in December. Tommy Kavangah scored from 25 yards to give Sutton a twelfth minute lead. A minute later the scores were level when Welling’s Pugh tucked away from eight yards. The goals continued to flow when Beautyman drilled in the third of the game after just 16 minutes. The sides went in level at half time when on 25 minutes Luis Cumbers made it 2-2.
With the first half being a difficult act to follow the second 45 minutes lived up to expectations. Three goals in five minutes started off when Cumbers completed a brace in the 73rd minute to put the Kent side in front with a well taken volley. However in the space of a minute it was level again with a Sam Page header and the turnaround was completed thirteen minutes from time as Craig Watkins nodded in the winner from a yard out.
Did you know…
Sutton United have kept the most clean sheets this season. The U’s have not conceded in 16 of their league games, only matched by Woking
The U’s finished in the highest league position since the Conference South was formed. Previously they spent four years in the division recording 15th, 13th and 14th place finishes before relegation in 2008 as the bottom club
Welling United have scored 37 goals on the road this season, only Woking have netted more times away from home
The Wings are unbeaten in four away fixtures, a season’s best. Even better, they have not conceded away from home in the last six hours and forty four minutes of football
Records versus playoff teams