Dartford will hope to take a step in creating club history at Blundell Park when they take on league leaders Grimsby Town in the F.A Trophy semi-final.
Saturday’s cup tie is the first of two legs and the Darts will aim to set up a chance to reach Wembley for the first time since 1974.
Tony Burman led his team to victory last time his side travelled to Lincolnshire to play the Mariners. In an incredible start to their campaign Dartford reached fifth position following an excellent 2-0 away win at Grimsby Town. With the scores level at the break the Kent club took the lead on 52 minutes when Tom Champion opened his account for the season. With the home side pressing to salvage a point loan signing Adam Birchall scored his only goal for the Darts during his loan spell.
Whilst Grimsby Town’s midweek match was called off at Nuneaton Town, the Darts hosted F.A Cup headliners Luton Town. The two teams went into the interval locked in a goalless draw. Dartford made a positive start improving on their defeat at Lincoln City on Saturday. Elliot Bradbrook had a great chance to put the Darts in front as his side pressed well. The Hatters grew into the game before half time with Marcus Bettinelli’s goal being threatened late on.
Dartford continued to press in the second half and their hard work was rewarded in style. With just under twenty minutes remaining Ryan Hayes cut inside to curl home the match winner in his 350th appearance for the club. Burman praised the winger after the game and told BBC Radio Kent: “It was a wonderful goal and he’s done that on a regular basis. I’ve got to give Ryan [Hayes] credit, he’s been very consistent this season. I thought it was an outstanding individual goal”.
Burman admitted to making changes tactically on Tuesday night, he commented: “It’s a great result. The guys worked really hard off the back of the defeat away to Lincoln”. With Jacob Erskine not selected, Burman opted for two normally attacking midfielder’s up front in Lee Noble and Nathan Collier.”We had to play a certain system that we don’t like to play at home but it paid off. Lee played behind Nathan and put in an excellent performance”. The performance from the back five also impressed the boss, he said: “We’ve defended better tonight. The unit was a lot stronger than over the past few weeks”.
Erskine is the only recognised striker as Noble, Collier and Danny Harris have featured mainly on the wing during their time at Princes Park. It’s no surprise that Burman has been desperate to find more options in front of goal and despite his attempts he has struggled to bring in the right player.
However, the Dartford manager had a change of fortune this week with the return of top goalscorer Harry Crawford from Barnet on a months loan. The striker caught the eye of the League Two side by scoring 15 goals in 28 appearances (18 starts) for Dartford this season, only one away from home. Crawford has made three appearances for the Bees so far scoring against Bristol Rovers.
Victory took the Darts to 44 points which has been enough to survive for half of the seasons since the Conference Premier was restructured in 2004. It was also the clubs first double of the season and third home win in a row in all competitions. With league safety edging ever closer Dartford will be desperate to reach Wembley for only the second time in their history.
Dartford’s semi final opponents are on an exceptional run. When the Darts played Grimsby Town last time they ended a 12 match unbeaten run but this time they will need to finish a 17 game streak without defeat. The last team to defeat the Mariners in all competitions were Hyde on 6 November 2012.
The latest triumph came last weekend when on loan striker Richard Brodie netted the winner against AFC Telford United. Victory stretched Grimsby Town’s run at home to seven wins from nine in the league leaving them in top spot. Brodie is one of a few players recruited by managerial duo Rob Scott and Paul Hurst to help push the club back towards the Football League.
When Dartford took on Grimsby Town in October the Mariners lacked fire power for a side challenging at the top. Signing Ross Hannah from League Cup finalists Bradford City has added a further ten goals in the scored column, the 26 year old striker has made 17 appearances in the league so far. Recently, striker Lenell John-Lewis and winger Marcus Marshall signed from Bury joining up with Brodie from Crawley Town. With an already tight defence Scott and Hurst will be aiming to return the club to League Two with an added bonus of cup success.
Head to Head
Grimsby Town wins: 0 / Dartford wins: 1 / Draws: 0
Lee Burns was missing from Tuesday nights win over Luton Town as Adam Green slotted in at full back. Harry Crawford has returned to the club for a second spell. Dartford have no suspensions for the first leg.
Grimsby Town have loaned striker Greg Pearson to Kidderminster Harriers after the recent additions to Blundell Park. The Mariners also have no suspensions for the first fixture.
(League games unless stated – FAT – F.A Trophy)
|Grimsby Town (WWWDWW)
|AFC Telford United
||FC Halifax Town (FAT)
||FC Halifax Town (FAT)
Road To Wembley
Dartford 3 FC Halifax Town 2
A trio of midfielder’s blasted the Darts into the semi-final after falling behind to Dan Gardener’s second minute goal. Lee Noble scored his fourth goal of the season through a crowded box. Two minutes later the returning Elliot Bradbrook netted with a well taken finish. The pick of the bunch came courtesy of winger Ryan Hayes who expertly curled his shot beyond Matt Glennon. FC Halifax Town set up a dramatic finish with Gardener’s second of the match.
FC Halifax Town 1 Dartford 1
The Darts salvaged a second attempt at making it through to the semi-final after falling a goal behind. Both sides battled for ninety minutes with the Shaymen reduced to ten men early on when Chris Worsley was dismissed. Lee Gregory shocked the Darts to put the hosts ahead. Danny Harris pounced from three yards out netting a leveller leaving the sides to do it all over again.
Grimsby Town 3 Luton Town 0
Grimsby Town booked their place in the FA Trophy semi-finals with a convincing 3-0 victory over Luton Town. Jamie Devitt curled home his 25 yard free kick and second half goals from Andy Cook and Marcus Marshall made sure The Mariners reached the last four.
Dartford 4 Bromley 2
New loan signing Dominic Green took no time at all to score on his début taking advantage of a poor back pass. Bromley’s Pierre Joseph-Dubois hit a decent strike past Marcus Bettinelli to level up. A clever counter attack finished by Green ensured the Darts restored their lead before half time. In the second half, Lee Burns netted from Ryan Hayes’ delightful back heel and Harry Crawford continued his excellent form in front of goal. There was time for consolation when Joseph-Dubois scored again for Bromley.
Welling United 1 Grimsby Town 2
The Mariners didn’t have it all their own way at Conference South side Welling United. With the Kent club boasting a decent record at Park View Road in recent seasons they took the lead through Joe Healy’s penalty. More spot kicks ensued as Ross Hannah failed to equalise from 12 yards before Jamie Devitt equalised from a second penalty attempt. Marcus Marshall clinched the match with a winner to send Grimsby Town through.
Dartford 3 Tonbridge Angels 0
In a cup derby at Princes Park the Darts knocked out the Conference South side. Harry Crawford got the Darts on their way when at the second attempt the striker scored to give the Darts an early lead. In the second half top goalscorer Crawford was upended in the penalty box and captain Elliot Bradbrook scored from the spot. The third goal was the pick of the bunch, created by Jacob Erskine’s back heel, Jon Wallis took a touch before emphatically hitting a fine long range strike into the top corner.
Grimsby Town 4 Havant and Waterlooville 0
A comfortable victory at Blundell Park put the struggles of the first round behind the Mariners. Shaun Pearson nodded the hosts in front and Andy Cook made it 2-0. Havant and Waterlooville were down and out when a third hit the Conference South sides net before the break thanks to Greg Pearson. A fourth arrived in the second half despite Joe Colbeck being dismissed for the Mariners with Cook completing a brace.
Kingstonian 0 Dartford 4
The happy memories of promotion two years ago came back to the Darts in round one. The trip to Kingsmeadow started badly when début defender Semi Ajayi conceded a penalty with four minutes on the clock. Fortunately Andre McCollin’s spot kick was saved by the other loan signing Marcus Bettinelli. From then on Dartford didn’t look back, Jacob Erskine flicked in number one before Simon Huckle was dismissed for the hosts. The lead was doubled when Elliot Bradbrook flicked the ball goalwards with his head and Danny Harris expertly curled home a third. Nathan Collier wrapped up the match by coolly slotting the ball underneath the oncoming goalkeeper.
Buxton 0 Grimsby Town 1
At the first hurdle Grimsby Town were heading to extra time until Ian Miller popped up with a late header in the closing minutes. Not a comfortable 180 minutes for the Mariners against a side two divisions below but they got the job done.
Grimsby Town 0 Buxton 0
When Northern Premier League side Buxton travelled to Blundell Park few would have expected the outcome. Grimsby Town failed to breakdown the Derbyshire club who took the tie back to Silverlands thanks to a goalless draw.