Dartford hope to cause an upset in a bid to escape the bottom four when they take on league leaders and title favourites Luton Town.
The Darts looked down and out at the end of 2013, however two defeats in 11 Conference Premier matches have pulled the club closer to safety. Tony Burman knows a shock victory over the Hatters will see his side move outside the relegation zone for the first time since the start of November, moving last season’s League Two side Aldershot Town and financial stricken Hereford United into the bottom four.
On the weekend, Dartford had to come from behind to earn a valuable three points. Hosting Macclesfield Town, the Silkmen took the lead against the run of play just before half time. Paul Turnbull hit a 25 yard strike beyond Alan Julian giving the visitors a half time lead. The Darts came out of the starting blocks quickly in the second half with Danny Harris heading home Lee Noble’s corner. With just under ten minutes remaining the Princes Park crowd celebrated as Max Cornhill grabbed a winner.
Burman spoke to BBC Radio Kent after the game and was pleased with how his side dealt with the pressure to get three points, he said: “A lot of the players, in the first half of the season, weren’t putting in decent enough performances”, he added: “There’s a few of them we felt were good players at the start of the season that are now telling us they are”.
Although the Darts remain in 22nd place the gap to safety has reduced from five to two points. Aldershot Town’s win versus relegated Hyde kept the Hampshire club’s noses in front, whilst Hereford United and Chester were beaten.
Earlier in the season the Darts were brushed aside at Kenilworth Road as the Hatters began their incredible run of 27 league matches without defeat, three games short of Crawley Town’s record set in 2010/11. Paul Benson scored his first goal in a Luton Town shirt when his effort went in off the post. Elliot Bradbrook missed a great opportunity and within seconds Luke Guttridge scored at the other end. Alex Lawless who had just returned from injury made it 3-0 just after the hour when he took the ball round Alan Julian.
Last time out at Princes Park, Dartford completed a double over the Bedfordshire club with a 1-0 victory. The first half was quiet with Nathan Collier forcing Mark Tyler into a save and Andre Gray striking the post for the Hatters. The second half had its moments and was lit up by Ryan Hayes, who settled the match with eighteen minutes remaining with a delightful curler. Back in November 2012 the Darts came home from Kenilworth Road with a shock 2-0 win. Lee Noble’s crossed free kick went straight in and Tom Bonner’s close range header earned Dartford three points.
Tony Burman will be without two loan players, Luton Town players Jim Stevenson in midfield and striker Alex Wall cannot face their parent club. Burman has used his connection with Hatters manager John Still, who managed the Darts between 1983-1986 when Burman was firing in goals for Dartford.
Luton Town sit 13 points clear at the summit of the Conference Premier and look likely to return to the Football League. However, the league’s top scorers have won two of their last six. After the Hatters lost their unbeaten run at home to Woking they bounced back with two victories. On the weekend, the Hatters faced a tough trip to FC Halifax Town who have lost just once at The Shay. It was the Yorkshire club that came out on top once more at home winning their fifth in a row thanks to goals from Marc Roberts and Conference Premier top scorer Lee Gregory.
Dartford’s defence will certainly have to be kept on their toes as they are likely to face Andre Gray, who is a goal behind Gregory on 26 and the experienced Paul Benson who’s tally is 17.
Expecting the biggest gate of the season, Burman will hope the noise levels can spur the Darts on to another much needed win.
Dartford will be without the impressive Alex Wall and Jim Stevenson, both players are contracted to Luton Town and are therefore illegible. Ryan Hayes is out of action due to a long term injury. Luton Town have been missing the services of Jonathan Smith, Luke Guttridge and Danny Fitzsimons recently, but named an unchanged side in the defeat at FC Halifax Town.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 2 / Luton Town wins: 2 / Draws: 0
Current League Form
|Dartford (WWDLLD)||Luton Town (LWWLDD)|
|Macclesfield Town||H||2-1||FC Halifax Town||A||0-2|
|Aldershot Town||H||1-1||Salisbury City||A||0-0|
Last Meeting At Princes Park
12 February 2013 – Dartford 1 Luton Town 0 – Att: 1802
Goalscorers: Hayes (72)
The Darts Lineup: Bettinelli, Green, Arber, Bonner, Rose, Champion, Bradbrook, Hayes, noble, Harris, Collier (Sub used: Rogers, Wallis, Erskine)
The Hatters Lineup: Tyler, McNulty, Kovacs, Howells, Henry, Mendy, Martin, Neilson, Smith, Shaw, Gray (Sub used: O’Donnell, Rendell, Taylor)
2 – Dartford’s come back on Saturday is only the second time the Darts have conceded first and went on to claim all three points. The only other time was their 5-1 thrashing of Woking
3 – Opening up Luton Town in the first fifteen minutes of matches is tough, the Hatters have only let in three goals during this period
10 – Since the loan signing of Alex Wall, the Darts have averaged more shots at goal. Dartford managed an average of seven attempts pre Wall which has now increased to 10.72 shots per game.
20 – The Hatters have kept the most clean sheets and at one point went 564 minutes without conceding. In that run the Hertfordshire club notched up back to back 7-0, 5-0 and 5-0 wins. Only Cambridge United have gone longer this season without conceding a goal (602 minutes)
88 – Luton Town have netted the most goals in the Conference Premier this season
1164 – Dartford’s average league crowd at Princes Park this season will be easily surpassed. The Hatters can boast the biggest support home and away this season, averaging just under 7000 at Kenilworth Road