Dartford bow out of the Conference Premier league after two years on Saturday with a trip to Nuneaton Town’s Liberty Way.
With relegation confirmed on Easter Monday, the Darts will be plying their trade back in the Conference South next season against the likes of Concord Rangers, Gosport Borough and Wealdstone.
This weekend’s opponents Nuneaton, under both guises as Town and Borough, have been a bogey side for Dartford during stints in the top flight of non league. In fact, the Darts last away win in the league at Nuneaton was 36 years ago in the Southern League, under the leadership of Roy Dwight the Darts won 1-0.
Dartford’s last trip to Liberty Way in December 2012 came when Nuneaton Town were at the foot of the Conference Premier standings. The Darts were in fifth and favourites for a win, but Andy Brown had other ideas and his goal on the stroke of half time was enough for the Boro.
Earlier this season, two goals conceded in the opening eight minutes was enough for Nuneaton Town to take home the points. Louis Moult grabbed an early brace during Boro’s purple patch at the start of the season, which saw them surprisingly top of the Conference Premier after the first nine matches. Elliot Bradbrook did pull a goal back with almost half hour played but the deficit was only halved as the visitors won 2-1.
A run of three straight single goal defeats condemned Tony Burman’s side to relegation. On Monday, Elliot Bradbrook gave the Darts hope at half time and with results elsewhere going against Dartford a win was imperative. Tamworth equalised in the second half when Jessy Reindorf scored shortly after Dartford’s Lee Noble struck the post. Kevin Thornton put the visitors ahead from the spot and when the Darts pushed for an equaliser the Lambs counter attacked leaving Tyrone Sterling isolated, Thornton finished off the move and Dartford’s hopes of survival. Although Bradbrook showed captains spirit in the final minute with a well taken effort, relegation was imminent. The 3-2 defeat against Tamworth is coincidentally the same scoreline and fixture that kicked off Dartford’s Conference Premier spell almost two years ago.
Devastated Dartford manager Tony Burman told BBC Radio Kent:”It’s a disappointing day for us and a disappointing season all round in all fairness. We’ve had a go but we just couldn’t cross that line”. Burman is confident luck will change, he added: “The club has been riding along nicely and it’s been doing well and I’m sure there will be better times for us in the future”.
Fortunes have changed for both clubs over the two seasons in which they returned to the summit of non league. Whilst the Darts finished eighth last term they will be back playing Conference South. Nuneaton Town struggled in their last campaign but survived with a late surge of decent results, this time they started where they left off and only recently tailed of to mid table.
Nuenaton Town have spent the majority of the season pushing for a playoff spot, topping the division after nine games undefeated. Boro then went on a nine game winless streak before form picked up again and by December were in fourth. Inconsistent results left NuneatonTown on the brink of the palyoffs, however hopes have faded of late as the clubs last win was against Tamworth, a run of eight matches without victory.
A large part of Boro’s success has been down to former manager Kevin Wilkin who was appointed boss when Borough reformed as Town. A hat trick of playoff wins led the Warwickshire club into the Conference Premier within five years but a month ago Wilkin left to join Wrexham.
Before the Easter fixtures Brian Reid has been put in charge, the former Ayr United manager last spell in a managerial role was with the Philippines national under-23. The 43 year old’s first game in charge last week ended in a single goal defeat at home to Barnet. The clubs fifth loss in six games was followed by Easter Monday’s goalless draw away to Kidderminster Harriers.
Mat Mitchell-King only managed 26 minutes on Easter Monday as he was forced off through injury. Tyrone Sterling was also replaced in the final minute when he also picked up a strain. Ryan Hayes misses the final game of the season, the midfielder has had an operation on his long term injury. Loanees Jim Stevenson and Rory McAuley are likely to paly their last game for the Darts and will return to their parent clubs Luton Town and Cambridge United respectively.
Head to Head
Nuneaton Town wins: 11 / Dartford wins: 13 / Draws: 14
Current League Form
|Nuneaton Town (DLLLDL)||Dartford (LLLWDL)|
|Wrexham||A||0-3||Forest Green Rovers||H||0-1|
|FC Halifax Town||H||0-1||Grimsby Town||H||1-0|
|Alfreton Town||A||1-1||Lincoln City||A||0-0|
|Braintree Town||A||1-2||Luton Town||H||1-2|
Last Meeting at Liberty Way
4 December 2013 – Nuneaton Town 1 Dartford 0 – Att: 651
Goalscorers: Brown (45)
Boro Lineup: Smith, Cartwright, Dean, Forsdick, Gordon, James, O’Halloran, Walker, Brown, Newton, Taylor (sub used: York)
The Darts Lineup: Bettinelli, Burns, Champion, Ajayi, Rose, Hayes, Wallis, Rogers, Noble, Harris, Erskine (subs used: Collier, Crawford)
Previous Five Meetings (* – F.A Trophy Fourth Round)
Dartford have suffered 14 single goal defeats in the Conference Premier this season. Only Macclesfiled Town (18) and Hyde (17) have suffered more.
Nuneaton town have the second best average points per game (2.24) against sides in the bottom half. Only champions Luton Town have been more prolific
The Boro have won every home game against sides currently below them in the Conference Premier