After making it to the F.A Cup first round for a consecutive season Dartford are back in league action against Grimsby Town this weekend.
The Darts have drawn four of their last five Conference Premier outings and take on the Mariners, who managed to go the whole of October unbeaten in all competitions.
Tony Burman’s side may have lost only once in their last seven matches but wins have been hard to achieve. A victory last weekend came in the F.A Cup against Isthmian Division One South side Burgess Hill Town, the last league victory was over a month ago. At least the Darts managed to avoid a cup shock thanks to a brace from Harry Crawford and a penalty by Elliot Bradbrook. A pleased Burman said the game, “was a potential banana skin for us against a side that haven’t lost all season and you have to respect that, whatever league they’re in”. The Dartford boss was impressed with Crawford’s goals but accepted the team’s second half performance could have been better.
A return to league action before the second round away tie at Bromley will as usual have Burman’s full attention, he commented: “The accountants are always happy with a run in the cup and it definitely lifts the club”, he continued: “The most important thing for us, though, is to stay in the league. We’ve worked hard to get this club to where we are and it’s taken a while, I don’t want to go back down to those leagues. Staying in the division is the ultimate aim, but I wouldn’t mind it if we had a little enjoyment in the F.A Cup on the way”.
Grimsby Town will enter this weekend’s league fixture on the back of three successive wins. The latest a 3-0 home triumph over Conference North side Guiseley. With few chances in the contest The Mariners had to wait an hour to open the scoring when Nathan Arnold headed in the first. Lenell John-Lewis secured a first round birth after netting six minutes later and again with fifteen minutes to go. John-Lewis has already caused the Darts problems in the past and this season has found the net seven times in 14 Conference Premier outings.
Over the last couple of campaigns Grimsby Town have built on solid defensive records, this term they have the second best overall and home defence conceding just four at Blundell Park in eight games. Goalkeeper, James McKeown along with regulars Carl Magnay and Aristote Nsiala have a large part to play at the back. Up front the Mariners have the fourth best record, largely down to the back to back 6-1 and 7-0 wins over Gateshead and Alfreton Town respectively.
Manager, Paul Hurst has almost led the club to glory in the F.A Trophy and playoffs in recent seasons and will be determined to make the step up, returning the Lincolnshire side back to the Football League. The Mariners are three points off the top five having lost once in their last eight fixtures, including the recent 3-2 away win at Torquay United.
Less than a month ago the Darts were denied a win at Princes Park by the Mariners when a late penalty meant both teams had to settle for a point. Elliot Bradbrook hit the woodwork but his brother Tom found the back of the net with another header just past the hour mark. Tom’s third headed goal of the campaign left the Darts in front until the 86th minute. In a match which saw seven cautions by official Christopher Powell, Nathan Collier saw red when his professional foul brought down John-Lewis, who equalised from the spot.
Blundell Park will hold mixed emotions for Dartford having visited three times in two season’s. When Dartford returned to top flight non league football they caused an upset by beating Grimsby Town 2-0. Tom Champion and Adam Birchall scored the goals which at the time took the Darts as high as fifth place.
On the other side of the coin, an F.A Trophy run to the semi final in that same campaign effectively ended in the first leg at Blundell Park. Craig Disley’s brace included a fine volley before Anthony Cook added a third to give the Mariners a 3-0 first leg lead. The return leg at Princes Park ended goalless ending Dartford’s dreams of reaching Wembley for the first time since 1974. Last season seven goals were scored with Danny Harris getting the opener, however by half time Grimsby Town were 3-1 up with goals from Pat McLaughlin, Shaun Pearson and John-Lewis. Lee Noble got Dartford back in the match but two late strikes by Scott Kerr and Disley finished off the Darts 5-2.
Lee Burns was last involved on matchday against Grimsby Town lasting just 21 minutes. The versatile full back was substituted after picking up an injury. Striker Tom Bradbrook has been struggling with a calf strain and has missed the last two competitive fixtures. Defender Rory McAuley has picked up four cautions this season and is one more away from suspension.
Ever present in the Conference Premier this term, Grimsby Town defender Scott Brown missed the F.A Cup tie against Guiseley through injury. The 29 year old is suffering from an ankle ligament injury and is also one caution away from picking up a ban.
Head to Head
Grimsby Town wins: 4 / Dartford wins: 2 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Grimsby Town (WWDDLW)||Dartford (DDLDDW)|
|Torquay United||A||3-2||Aldershot Town||H||1-1|
Last Meeting at Blundell Park
24 September 2013 – Grimsby Town 5 Dartford 2 – Att: 2503
Goalscorer: Harris (24), McLaughlin (32), Pearson (36), John-Lewis (43), Noble (55), Kerr (85), Disley (90)
Grimsby Town Lineup: McKeown, Pearson, Doig, Bignot, Goodall, Kerr, Neilson, Jones, McLaughlin, John-Lewis, Hannah, (subs used: Disley, Hearn, Thomas)
Dartford Lineup: Julian, Sterling, Clark, Fry, Bradbrook, Collier, Burns, Woodyard, Hayes, Harris, Birchall (subs used: Noble, Ibemere, Cornhill)
Previous Meetings (* – F.A Trophy semi-final / ** – Friendly)
4 – Games since Dartford conceded more than a goal, currently the longest sequence in the division
4 – Goals conceded by Grimsby Town at home, the best home defence with Bristol Rovers
5 – Dartford have conceded the most penalties this campaign, one of which was against Grimsby Town in their last meeting
25 – The Darts have failed to win by more than a goal in their last 25 league fixtures, currently the longest spell in the Conference Premier
40 – the number of seconds it took Grimsby Town’s Scott Neilson to get booked against Alfreton Town, the quickest caution this season
100 – Nathan Collier who appeared in Saturday’s 3-1 cup win made his 100th appearance for the Darts, his 53rd start for club
229 – Grimsby Town have recorded the most shots at goal this season. The Mariners have managed 220 on target and 109 off target, all totals being the highest in the division this term