Dartford’s first ever meeting with Whitehawk comes three weeks earlier than anticipated, in the F.A Trophy third qualifying round.
The two clubs enter the competition from the final qualifying stage, a win will earn them a first round place in a fortnight. After exiting the F.A Cup, the Darts will be hoping the trophy will provide them with a successful cup run.
Over the last two weeks controversy on and off the pitch has generated discussion. Firstly, Dartford continued their decent form with a well-deserved 1-1 draw with local rivals Maidstone United. A cagey first half was cancelled out by a second half with a major talking point. The Stones went ahead with Alex Flisher’s fortuitous goal to lead at half time. With eight minutes remaining captain Elliot Bradbrook struck from 12 yards, only for his effort to have been ‘ruled out’ before the referee awarded Bradbrook his fifth goal of the campaign, his third in his last four appearances.
Burman was pleased the goal was awarded, he told kentonline.co.uk: “There was a bit of controversy with it being offside or not offside but for once, there was a brave referee in front of a crowd who’s gone up to his linesman and asked for the decision”, he added: “I was pleased that he kept the decision right and after that, we could have gone on and won the game. It wasn’t to be but I thought we played well and we definitely deserved something out of the game – if not all three points”.
Dartford’s unbeaten run in all competitions was then extended to six matches just two days later. Drawn at home to League One high fliers Gillingham in the Kent Senior Cup, the Darts upset the odds with a 2-1 victory. The Gills fielded a strong side and went in front through Brennan Dickenson. Dartford got back into the game when Tom Wynter headed in the equaliser and Jack Simmons netted the winner to send the Darts into the next round.
The turnaround in form has been attributed to the change in formation. Captain Elliot Bradbrook commented: “Very rarely any more do people play 4-4-2, most teams crowd out the midfield”, he continued: “If you’re playing two in there, like we have been doing, it is difficult to get around. Teams have got one or two more players inside you and it’s difficult to get on top of games”, he added: “That’s where the game’s won, in the middle of the park and if you’re outnumbered in there it becomes difficult. The system’s got to adapt”.
Off the field there has been controversy of a different kind, Tony Burman was left ‘fuming’ when last weekend’s scheduled away trip to Maidenhead United was postponed. With the Berkshire club’s involvement in the F.A Cup first round replay on Thursday night, the Magpies requested to call off the game against Dartford on the Saturday, which was granted by the National South.
It is no secret that Whitehawk have ambition, last season’s National South playoff runners up came so close to a fourth promotion in six years. This term, the Hawks are sitting in fourth where they finished 2014/15.
The Hawks could be excused for their F.A Cup distraction having beaten Lincoln City in an entertaining 5-3 win. Either side of that result, the Hawks have won one in five National South games including their only away defeat of the campaign, to bottom club Basingstoke Town. The Hawks have travelled well otherwise winning the other four and drawing three.
After a 2-0 reverse at home to Concord Rangers, Whitehawk drew 2-2 with Wealdstone. Having turned around a goal deficit, the Hawks conceded four minutes into injury time.
The fixture saw the return of Paul Lorraine in defence after a long term injury. The 31 year old could well have been lining up for the Darts against his current side having signed for Tony Burman over a year ago. In the same summer, Lorraine left without making an appearance. Due to Dartford’s reprieve in the National League, the defender’s personal circumstances affected his decision to leave the Darts.
The Sussex club have been potent up front, with only Oxford City scoring more times in the league this term. Danny Mills has notched 17 goals in 23 appearances, including a brace on Monday night and Sam Deering ten goals in 21 appearances, whilst Scott Neilson and Jake Robinson are one goal away from double figures.
In midfield, the Darts will face former favourite Dave Martin who made 71 starting appearances for Dartford scoring 16 times. The 30 year old caught the eye of Crystal Palace and has further experience with Stevanage, Millwall, Southend United and Luton Town. Martin is remembered fondly at Princes Park for some of his stunning goals notably against Burgess Hill Town.
Football League experience doesn’t stop there, Sergio Torres played for Crawley Town during their rise to League One. In defence, Dean Leacock has nine Premier League starts to his name and over 250 appearances in the Football League with Derby County, Fulham, Crawley Town and Notts County. Whitehawk have also used the loan market by bringing in Craig Braham-Barrett who will be available for selection.
Manager, Steve King leads the Sussex club and has been successful in non-league. He took Lewes from Isthmian League Division One South to the Football Conference with three titles, won the Isthmian Premier with Farnborough and led Whitehawk to last season’s playoff final.
The Hawks are relatively new to the F.A Trophy following their rise up the non- league ladder. The Sussex club first took part just five years ago and have only got through the qualifying rounds once.
Mark Onyemah has impressed at Dartford since joining on loan from Luton Town, he’s had his loan spell extended to 2 January 2016. Kaka Dembele departs Princes Park on loan to Leatherhead whilst Lee Burns has been nursing an ankle injury.
Current Form (* – County Cup / + – F.A Cup)
|Dartford (WDWWWD)||Whitehawk (DLLWWWL)|
|Maidstone United||H||1-1||Concord Rangers||H||0-2|
|Hayes & Yeading||H||2-0||Littlehampton Town*||H||0-3|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||2-2||Lincoln City+||H||5-3|
The Darts are unbeaten in their last six games in all competitions
Dartford have yet to beat a team above them in the National South at home, drawing three and losing three
Princes Park hosts its 250th competitive Dartford first team game this weekend (includes Kent Senior Cup). The Darts have notched up 123 wins, 59 draws and suffered 67 defeats.
On This Day
Since reforming, Dartford have failed to score on 28 November in only two attempts. Ashford Town’s defence couldn’t be breached in a 0-0 draw back in 1998. Six years ago, AFC Hornchurch got the better of the Darts with a 1-0 win in the Isthmian Premier League.
Last Ten Years in the F.A Trophy
|2014/15||Third Round||Third Qualifying Round|
|2013/14||First Round||Second Round|
|2012/13||Semi-Final||Third Qualifying Round|
|2011/12||Third Round||First Qualifying Round|
|2010/11||Third Round||First Qualifying Round|
|2009/10||Third Qualifying Round||Did not participate|
|2008/09||Third Qualifying Round||Did not participate|
|2007/08||First Qualifying Round||Did not participate|
|2006/07||Second Qualifying Round||Did not participate|
|2005/06||Third Qualifying Round||Did not participate|
|2004/05||First Round||Did not participate|