Dartford start the New Year hosting mid-table Chelmsford City in the National League South at Princes Park.
The two sides met on Boxing Day with the Darts taking all three points. Andy Pugh’s superb strike was enough to clinch a 1-0 victory, however the striker missed Bank Holiday Monday’s draw against Margate. A none game unbeaten run has led to Dartford climbing the table to sixth place and within a point of the playoffs.
Dartford have found the Clarets a thorn in their side over recent seasons, last winning a home match against the Essex club 15 years ago. The last meeting in 2012 ended 0-0 to match the score line at Melbourne Park that season.
Fortunes for both clubs have changed over the last two or three months with roles reversing. From October, Tony Burman has got his Dartford side challenging for the top five after finding the right formula on the pitch. Since mid-September, Chelmsford City slipped from fourth to mid-table.
The Essex club had a much brighter start to this term’s National South campaign. A five game unbeaten run had the Clarets in the playoff places. November yielded a solitary win and last month also saw little in return.
In contrast, at the beginning of October the Darts were in mid-table with manager Burman under pressure. Since switching formation his side have flourished with a fighting spirit, a tight defence and improved results.
It’s not just been this season where the two clubs have reversed roles. Six years ago, Chelmsford City were in a league higher, with Dartford leading the Isthmian Premier League. The F.A Cup drew the sides together and although half a division separated the Darts from the Clarets, the Essex side brushed Burman and company aside in a 4-1 win. The result indicated the work Dartford needed to do to compete higher up the pyramid.
In those six years, the Darts passed Chelmsford City to reach the top flight of non-league football. When Burman signed Max Cornhill and Kenny Clark from the Clarets a few season’s back, it highlighted the change in fortunes.
Chelmsford City are now in their eighth consecutive year in the National South. In their first five seasons they finished in the playoffs four times. Over recent campaigns they have failed to hit those heights again.
Now it’s Mark Hawkes’ turn who has vowed to ‘wake a sleeping giant’. He has brought in new faces but one of those will be an old one to Dartford. Rory McAuley is likely to make his Princes Park return. The 26 year old made 70 appearances for the Darts in the National League.
Chelmsford City favourite Billy Bricknell is also back at the club after spells with Dartford’s rivals Ebbsfleet United and Maidstone United, the striker has a reputation of scoring against the Darts.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 35 / Chelmsford City wins: 50 / Draws: 88
Current League Form
|Dartford (DWWWWD)||Chelmsford City (WWLWDL)|
|Margate||H||1-1||St Albans City||A||1-1|
|Basingstoke Town||A||1-0||Gosport Borough||A||1-2|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||4-2||Eastbourne Borough||H||0-3|
|Maidstone United||H||1-1||Hayes & Yeading Utd||A||5-0|
Last Meeting at Princes Park
7 April 2012 – Dartford 0 Chelmsford City 0 – attendance 1660
Darts lineup – Louis Wells, Lee Burns, Tom Bonner, Luke Wilkinson, Tom Champion, Lee Noble, James Rogers, Jacob Erskine, Elliot Bradbrook, Danny Harris (subs used: Ryan Hayes, Tony Garrod)
Previous Six Meetings (* – F.A Cup)
Dartford’s record in 2015 ended with 13 victories, 12 draws and 16 defeats, scoring 47 and conceding 55.
9 – the Darts are on the longest current sequence of unbeaten runs. If they avoid defeat they will join Ebbsfleet United, Truro City, Oxford City, Maidstone United and Whitehawk who have reached double figures.
28 – points Dartford have taken against teams in the bottom half of the National South. The Darts have won nine out of eleven, drew once and lost once.
On This Day
The Darts unbeaten run on 2 January includes eight wins and four draws spanning a 78 year period. In the last stint at this level, the Darts beat local rivals Welling United 1-0 at Princes Park. Danny Harris scored the winner in a match which saw Andy Pugh playing for the opponents. Cray Wanderers were defeated five years ago with goals by Lee Burns and James White to earn Dartford a 2-1 victory in the Isthmian Premier League. In 2006, Dartford were held to a 0-0 draw with Sittingbourne in the Southern League Division One East. The last team to beat Dartford on 2 January was Aldershot Reserves back in 1937, in the Southern League Midweek Section.