Dartford could have a say in the National South title race on Easter Monday, when they take on league leaders and local rivals Ebbsfleet United.
The Darts are trying to keep pace with the top five after a poor run ended on Good Friday. A first league away win against their opponents in 37 years will only help their cause.
The Fleet are nervously looking over their shoulders and hope to return to the National League after a three year absence.
A frustrating sequence of results left Dartford falling behind the playoff places. Tony Burman’s side lost four in a row and picked up just one point from 18 until the visit of Bishop’s Stortford. Finally, the Darts got back to winning ways with a 3-1 home win.
Danny Harris scored against his former club with a low drive after just six minutes to settle some nerves. The visitors were level just under ten minutes later as Ronnie Vint headed into his own net. Loanee, Keaton Wood put Dartford back in front midway through the first half, scoring his first for the club. Tom Bradbrook sealed the match moments after having a goal ruled out, the striker took his tally to 13 in all competitions for the season.
Dartford make the short journey to Stonebridge Road on the back of three straight away defeats, whilst Ebbsfleet United are five unbeaten at home.
The Darts will have to make do without captain Elliot Bradbrook who serves the last game of his suspension. Lee Burns made his first start since December but failed to finish the match against Bishop’s Stortford. Andy Pugh has been dealing with a groin injury, Callum McNaughton has a fractured metatarsal and Mark Onyemah’s loan spell has ended. Nathan Ferguson, who signed from Burton Albion will be in contention to make his second start and former Ebbsfleet United defender Paul Lorraine is waiting for his Dartford debut.
The Fleet have led the National South since mid-September but have seen the gap reduce over the last few months. Daryl McMahon’s side have drawn over half of their games in 2016, meaning Sutton United and Maidstone United can catch them if they win their games in hand.
Dartford’s local rivals were undone on Good Friday when they lost their first away game of the campaign to relegation threatened Weston-Super-Mare. The 18 match unbeaten away run ended when Daryl Grubb scored a brace for the Seagulls before former Dart, Matthew Godden grabbed a consolation. Godden leads the way in front of goal for Fleet having scored 17 league goals so far, although the striker has only managed two in 2016.
After thrashing Hemel Hempstead Town 6-0 with a reshuffled team, the loss at Weston-Super-Mare came as a surprise. Having sat on the sidelines for the majority of the campaign, former Dartford striker Charlie Sheringham got a rare start against Hemel Hempstead Town.
Another ex Dart, Tom Bonner is likely to return to the Ebbsfleet starting eleven after finishing his four game ban for his red card against Whitehawk. Bonner and Sheringham were part of the Dartford squad which won promotion to the National League in 2012. Kenny Clark is fourth former Dart in the Ebbsfleet United squad and has played 28 times in the league for the Fleet this term.
McMahon can also look towards a range of depth and experience in his squad with the likes of Aaron McLean, Danny Kedwell and Danny Haynes. The trio have made over 850 Football League appearances between them.
Earlier in the season, Ebbsfleet United won away in the league against the Darts for the first time in 32 years. The Bank Holiday August derby was decided by Jordan Parkes after just seven minutes. Dean Rance was sent off for Fleet but they witheld Dartford pressure to take three points.
Dartford’s previous league visit to Stonebridge Road ended in dramatic fashion. A two goal lead was thrown away in injury time when Nathan Elder’s second of the match made it 2-2. Jon Wallis and Harry Crawford had given the Darts a two goal advantage.
Head to Head
Ebbsfleet United wins: 108 / Dartford wins: 116 / Draws 90
Current League Form
|Ebbsfleet United (LWDDWD)||Dartford (WLLLLD)|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||A||6-0||Havant & Waterlooville||A||0-2|
|Bath City||A||1-1||Maidenhead United||A||1-2|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||2-2||Hayes & Yeading Utd||A||2-2|
Last League Meeting at Stonebridge Road
1 January 2013 – Ebbsfleet United 2 Dartford 2 – attendance 2242
Goalscorers: Wallis (12), Crawford (48), Elder (50, 90)
Darts lineup: Bettinelli, Burns, Rose, Arber, Bonner, Champion, Hayes, Bradbrook, Harris, Wallis, Crawford (subs used: Rogers, Erskine, Collier)
Fleet lineup: Edwards, Stone, Walsh, Lorraine, Howe, Phipp, Barrett, Folkes, Carew, Enveer-Marum, Elder (sub used: Blake, Williams, Azeez)
Previous Meetings (* – F.A Cup)
Dartford have yet to beat a side in the top five taking two points from a possible 18.
9 – Ebbsfleet United have gone nine unbeaten against the Darts at Stonebridge Road, winning six and drawing three. Dartford last won in the Kent Senior Cup away to Fleet and have to go back to 1979 for an away league victory against their local rivals.
11 – Prior to the defeat at Weston-Super-Mare, the Fleet went eleven games without defeat, matching the unbeaten run they set at the start of the season.
On This Day
Dartford have not won on 28 March since reforming drawing three and losing one. Last year, the Darts were beaten 2-1 by Altrincham in the National League. Ryan Hayes’ deflected shot was consolation after Damian Reeves’ brace for the visitors. Seven years ago, Dartford drew 2-2 with Tonbridge Angels in the Isthmian Premier League. Adam Flanagan rescued a point as the Darts came from behind twice, Bradley Woods-Garness netted the other goal. In 2005, Dartford recorded the same scoreline against Wingate and Finchley in the Southern League Division One East and in 1998 drew 0-0 with Havant Town in the Southern League South Division.