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Season Review Part Three – A look back on 2010/2011

3- Let The Season Begin – August 2010

Danny Harris celebrates Dartford's first goal in the Conference South

The Opener

The fourteenth of August arrived and The Darts opener against Havant and Waterlooville was the talk of the town. Back in the second tier of non league football, 1302 turned up for the first fixture of 2010/2011 season. Havant and Waterlooville were the bookies favourite to go up having lost just nine games the season before and finishing a point away from the playoffs. Dartford missed Elliot Bradbrook and new signing Tom Champion through suspension. Tom Bonner, Joe Bruce, Paul Goodacre and Ollie Berquez made their competitive debuts. Three o’clock, the referee’s whistle commenced the start of another chapter in Dartford F.C’s history. No one really knew what to expect but Princes Park was buzzing with optimism and on twenty six minutes Danny Harris flicked a Ryan Hayes free kick goalwards, 1-0. The Darts had opened the scoring, the crowd were in full voice, the season was well and truly underway, what a start. The Hawks looked for the equaliser, hit the crossbar and had a goal ruled out for offside. Burman’s side were clinging on and as the half time break approached Hayes handled the ball in his own area, penalty, the home crowd silenced. Bobby Hopkinson converted the spot kick and the teams went back to their dressing rooms all square.

The second half started with a fine drizzle and the Hampshire side took control, the Dartford crossbar was rattled for the second time. With a couple of minutes remaining Dartford were unable to clear a corner, the ball was eventually laid off to Wes Fogden who unleashed a terrific eighteen yard curler into Andrew Young’s far corner, game over. Or was it? In the last minute Young launched a goal kick forward which was flicked on. Lee Burns desperately helped the ball up in the air and into the penalty box, Danny Harris was knocked over and the referee pointed to the spot. Hayes stepped up, the Dartford faithful crossed their fingers, and the Havant goalkeeper was sent the wrong way, 2-2. Dartford had earned their first league point, relief.

Dartford 2 Havant and Waterlooville 2 – Highlights

Paul Goodacre heads for an early bath at The Beveree

Searching For Win Number One

Two away matches followed starting in mid week at The Beveree. Hampton and Richmond were the first team to host The Darts. After two games Dartford unveiled their third kit, green with white sleeves, eyebrows were raised not for the first time that afternoon. Not even ten minutes had passed when Paul Goodacre clipped the last man, the letter of the law was applied and Dartford were reduced to ten men. Despite a numerical disadvantage the boys held their own but it was not enough. A Dean Wells header on 68 minutes inflicted the first defeat for The Darts.

Hampton and Richmond 1 Dartford 0 – Highlights

A second successive reverse was to follow at newly promoted Farnborough. The Hampshire side lost their opening two matches. It took just twelve minutes for Dean McDonald to smash home a superb half volley from 18 yards to give Farnborough the lead. Andrew Young was extremely busy against the lively Boro attack and when he upended Kezie Ibe a penalty was awarded. McDonald doubled his tally and Farnborough’s advantage. Lee Noble nodded in a consolation in the final minute, The Darts were given a wakeup call, welcome to the Conference South.

Farnborough 2 Dartford 1 – Highlights

A First For Everything

At last Charlie Sheringham and Tom Champion made competitive debuts as Bishop’s Stortford travelled to Princes Park. The Bishop’s finished a lowly eighteenth last season but had become an experienced Conference South outfit. The Hertfordshire club were already familiar with Andrew Young, Danny Harris, Paul Goodacre and debutant Charlie Sheringham who all plied their trade at Woodside Park in the past. After a slow start to the season Dartford fans debated over the best line up and the best formation. Importantly of all, they all agreed to get behind the team in search of their first victory. The performance was much improved by the Dartford lads and on twenty minutes Billy Burgess’ long throw was flicked on by Lee Burns, Danny Harris turned and shot, 1-0. Barely a couple of minutes passed and

The Darts run riot and record win number one

Paul Goodacre was in the thick of it again, another penalty conceded. This time, Andrew Young made an excellent stop to keep The Darts ahead and save his first penalty of the season. Two minutes before the interval things got better for Dartford. Sheringham found Ryan Hayes out wide who returned the ball with a delightful cross; Sheringham headed his first goal for his new club, 2-0. Young kept The Bishop’s at bay in the second half with a string of fine saves, the penalty save was looking to be a turning point. With nine minutes remaining a terrible mistake from Bishop’s Stortford goalkeeper Nicky Morgan handed Carl Rook a four yard tap in, game, set and match, the first win of the season was accomplished in style.

Dartford 3 Bishop’s Stortford 0 – Highlights

Derby Day

Dartfordians were on a high after the mid week triumph and for the next 96 hours the emotional journey would continue. It had been eighteen long and hard years without playing our rivals. Back then they were known as Gravesend and Northfleet, now their name had controversially changed to Ebbsfleet United. Only two and half years had passed since The Fleet tasted Wembley triumph in the F.A Trophy final, being the first Kent side to lift the honour. Dartford had lost Watling Street, started all over again in the Kent League and even shared Stonebridge Road with their local rivals, the road had been long. The occasion was full of excitement and nervousness, take the start of the season and multiply it by ten or maybe more. A season’s record attendance turned out, 2781, Dartford’s biggest in the league since the opening of Princess Park. Prior the match supporters of both clubs mingled, some would have to speak to each other after the match at work, down the local. Friends before the game, enemies during and returning to friends again once all is over. In 1992, Dartford destroyed The Fleet 5-0 on New Year’s Day and the reverse fixture ended 1-1. Many fans would remember this as the last time the two sides met in the league; newer fans looked forward to a ‘new rivalry’ for it was Dover Athletic or Maidstone United in recent years. The only similarity between the two sets of supporters was that no one wanted to experience defeat.

Darts fans saviour the atmosphere against Ebbsfleet United

Ebbsfleet started the brighter and struck the left post through Craig Stone. However, Dartford bounced back with half chances of their own via Charlie Sheringham and Lee Burns. Hearts were in mouths shortly afterwards. Callum Willock was sent through who delicately lobbed the ball over John Whitehouse, surely The Fleet had taken the lead? The ball was destined for the goal. Billy Burgess scampered back before sliding in time to clear the ball off the line. The first half went by, scrappy, competitive with both defences resolute, yet the game remained entertaining because of the amount at stake. On the stroke of half time Dartford broke with a counter attack and Danny Harris’ cross was inches away from the toes of Lee Burns, the half time whistle sounded, goalless.

At the half time interval drink was required to nullify the nerves. The only affect this had was to lubricate the vocal chords for the second half. Drums and trumpets continued to stir up vociferous support for the final forty five minutes and the game continued where it had left off, scrappy, competitive and entertaining.

On sixty two minutes Fleet goalkeeper Preston Edwards comfortably dealt with a Dartford cross, he released Willock with an accurate throw who was cynically tripped off the ball by Ryan Hayes, free kick awarded. Although the free kick was forty yards out right on the far side Ebbsfleet United packed the Dartford box. As the ball was hurled in Michael West rose from six yards out to powerfully header The Fleet into the lead. Ebbsfleet supporters were ecstatic, a jubilant roar sounded out over Princes Park. Despite going a goal down the atmosphere of that goal made Dartford realise what they had missed for eighteen years, a big game, a big gate, a higher level of football and support, it was what Princes Park was built for, shame about conceding though.

Seconds later The Darts attacked in search of a quick leveller. Whitehouse’s kick went long, Sheringham flicked it on to Burns who exchanged a one two. Only the keeper to beat from six yards, this was it, 1-1 and we’ve bounced back. Burns set himself, too complacent it was harder to miss and he did. The chance had vanished and over half of Princes Park was in disbelief. The game opened up and straight from Dartford’s opportunity, The Fleet broke away and Willock’s header was brilliantly tipped round the post by Andrew Young.

Nine frantic minutes passed and the setback gave Dartford the impetus to find an equaliser. A hopeful boot into the Ebbsfleet box caused problems for Paul Lorraine as he hauled Harris to the ground, penalty. Sheringham immediately grabbed the ball despite Hayes’ protest that he normally takes the spot kicks. Confusion surrounded the Ebbsfleet players who disagreed with the referees decision, confusion surrounded the Dartford players who couldn’t decide on who should take the penalty. The referee completed formalities; Princes Park held its breath. Sheringham to stepped up, shot to the keepers right into the bottom corner, equaliser. Relief for the Dartford fans, for Sheringham, for Hayes, for Burman’s men. A few more half chances were squandered and when the referee brought an end to the derby, Princes Park was reduced to a credible round of applause, an exhausting yet entertaining fixture had come to an end, the sixteen year wait was worth it.

Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 1 – Highlights

Dartford fans celebrate as Charlie Sheringham converts a spot kick

End of August

After the highs of the last two league fixtures The Darts travelled across to Essex to face Chelmsford City. Just under a year ago the two sides met in the F.A Cup with The Clarets progressing to the next round. A disappointing performance by Dartford ended August on a defeat, goals from Billy Bricknell and Anthony Cook gave Chelmsford a 2-0 win leaving Dartford with five points from the first eighteen.

Chelmsford City 2 Dartford 0 – Highlights

During the opening month of the season Bromley set the pace with a perfect record. Mark Goldberg’s team won every fixture in August. Only Braintree Town and Dover Athletic were unbeaten whilst five teams were yet to record a victory. St Albans City opened with five consecutive draws which was to remain the longest drawing streak of 2010/11 season. The promoted newcomers were all struggling to adapt with Farnborough lying in fourteenth, Dartford in sixteenth and Boreham Wood second from bottom.


Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bromley 6 6 0 0 12 5 +7 18
2 Braintree Town 6 4 2 0 12 2 +10 14
3 Dover Athletic 6 4 2 0 10 3 +7 14
4 Chelmsford City 6 4 0 2 13 8 +5 12
5 Maidenhead United 6 4 0 2 7 8 -1 12
6 Welling United 6 3 2 1 11 8 +3 11
7 Bishop’s Stortford 6 3 0 3 7 10 -3 9
8 Eastleigh 6 2 2 2 11 8 +3 8
9 Ebbsfleet United 6 2 2 2 7 6 +1 8
10 Basingstoke Town 6 2 2 2 4 4 0 8
11 Weston-super-Mare 6 2 2 2 4 4 0 8
12 Hampton and Richmond 6 1 4 1 7 7 0 7
13 Staines Town 6 1 4 1 5 5 0 7
14 Farnborough 6 2 1 3 5 7 -2 7
15 Woking 6 2 1 3 4 8 -4 7
16 Dartford 6 1 2 3 7 8 -1 5
17 St Albans City 6 0 5 1 6 7 -1 5
18 Havant and W 6 0 4 2 5 8 -3 4
19 Lewes 6 1 1 4 4 9 -5 4
20 Thurrock 6 0 3 3 8 12 -4 3
21 Boreham Wood 6 0 3 3 6 11 -5 3
22 Dorchester Town 6 0 2 4 4 11 -7 2


 

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