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Congratulations Dartford FC

Dartford reached the pinnacle of non league football for the first time in 26 years with a playoff victory against Welling United.

At a sold out Princes Park fans packed into the stadium an hour before kick off to create a fantastic atmosphere. Flagzilla was given a cameo back and forth across The Academy End as Darts supporters waited in anticipation. Up the other end the 1000 segregated Welling United fans were in great voice, there was no better place to be on Sunday 13 May 2012.

Tony Burman named an unchanged side from the semi-finals for The Darts. Jamie Day selected Lee Clarke who returned from his suspension which kept him out of the second leg, Andy Sambrook was replaced. Dartford had home advantage after securing a runners up spot, The Wings finished third seven points behind.

The Darts started the brighter and pressed the Welling defenders. Danny Harris put pressure on Ben Martin and continued his constant pursuit of lost causes which he had done terrifically all season.

With four minutes on the clock Lee Noble gained possession, attacked the space and sweetly struck a shot from almost 25 yards. The ball rippled the back of Craig Holloway’s net and Princes Park erupted. The tricky winger scored the winner in the semi final first leg from similar distance this time there was no deflection.

Noble showed his tremendous form with excellent deliveries into the box but Welling’s Martin and his central partner Jack Parkinson dealt with the crosses.

Welling United ceased control of possession and settled into the final by passing the ball and using the width. Loick Pires and Jack Obersteller linked up well but Dartford’s Lee Burns admirably defended at right back with the assistance of James Rogers tracking back.

Dartford fans suffered a scare when Luis Cumbers charged down a couple of attempted clearances, with the number 9 clean through referee Paul Rees blew his whistle for handball. Moments later Joe Healy was on the end of a positive Welling move but he could only blast his shot high and wide.

In truth the first half was a tight affair but Noble’s wonderful strike gave the home side a crucial advantage. Forty five minutes away from Conference Premier football the match was still in the balance.

The Darts looked more comfortable after the break and the first chance of the second half fell to Elliot Bradbrook. Dartford’s captain managed to send a header towards a struggling Holloway but the goalkeeper parried the ball to safety.

Bradbrook caused further problems but another header failed to reach Harris who was waiting to pounce and was cleared by Parkinson. Dartford fans continued the amazing support and spurred on their team. Harris and Bradbrook created further chances but the Welling defence were equal to the attacks.

In the final five minutes The Wings tried to save a long season and Pires went down in the box. Wings supporters desperately claimed a penalty, Mr Rees correctly waved play on. The visitors failed to conjure up anything to note with Wells confidently catching anything directed at him in the Dartford goal.

When the fourth official allocated four minutes of injury time The Darts kept the ball in Welling’s half for the majority of the added moments. As the referee moved towards the players tunnel he blew the final whistle. Dartford had done it, a third promotion in six years for Tony Burman, the club, the players and the fans.

What a memorable day.

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