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Dartford v Ebbsfleet United

Princes Park hosts the first Boxing Day clash between local rivals Dartford and Ebbsfleet United since 1989 when the clubs met in the Southern Premier League.

After 18 years apart the two sides will meet for the third time within the last two seasons. The Fleet got the better of Dartford in the Conference South as they returned to the summit of non league at the first attempt.

The two sides last met at Princes Park in August 2010 whilst playing in the Conference South. A bumper crowd of 2781 welcomed the old rivalry back for the first league fixture since 1992. A scrappy and competitive match ensued and a tense first half saw both sides level at the break without a goal to celebrate.

Ebbsfleet United took the lead just past the hour when a free kick was powerfully headed beyond John Whitehouse by Fleet’s Michael West. The Darts were only behind for a while and with 15 minutes to play Danny Harris was upended by Paul Lorraine in the penalty area. Charlie Sheringham took responsibility and netted the equaliser resulting in the match ending 1-1.

Dartford fans enjoy the build up before the first league meeting between the two sides in 18 years

At Stonebridge Road, the Darts found life tougher and the festive spirit was spoilt in a 2-1 defeat. After a frantic start Ebbsfleet United won a free kick and as Dartford were still setting up Derek Duncan curled in the opener on ten minutes. Again the Darts replied quickly when four minutes later Ryan Hayes sent in a cross from a dead ball situation and Elliot Bradbrook headed the leveller. The match turned on 32 minutes when Calum Willock outpaced the last defender Joe Bruce and won a spot kick. Bruce was dismissed and Willock got up to put the Fleet ahead. To rub salt into the Dartford wound James White was also sent off late on after coming on as a substitute.

Dartford may have hit a barren spell in the league of four consecutive losses but to be on the fringes of the playoffs, due the excellent form at the end of August and throughout September has left the Darts in a strong position. Tony Burman has worked well with a relatively small number of players and injury to Mark Arber coupled with a few suspensions has tested Dartford’s squad. The festive period will only add to the challenging demands of a part time side as the fixtures come thick and fast.

In the only Conference Premier game that survived the weekend washout Dartford suffered their heaviest defeat of the season. The Darts were a goal down inside four minutes, Cheyenne Dunkley finished like a striker hitting a shot into the corner of Marcus Bettinelli’s net. The lead lasted five minutes when Jacob Erskine’s firm header levelled the match rewarding the striker with his first league goal in three months. In form striker Jamille Matt put the Harriers back in front from close range on 32 minutes as the home side went into the break a goal to the good.

Matt added a further goal in the second half with 20 minutes to go, scoring his sixth league goal in five appearances. Substitute defender Mike Williams was only on the pitch for a couple of minutes when he made it 4-1 and a last minute strike by Lee Vaughan made it five.

Since the last meeting at Princes Park between the two clubs Ebbsfleet United still have Preston Edwards, Paul Lorraine and Tom Phipp as part of their squad regularly involved in matchdays. Up front 27 year old Nathan Elder has ten league goals to his name (up to 8 December) and almost had to give up the game three years ago when the striker suffered a serious eye injury. Recently the signing of Scunthorpe United forward Matthew Godden has added fire power in place of Elder as the 21 year old netted three times in his first three starts.

Whilst Tony Burman’s side have propelled up the Conference Premier ladder into playoff contention, Ebbsfleet United have struggled on the field and are fighting amongst the relegation contenders. Apart from a six match unbeaten run from mid October to the first day of December, the Fleet have found points hard to come by. Liam Daish’s side have picked up one point in their last three league fixtures which has included a 4-1 defeat at Mansfield Town and a 4-2 loss at home against Cambridge United. The Fleet

Off the field has also been concerning for Daish’s side. The Ebbsfleet United manager expressed his concerns before and after the match against Mansfield Town. Prior the fixture he backed up the concerns of Fleet Chairman Jessica McQueen and the lack of a sustainable financial plan. After the match Daish highlighted the lack of strength on the field with key players unavailable for selection his side lacked a physical presence.

It’s been 20 years since the Darts finished a league season ahead of the Fleet which happened to be Dartford’s last full season before reformation. In that season, Ebbsfleet United in their former guise as Gravesend and Northfleet finished rock bottom dropping into the Southern League (South Division). Two decades on and Dartford are enjoying bragging rights so far as they aim to stay ahead of their rivals.

Team News

Mark Arber returned to action featuring in the final twenty minutes on Saturday against Kidderminster Harriers. Lee Noble’s appearance from off the bench means the midfielder is one game away from making 200 appearances, which has included 139 starts and 25 goals. Tony Burman will get to choose from a full squad of players.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 114 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 107 / Draws 88 / Dartford goals for:against: 473:453

Form

Dartford (LLLLDW) Ebbsfleet United (LLDWWD)
Kidderminster Harriers A 1-5 Mansfield Town A 1-4
Lincoln City A 2-4 Cambridge United H 2-4
Nuneaton Town A 0-1 Grimsby Town H 1-1
Tamworth H 2-3 Macclesfield Town A 2-1
Southport A 2-2 Hyde H 3-2
Luton Town H 2-0 AFC Telford United A 2-2

Last Meeting at Princes Park

28 August 2010 – Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 1 – Att: 2781

Goalscorers: West (62), Sheringham (74 pen)

The Darts Lineup: Whitehouse, Burgess, Bonner, Bruce, Goodacre, Shinn, Hayes, Champion, Sheringham, Burns, Harris (subs used: Bradbrook, Rook, Noble)

The Fleet Lineup: Edwards, Henry, Duncan, Carew, Pooley, Lorraine, West, Marwa, Willock, Phipp (subs used: Easton, Benjamin)

Previous League Meetings

28.12.2010 Ebbsfleet United 2 Dartford 1
18.04.1992 Gravesend and Northfleet 1 Dartford 1
01.01.1992 Dartford 5 Gravesend and Northfleet 0
01.04.1991 Dartford 3 Gravesend and Northfleet 0
01.01.1991 Gravesend and Northfleet 3 Dartford 1
16.04.1990 Gravesend and Northfleet 1 Dartford 0
26.12.1989 Dartford 5 Gravesend and Northfleet 0

Stats

Dartford see most goal action in the final fifteen minutes of both halves. The charts below show the timings of goals scored for each club (top) and when each side are most vulnerable (below)

* picture courtesy of Dave Adkins and stats collated from www.bbc.co.uk/sport

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