FC Halifax Town v Dartford

A place in the F.A Trophy Quarter Finals is up for grabs as the Darts visit FC Halifax in the long awaited third round replay.

The two sides met twice last month in separate competitions but weather conditions have made getting the replay on difficult. Back at Princes Park, Dartford had to come from two goals down to stay in the competition and be included in the hat for the next round.

FC Halifax looked likely to repeat their 2-1 league win they recorded at Princes Park in mid-January as they went two up by half-time. With twelve minutes on the clock Calum Driver gave away a free kick which the visitors took full advantage of. Striker Richard Peniket was left unmarked and guided the ball beyond Jason Brown from close range. The lead was doubled a minute before the interval when Adam Smith’s good work and cross met Matty Pearson who powerfully headed in a second.

Tony Burman took action during the break and the introduction of winger Ryan Hayes, at the expense of Peter Sweeney, turned the tie. Hayes, for the second time this season swung in a corner which went in the visitors goal directly to pull one back for the Darts. Looking like an exit for Dartford, Rory McAuley’s attempts to level the tie were unsuccessful until the final minute. The centre back struck a late equaliser volleying beyond Matt Glennon to take the contest to a replay.

After the well earned draw Tony Burman praised Hayes for his contribution, he spoke to and said: “At 2-0 down, it was made for Ryan to come on and do something like that. He came on and caused a few problems although we probably didn’t get the ball out to him as much as we could have done. He’s good at dead ball situations and he’s come on and done okay”.

The replay has already been postponed few times making preparations far from ideal for the Darts. However an excellent 2-2 draw with Bristol Rovers will give the squad a degree of confidence. Once again, Burman after some deliberating gambled on Hayes despite the state of the Princes Park pitch. The decision proved to be worthwhile as the winger scored twice as the Darts came from behind on both occasions.

Rovers went one up through Matty Taylor, who scored a penalty in the reverse fixture. The deficit was short-lived and Hayes repeated his feat against FC Halifax Town with another inswinging corner, this time goalkeeper Steve Mildenhall failed to fully connect with an attempted punch with the ball going in his own net. The Gas went ahead once more when McAuley’s clearance rebounded off substitute Ellis Harrison. Dartford’s spirit continued to show and Hayes was left to score a stunning free kick to earn the Darts a much needed point.

Burman reiterated the quality Hayes has shown over the last two home games, he commented: “If Ryan’s got his mind on the game, he can produce like that. In fairness to Ryan, he’s produced many a magic moment at the club over the last ten years”.

FC Halifax Town will feel they have already missed an opportunity to progress but can look to their 2-1 win at Princes Park, the Shaymen won that league game despite ending up with nine men. On the weekend they narrowly beat bottom of the table side AFC Telford United thanks to Pearson’s third goal in three games. The win ended the Bucks unbeaten run of four as FC Halifax Town moved into sixth place by full time. Postponements left the Yorkshire club without a Conference Premier fixture on the weekend which saw them slip to eighth, a couple of points away from the playoffs.

The winners will face Gateshead or Wrexham at home in the last eight and will know they are within three games of reaching Wembley.

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