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National League South Season Preview 2016/2017 (D-G)

 Dartford | Eastbourne Borough | East Thurrock United | Ebbsfleet United | Gosport Borough

Dartford

Founded: 1888 / Ground: Princes Park

A National League reprieve followed by relegation meant the Darts were hoping for at least a playoff spot. Dartford’s return to the National South after a three year absence started inconsistently. A three match losing streak and early cup exits put pressure on the club until an eleven game unbeaten run put Dartford in with a shout of a top five finish. Every time their goal edged closer they just seemed to be unable to get over that dotted line. On the final day the Kent Senior Cup winners still had a long shot but it was too much to ask so they settled for stability.

DartfordLast Season

National South: 8th

F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round

County Cup: Winners

League Top Scorer: Elliot Bradbrook (17 goals)

The Manager – Tony Burman

There is no questioning Tony Burman’s loyalty to the club and over the last three season’s there has been pockets of pressure. The 58 year old has won three promotions and two Kent Senior Cups in his current spell with the Darts and he’s won promotion from the Kent League to the Southern League as well as the Kent Senior Trophy in previous spells. The only blemish is two back to back bottom three finishes in the National League, however he was the man to take Dartford up to the top non-league division and reach eighth place. Burman has enjoyed longevity as manager and is also the club’s all time top goalscorer.

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Eastbourne Borough

Founded: 1964 / Ground: Priory Lane

A fifth season in the National South turned out to be unpredictable for the Sports. Their opening two games ended in defeat but they bounced back with four consecutive victories and that was as good as it got. In the end the Sussex club finish just three points above the relegation zone. The one positive was that the Sports had a decent goal difference for a side in the lower third of the table so never really looked threatened. Eastbourne Borough on their day were capable of big scores like the 5-1 win over Basingstoke Town or the 5-2 victory over Bath City. They could also leak goals with back to back 4-4 and 3-3 draws in February. They managed to beat teams around them but took just three points away from home against those in the top ten.

ebfcLast Season

National South: 17th

F.A Cup: 4th Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 2nd Round

County Cup: Winners

League Top Scorer: Nathaniel Pinney (18 goals)

The Manager – Tommy Widdrington

The former midfielder can draw upon his successful playing career in which he achieved four promotions and two Football League Trophy triumphs. Since February 2012, Tommy Widdrington has stabilised Eastbourne Borough who had just fallen out of the National League the campaign before his appointment. Last season was his lowest finish at the Sports in a full season at the club having pushed for a top ten spot in the previous three years. Widdrington did however win some silverware for the club when they triumphed in the Sussex Senior Cup beating Worthing in the final.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 6 / Eastbourne Borough wins: 4 / Draws: 2

Previous Meetings

20.02.2016 Eastbourne Borough 1 Dartford 1
11.08.2015 Dartford 1 Eastbourne Borough 0
03.04.2012 Eastbourne Borough 0 Dartford 1
29.11.2011 Dartford 2 Eastbourne Borough 1
26.11.2011 Eastbourne Borough 0 Dartford 0
16.08.2011 Dartford 2 Eastbourne Borough 1

Next Meetings

Saturday 5 November 2016 at Priory Lane

Sunday 8 April 2017 at Princes Park

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East Thurrock United

Founded: 1969 / Ground: Rookery Hill

The Rocks set a new club record last season with their highest ever league finish. East Thurrock United were unlucky not to finish in the top two after amassing 91 points, the most by a third place club in the Isthmian Premier since the reforming of the non league pyramid. The Essex club topped the table in February but the excellent form of champions Hampton and Richmond as well as Bognor Regis Town prevented them from grabbing the title. East Thurrock United outscored anyone in the Isthmian Premier with an impressive 107 goals; they scored four or more times on an incredible 11 occasions.

Last SeasonETUFC

Isthmian Premier: 3rd

F.A Cup: 3rd Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 1st Round

County Cup: 4th Round

League Top Scorer: Sam Higgins (38 goals)

The Manager – John Coventry

East Thurrock United needed rebuilding following relegation to the Isthmian Division One in 2008. The astuteness and coaching experience of John Coventry has had a large part to play in the Rocks rise to the National South. Three years ago, the Essex club won the playoffs to reach the Isthmian Premier League. Last term a second playoff triumph has led them to their highest level of football. Coventry builds his squad around togetherness and is often on the lookout for discovering young players, his background with coaching a district youth side helps in this area. 

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 0 / East Thurrock United wins: 2 / Draws: 0

Previous Meetings

30.04.2005 Dartford 0 East Thurrock United 3
28.08.2004 East Thurrock United 2 Dartford 1

Next Meetings

Saturday 10 September 2016 at Rookery Hill

Saturday 7 January 2017 at Princes Park

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Ebbsfleet United

Founded: 1946 / Ground: Stonebridge Road

Money doesn’t always guarantee success and that proved the case for runners up Ebbsfleet United last term. The Kent side led the National South for a total of 34 matchdays, dropped just two points in their opening 11 fixtures and had quality and numbers in their squad. Backed by KEH Sports Limited, the Fleet suffered their first away defeat on Good Friday, drew with local rivals Dartford on Easter Monday then lost the important clash with champions Sutton United in their penultimate game, handing the title to the U’s. Any other campaign and it would have been a success but since the turn of the year wins turned into draws and slowly their lead was eaten away. The last straw came in the penalty shoot out playoff final defeat to Kent rivals Maidstone United. Now the Fleet will aim for the title again. 

EUFClogoLast Season

National South: 2nd

F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: Quarter Final

County Cup: Semi-final

League Top Scorer: Matthew Godden (26 goals)

The Manager – Daryl McMahon

When your first managerial job includes a big budget, a large squad and your team being branded as favourites then that is a lot of pressure to take. Daryl McMahon completed his first full season in charge last term and it ended in disappointment, normally a second place finish in your debut campaign would be seen as a success. Given another chance through the playoffs the Fleet lost by the narrowest of margins in a penalty shootout. McMahon has kept hold of his job so must have impressed the owners and will need to go one better this season with a trimmer squad.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 116 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 108 / Draws 91

Previous Meetings

28.03.2016 Ebbsfleet United 1 Dartford 1
31.08.2015 Dartford 0 Ebbsfleet United 1
29.10.2013 Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 0
26.10.2013 Ebbsfleet United 1 Dartford 1
01.01.2013 Ebbsfleet United 2 Dartford 2
26.12.2012 Dartford 3 Ebbsfleet United 1

Next Meetings

Monday 26 December 2016 at Princes Park

Sunday 1 January 2017 at Stonebridge Road

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Gosport Borough

Founded: 1944 / Ground: Privett Park

If the season ended mid February then the Borough would have been delighted with what they achieved. Up to that moment in time the Hampshire club were fourth in the league spurred on by the goals supplied by Justin Bennett. Unbeaten after their first eight fixtures gave the club solid foundations to build on and despite slight wobbles in September and October, Gosport Borough regained their form with just two defeats in twelve. Then the tables turned, the Borough lost ten of their final fifteen league matches picking up just two more victories. The end of season slide included 6-1 and 5-2 defeats to Chelmsford City and relegated Hayes and Yeading United respectively.

Gosport_BoroughLast Season

National South: 9th

F.A Cup: 3rd Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round

County Cup: 2nd Round

League Top Scorer: Justin Bennett (23 goals)

The Manager – Alex Pike

Over ten years at the helm as manager of Gosport Borough, Alex Pike has had plenty of success during his managerial career. He guided Boro to the Wessex League title, won two promotions through the Southern League via the playoffs, reached the F.A Trophy final and claimed the Hampshire Senior Cup. With all that success behind him Pike is now being tested in the National South and it hasn’t been simple. Going well until the New Year by leading the club to the playoff places, financial problems threw a spanner in the works and left Pike questioning whether he could continue. Luckily for Gosport Borough he agreed to remain at Privett Park for the season ahead. 

Head To Head

Dartford wins: 10 / Gosport Borough wins: 5 / Draws: 3

Previous Meetings

23.02.2016 Gosport Borough 1 Dartford 3
22.08.2015 Dartford 2 Gosport Borough 3
24.10.1989 Gosport Borough 0 Dartford 1
22.08.1989 Dartford 5 Gosport Borough 1
04.04.1989 Dartford 4 Gosport Borough 2
04.03.1989 Gosport Borough 1 Dartford 2

Next Meetings

Tuesday 16 August 2016 at Princes Park

Saturday 11 February 2017 at Privett Park

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