Dartford will scrapping for points on Boxing Day against their local rivals Ebbsfleet United to keep in contention of the playoff places.
In a tough December, the Darts know that a win against the Fleet will be the perfect recipe for festive cheer. Often the highlight of the season’s fixture list, Dartford host Ebbsfleet United before the return fixture on New Year’s Day.
After a heavy defeat at table toppers Maidenhead United, Tony Burman’s side will have the opportunity to bounce back and move level on points with their opponents. Dartford were victims of a superb solo performance last weekend by the National South’s top goalscorer, Dave Tarpey who netted four for the Magpies in their 5-0 drubbing of the Darts.
The set back was only the fourth league defeat for Burman’s team this season and third against a top four side. If Dartford are to show they have playoff credentials then positive results against the teams around them need improving. Despite the reverse, the Darts have been in decent form winning eight of their last ten.
Last season, the Fleet won bragging rights as the rivals met after a two year absence. At Princes Park, Ebbsfleet United won 1-0 when Jordan Parkes scored the winner from close range. Dartford pushed for an equaliser but were unable to break down their opponents even after Dean Rance was sent off.
Tom Bonner returns from his suspension but in his place Tom Wynter will be missing. Wynter was red carded in the 5-0 defeat to Maidenhead United and will serve a three match ban.
Ebbsfleet United, amongst the favourites to return to the National League fell short last term, finishing runners up then losing the playoff final. This time out they are back in second spot but rather than setting the pace like twelve months ago, they are playing catch up.
The Fleet started slowly by their standard with a run of four consecutive draws in August, leaving Daryl McMahon’s side in tenth. Since then they have taken an impressive 28 points from the last 33 available, with the last three collected in a 2-0 victory over Gosport Borough. McMahon commented told www.kentonline.co.uk: “We’ve evolved from day one to now and hopefully it continues and we keep on getting better,” he said. “Barring the start of the season, our form from September 5 to now, we’ve only lost one game, drawn two and won the rest in the league. So we’ve been in good form for a couple of months and we’re ticking along nicely”.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 116 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 108 / Draws: 91
Current League Form
Lost 0-5 v Maidenhead United (A)
Won 2-1 v Poole Town (H)
Won 3-0 v Bishop’s Stortford (A)
Won 2-0 v Hemel Hempstead Town (H)
Lost 0-2 v St Albans City (H)
Won 1-0 v Oxford City (H)
Ebbsfleet United (WWLWWW)
Won 2-0 v Gosport Borough (H)
Won 3-1 v Oxford City (A)
Lost 2-3 v Maidenhead United (H)
Won 2-1 v Welling United (A)
Won 4-2 v Truro City (H)
Won 1-0 v Bath City (H)
Previous Six Meetings
Ebbsfleet United 1 Dartford 1 (28/03/2016 – National South)
Dartford 0 Ebbsfleet United 1 (31/08/2015 – National South)
Dartford 1 Ebbsfleet United 0 (29/10/2013 – F.A Cup Replay)
Ebbsfleet United 1 Dartford 1 (26/10/2013 – F.A Cup)
Ebbsfleet United 2 Dartford 2 (01/01/2013 – National League)
Dartford 3 Ebbsfleet United 1 (26/12/2012 – National League)
Dartford have picked up one point from 12 against teams above them in the National South. Last term they managed 13 points from 48 versus those that finished above them.
Despite conceding five on Saturday, the Darts still have the third best defensive record conceding 20. Ebbsfleet United (17) are second behind Maidenhead United (13).
Last season saw the Fleet win their first league game in Dartford since 1983. The Darts won the last six games at Watling Street against Gravesend and Northfleet before reforming, scoring 23 and conceding just once.
On This Day
Since reforming Dartford have won five, drawn three and lost six on Boxing Day. The most notable victory was the 6-1 home win against Canvey Island in 2007. Steve Norman, Ryan Hayes, Brendon Cass, Jay May, Eddie McClements and Jamie Coyle all scored for the Darts that day, in the season they clinched the Isthmian Division One North title. Only once has Dartford played Ebbsfleet United on St Stephen’s Day and that was four years ago at Princes Park. Dartford claimed the local bragging rights with Harry Crawford netting a brace and Elliot Bradbrook scoring the other. Before then, the Fleet were known as Gravesend and Northfleet and the previous fixture 23 years earlier saw Peter Taylor’s Dartford win 5-0 at Watling Street. Last season’s outing on 26 December ended with the Darts beating their next F.A Trophy opponents, Chelmsford City 1-0 thanks to an Andy Pugh winner.