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National South Season Preview Part I

Dartford came so close to promotion last season by reaching the playoff final. This time they plan to go one better in Steve King’s first full campaign at the helm. In a season that was cut short at all levels of the non-league game, no teams were relegated from the National South bringing a familiarity to Dartford’s opponents. A lot has changed over the last seven months, new protocols, changes in management and three golden boot winners moving on. Here’s the first part of a club by club preview to whet your appetite…

Bath City

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 4th
F.A Cup: 3rd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 2nd Round
Top Scorer: Tom Smith (13 goals)

The Romans have bowed out at the quarter-final stage of the playoffs in the past two seasons. Since their two-year flirtation with the National League, the West Country side have slowly built their way up to become competitive promotion contenders. Bath City will be aiming to return to the non-league summit after an eight-year absence. The cause will be helped by the National South’s Player of the Year, Tom Smith being in their ranks. He could be a key player yet again having scored 18 times from midfield in all competitions last term.

Manager: Jerry Gill

A former Bath City defender who made over 200 appearances for the club in the nineties. Gill has been in charge at Twerton Park since October 2017 turning the Romans from a top ten side in to a top five side. He enjoyed success as a player notably reaching the League Cup final and winning promotion to the Premier League with Birmingham City. After a 44-day spell managing Weymouth, who had financial issues at the time, Gill picked up coaching experience with Bristol Rovers, Birmingham City and Kidderminster Harriers as well as with Norwich City’s and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ academies.

Summer

Manager Jerry Gill signed a new contract to keep him at Twerton Park until 2022. Ryan Harley made over 350 Football League appearances with the likes of Exeter City, Brighton & Hove Albion and Swindon Town, he arrives from Milton Keynes Dons. Freddie Grant, a left back with experience at this level joins from National League side Maidenhead United. After four years at Weston-super-Mare, Jason Pope moved to Hereford before switching to the Romans. Callum Evans signs from Port Vale having also had a spell at Macclesfield Town, Donovan Wilson comes in after time at Port Vale, Exeter City and Spanish clubs Jumilla and Burgos. Goalkeeper Will Henry steps in to the squad providing National South experience, which he picked up on loan at Hampton and Richmond Borough, Chippenham Town and Hungerford Town. Also, coming to Twerton Park on loan will be Bristol City pair Tommy Conway and James Taylor.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 32 / Bath City wins: 39 / Draws: 19

Billericay Town

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 17th
F.A Cup: 1st Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round
Top Scorer: Jake Robinson (14 goals)

More headlines were made off the pitch than on it under Billericay Town’s former owner, now the media circus shackles have been removed. Instead the Essex club has a former Premier League midfielder leading the team and keeping the club and non-league in the media spotlight. Success came quickly when Ricay went from Isthmian Premier champions to promotion contenders. However, with the owner leaving, the Blues second campaign back in the National South was tougher and they spent much of last term looking over their shoulder winning just three of their last 24 games.

Manager: Jamie O’Hara

A Dartfordian who made his name as a midfielder at Tottenham Hotspur, Jamie O’Hara also represented England at under 21 level. He enjoyed spells notably at Millwall, Portsmouth and Wolverhampton Wanderers and ended up at Billericay Town in the seventh tier of the English game. He helped the Blues claim the 2017/2018 Isthmian Premier League title, two league cups and a county cup. O’Hara left Ricay before returning as player assistant manager and in September last year he was promoted to manager. Alongside football management O’Hara can be heard on national radio channel Talksport.

Summer

Providing some trickery on the flanks, former Dartford winger Luke Wanadio moves across the bridge to Essex. Wanadio had two spells with the Darts both lasting a season, he also had spells with Bromley, Aldershot Town and Dulwich Hamlet. Four more players make the trip from Kent with two, Frank Sutherland and Lawrie Wilson coming from relegated Ebbsfleet United. Lewis Knight signs from Maidstone United and Jai Reason will lead the line after arriving from Dover Athletic. Also, making the step down from the National League will be Shamir Fenelon from Maidenhead United. Josh Hutchinson joins Ricay from Potters Bar Town, Hani Berchiche (Welwyn Garden City) as well as two trialists who impressed Jamie O’Hara in pre-season, Chevron McLean (Maldon and Tiptree) and Ruben Soares Junior (Grays Athletic). Former Fulham and Queen’s Park Rangers full-back, Joe Felix joins the Essex club having previously been at Hampton & Richmond Borough, Woking and Farnborough. With former Dart, Alan Julian leaving the goalkeeper position has been filled by Dion-Curtis Henry and from AFC Wimbledon in comes Ayoub Assal on loan for a month.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 4 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 1

Braintree Town

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 21st
F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round
Top Scorer: Femi Akinwande (6 goals)

A surprise package when they gate-crashed the National South playoffs and won promotion two years ago, knocking out Dartford in the process. The Iron returned to the National League at the first time of asking, this time their stay lasted one campaign as they yo-yoed between divisions. Braintree Town were nowhere near to reproducing a swift return and instead slid down the National South after a reasonable first two months. The Iron conceded the most goals last term and had the season not been curtailed were on target to finish in the bottom two.

Manager: George Borg

An experienced manager familiar with Braintree Town, Borg has had a few spells with the Iron. In his latest one it started in December 2019 when player manager Jake Hutchings stepped sown. His appointment came 15 years after the first time he led the Essex club back in 2004. Borg enjoyed success in the late nineties when Aldershot Town were back on the rise to the Football League. In 1998 he won the Isthmian League First Division then later added the Isthmian League Cup, two Hampshire Senior Cups and came runners-up in the Isthmian League Premier Division.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Braintree Town wins: 6 / Draws: 4

Chelmsford City

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 10th
F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Round
Top Scorer: Shaun Jeffers (13 goals)

Regularly amongst the playoff places the Clarets fell short of their normal standards last time out. Often dubbed a sleeping giant, the Essex club parted company with Rod Stringer back in January after the former boss had taken Chelmsford City to the playoffs three years running. At the turn of the year the Clarets were only seven points adrift of the top seven and in the last 16 of the F.A Trophy when Stringer departed. Entering their thirteenth consecutive season in the National South, Chelmsford City are currently the longest serving club in the division.

Manager: Robbie Simpson

Just over a year ago Robbie Simpson was signed as a player by Rod Stringer. Five months later the forward was put in temporary charge of Chelmsford City and in March he became permanent player-manager. Simpson enjoyed a long career in the Football League after he had already represented both Cambridge clubs, United and City at non-league level. Coventry City took a chance and afterwards he played for Huddersfield Town, Oldham Athletic, Leyton Orient, Exeter City and Milton Keynes Dons. He also had a second spell with Cambridge United when they had returned to League Two.

Summer

The Clarets signed former Dartford midfielder Billy Crook this summer taking him back across the Thames to Essex. Crook won promotion with Braintree Town before joining the Darts in January 2019. Another former Dart and returning for a third spell with Chelmsford City is Phil Roberts. The striker had a brief spell at Princes Park and at the age of just 26 has been around the non-league circuit, he was also pivotal in helping Braintree Town up alongside Billy Crook. Last season’s Isthmian Division One North top scorer, Alex Teniola will hope to continue grabbing goals after completing a move from Heybridge Swifts. Also boosting the attack, Adam Liddle comes in from Derry City, Adam Morgan (Romford) and Tom Blackwell (Coggleshall Town). Former Tonbridge Angels, Maidstone United and Dover Athletic goalkeeper Lee Worgan will bring experience between the sticks and providing competition on dual registration from Heybridge Swifts will be Jacob Marsden. Defender, Adebola Oluwo (Fisher FC) and midfielder Callum Harrison (AFC Sudbury) are now Clarets and Cameron James has re-joined the club for a second spell from Colchester United. Cadell Fraser-Robinson also joined the Clarets after completing a scholarship at Stevenage.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 39 / Chelmsford City wins: 55 / Draws: 22

Chippenham Town

2019/2020 Performance:
League Position: 14th
F.A Cup: 1st Round
F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round
Top Scorer: Scott Twine (6 goals)

A consistent team in the National South since they cruised their way to the Southern Premier League title three years ago, the Bluebirds finished thirteenth in consecutive seasons and were on course to ending last term in fourteenth. Yet it wasn’t all plain sailing last season, in mid-January they were embroiled in a relegation battle, appointed a new manager who steered them to safety winning five of their last six games. The Wiltshire club hope to keep that momentum going into the new campaign and improve on their mid-table finishes.

Manager: Michael Cook

Another manager who made the most of an interim spell, Michael Cook was appointed as permanent boss in March. The former Gloucester City manager took over the Bluebirds in January following the departure of Mark Collier. In that time Cook turned Chippenham Town’s fortunes around. After the home hammering to Dartford in February, he guided the Wiltshire club to five wins from seven matches with the last fixture a creditable draw against champions Wealdstone. At Gloucester City, he felt he wasn’t given a fair chance, so now is the time to prove his managerial capabilities.

Summer

Michael Cook’s former club Gloucester City were raided this summer as the former Tigers boss signed a trio of players from their local rivals. Covering all outfield positions Chippenham Town will now have striker Marlon Jackson, midfielder Joe Hanks and defender Spencer Hamilton in their squad. Both Danny Greenslade and Bradley Ash join the Bluebirds from Hereford. Former Sutton United striker, Ross Stearn returns to Hardenhuish Park from Bath City, whilst Luke Ruuse makes his loan spell from Bristol Rovers permanent.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Chippenham Town wins: 1 / Draws: 2

Dartford v Billericay Town

Dartford have the chance to leapfrog Billericay Town in the National South league standings this weekend with victory at Princes Park.

The Darts brought forward their fixture with the Essex club in which is now the only National South fixture this Saturday. Following early F.A Trophy exits from both clubs the game was moved to this weekend in hope of a larger crowd.

A win for Dartford will move them a point ahead of the Blues, so manager Steve King would like to see a repeat of the last meeting between the two sides at Princes Park. Almost eight months ago, in the penultimate game of the season, both teams were chasing a playoff spot. Tom Murphy became the hero with two late goals to overturn Jake Robinson’s strike for Billericay Town.

Dartford approach Saturday’s game on the back of five games without a win in all competitions with three draws and a couple of defeats. Their last outing saw the return of Jordan Wynter from injury and a new addition in Tyrique Hyde. Wynter made his first appearance since his injury almost three months ago. Hyde joined the Darts on loan from League Two side Colchester United and made his debut.

King made four changes to the team that lost 3-0 at Bath City, as well as Wynter and Hyde, Billy Crook returned to the starting eleven and so did Darren McQueen. However, Andy Pugh (broken hand) and Kyjuon Marsh-Brown (hamstring) were the latest casualties to appear on the Dartford injury list which included six others. The Darts looked good value in the second half, even though they went behind through Christian Smith’s free-kick. The equaliser came with fifteen minutes left when Elliott Romain won a penalty then scored from the spot, the striker now has five goals in eight games for the Darts.

After the game, King spoke to www.kentonline.co.uk and said: “I thought we were the better side for the majority of the game”, he added: “We had a central midfield made up of a full-back who hasn’t played for two or three months, Billy Crook who has been out for a month and Tyrique Hyde, who has just come in from Colchester. They never knew each other but the difference was that we had legs in there. I was worried about their central midfield area, I thought they would overpower us but the three boys in there did a magnificent job”.

Full back, Liam Gordon extended his loan spell with the Darts before the match and spoke to DFCTV after the 1-1 draw, he commented: “We could have taken more out of the game, the boys worked hard, but again it’s an away point”. Enjoying his loan spell at Dartford, Gordon is looking forward to the next two home fixtures against Billericay Town and Concord Rangers, he exclaimed: “We need to make the home ground a tough place to play at. We need teams to fear us when they are coming to our ground and most importantly for us to get the three points”.

Billericay Town have often been in the headlines over recent years under the ownership of Glen Tamplin, but all that has now changed. The former owner quit the Essex club in September and around the same time manager Harry Wheeler was replaced by former Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Jamie O’Hara, despite the club being in seventh place. O’Hara has one National South victory as manager of the Blues, however he did guide the club to the F.A Cup first round after victories over Basildon United, Bath City and Sutton United, in which former Dartford goalkeeper Alan Julian scored the goal to force a replay.

On the weekend, O’Hara watched his side throw away a two-goal lead to lose 3-2 against Tonbridge Angels. The match featured a Dartford loanee and two former Darts, and all were involved amongst the goals in some part. Femi Akinwande made five appearances for Dartford having come through the academy system, the striker opened the scoring on seven minutes and ten minutes later Billericay Town doubled their lead through Odysseus Alfa. In the second-half Tonbridge Angels staged a comeback with former Dartford keeper Julian conceding three. Khale Da Costa pulled a goal back and two minutes later, Dartford loanee Ben Greenhalgh set up Tom Derry for the equaliser. Da Costa scored his second of the afternoon to complete the turnaround and condemn Billericay Town to their fifth away defeat of the campaign.

The two goals scored by Billericay Town on the weekend ended Jake Robinson’s run as the only Blues goalscorer since late October. The striker scored all seven of Billericay Town’s goals in the six competitive matches leading up to the 3-2 loss. Robinson has scored ten goals in his last nine appearances and nine in the National South so far, putting him second in the National South’s goalscoring charts.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 1

Current League Form

Dartford (DLDWWD) Billericay Town (LDWLLD)
Dulwich Hamlet A 1-1 Tonbridge Angels A 2-3
Bath City A 0-3 Weymouth H 1-1
Maidstone United H 2-2 Dulwich Hamlet A 1-0
Hampton and Richmond A 2-1 Maidstone United A 1-2
Eastbourne Borough A 2-0 Slough Town A 1-3
Chippenham Town H 1-1 Dorking Wanderers H 2-2

Last Six Meetings

22.04.2019 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 1
15.09.2018 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 1
06.03.2010 Dartford 1 Billericay Town 4
02.02.2010 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 0
14.02.2009 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 0
04.10.2008 Billericay Town 0 Dartford 1

Stats

Dartford are unbeaten in their last two matches against Billericay Town.

The Darts have gone seven games without a home win in all competitions (D3, L4) and have won just one in ten this season at Princes Park (W1, D5, L4)

On This Day

At the time, nine years ago Dartford were paired with the biggest team in non-league when they were drawn against Crawley Town in the F.A Trophy first round. After an epic 3-3 draw in which the Darts were denied victory in stoppage time, the two sides played out the replay on 14 December 2010. Against the odds Dartford caused an upset under the floodlights of Princes Park and on that day three of the current squad were involved. Ryan Hayes, Tom Bonner and Charlie Sheringham played their part, but the hero was Tom Champion who scored in the 92nd minute to knock out the Sussex club led by manager Steve Evans, who labelled the Darts a ‘poor side’ after the game.

Billericay Town – Season Preview 2019/2020

Billericay Town

2018/19 Season

National South: 8th

F.A Cup: 1st Round

F.A Trophy: 1st Round

County Cup: Semi-Final

League Top Scorer: Moses Emmanuel (16 goals) / Average Attendance: 1089

Former manager Dean Brennan revealed that budget cuts affected the team whilst he was at the Essex club, leading to the departure of players, however he highlighted the budget at Billericay Town was still competitive. Chairman, Dan Groves was still pleased with the overall performance of the club stating Billericay Town exceeded his expectations. Groves claims his biggest achievement though was getting close to becoming a self-sufficient club, this summer the budget has been reduced. 

Even still, the Essex club managed to secure the services of goal scoring midfielder Jordan Parkes from Hemel Hempstead Town. Parkes became the all-time top scorer for the Tudors and reached a century of goals for them back in December. Central defender, Ronnie Henry will bring experience having won promotion with Stevenage to the Football League back in 2005 and the F.A Trophy in 2009. The 35-year-old also helped Luton Town to promotion before returning to Stevenage. Former Dartford goalkeeper Alan Julian was retained by the Blues, whilst former Premier League player Lloyd Doyley, Cole Kpekawa, Connor Hunte, Sam Kelly and Adam Coombes were all released. Right back, Ben Nunn left Dagenham and Redbridge at the end of last season and was snapped up and Josh Urquhart left the Essex club last summer, the midfielder returns to be part of Harry Wheeler’s squad.

The Manager – Harry Wheeler

In January, Wheeler was back at Billericay Town even after being sacked by the club 147 days earlier. Clearly, owner Glenn Tamplin recognised he had made a mistake and from a neutral perspective it was difficult to understand what Wheeler had done to deserve his dismissal. Wheeler won the Isthmian Premier League title, Isthmian League Cup and Essex Senior Cup all in one season, then guided Billericay Town to healthy position in the National South. Differences have now been put aside and after a spell at Maidstone United which didn’t work out, Wheeler is back to try and finish what he started.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 3 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 1

Last Six Meetings

22.04.2019 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 1
15.09.2018 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 1
06.03.2010 Dartford 1 Billericay Town 4
02.02.2010 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 0
14.02.2009 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 0
04.10.2008 Billericay Town 0 Dartford 1

Facts

Dartford are unbeaten in their last two matches against Billericay Town.

The last three meetings have seen both teams score, the first three meetings saw the victorious team winning to nil.

Last Ten Years

 

Next Meetings

Saturday 9 November 2019 at Princes Park

Saturday 15 February 2020 at New Lodge

Dartford v Billericay Town

Dartford’s final home match of the regular National South season takes place on Easter Monday and it’s a must win game against Billericay Town.

The Darts can be proud of their home record this season which has helped them fight for a playoff place and a top seven finish. HOwever recent form has left Dartford’s playoff hopes hanging by a thread. Meanwhile their opponents Billericay Town had faltered away after a decent start to their first campaign back in the National South. At the beginning of the season, the Darts were aiming for a shot at promotion by any means, Billericay Town on the other hand were amongst the favourites for the title.

Without a win in six games Dartford have slipped to tenth in the National South, three points shy of a top seven place with two games to go. Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle will have to deal with a humiliating defeat to Eastbourne Borough and try and salvage something from the final two fixtures. The Darts were thrashed 6-0 on Saturday against a team needing to win to survive. Billericay Town on the other hand managed to stop their poor form with back to back wins over Gloucester City and Hemel Hempstead Town, the Essex club have a one point advantage over eighth place St Albans City.

When the two sides met back in September it was one of a group of games that gave Dartford belief in their yet to gel new look squad. The Darts were down in sixteenth after nine games and Billericay Town were second, three points behind leaders Woking. Dartford could have easily found themselves a goal down in the first half after Deren Ibrahim bundled over Jake Robinson, the Billericay Town striker took the resulting penalty only to hit the crossbar. Three minutes into the second half, the Blues won a second spot kick this time when Ronnie Vint fouled Danny Waldren, Robinson redeemed himself to give Ricay the lead. A dramatic point was salvaged deep into stoppage time, loanee Tom Knowles found Jamie Philpot who did what was needed to get the ball over the line. The 1-1 draw set up Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle’s side to go on a run of six wins from the next seven league games, still Dartford’s best spell of the campaign.

The last meeting at Princes Park between the two teams was one the Darts would rather forget. Despite picking up the Isthmian Premier League title at the end of the 2009/2010 season, Dartford lost twice to Billericay Town in that campaign. It’s a long time for manager Jamie Coyle to want revenge over the Essex club as he was in the starting eleven that day as well as Elliot Bradbrook, and Ryan Hayes who came on for the last half hour. The Blues swept aside the champions elect 4-1 as the Darts had a rare off day and had to win the game by coming from behind. James White set up Lee Burns for the first goal of the afternoon, but that was as good as things got for Dartford. Dave Wareham equalised for Ricay and he added his second two minutes after the break. Billy Bricknell made it 3-1 before Chris Wild was sent off for the visitors, however that made little difference because Danny Charge tapped in number four.

Despite Billericay Town’s lack of form at the business end of the season, they still have quality in their squad. Adam Cunnington, who scored at Princes Park for Tamworth rejoined the Blues recently, former Welling United striker Adam Coombes and they have former Dartford goalkeeper Alan Julian between the sticks. Julian made 45 appearances for Dartford during the 2013/2014 National League campaign and was sent off in Billericay Town’s 3-1 defeat a fortnight ago.

Dartford’s only other two meetings also came in the Isthmian Premier League in 2008 and 2009. A 2-0 home win ensured the Darts completed the double over the Essex club, Brendon Cass and John Guest the scorers. The fixture earlier that season ended 1-0 with Lee Noble scoring the only goal of the game.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 2 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 1

Current Form

Dartford (LLLDDW) Billericay Town (WWLDLL)
Eastbourne Borough A 0-6 Hemel Hempstead Town H 2-1
Chippenham Town H 0-1 Gloucester City A 4-1
Weston-super-Mare A 1-3 Hampton & Richmond H 1-3
Truro City H 1-1 Dulwich Hamlet A 2-2
Hampton & Richmond H 2-2 Hungerford Town H 1-2
Torquay United A 0-2 Slough Town A 1-2

Previous Meetings

15.09.2018 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 1
06.03.2010 Dartford 1 Billericay Town 4
02.02.2010 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 0
14.02.2009 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 0
04.10.2008 Billericay Town 0 Dartford 1

Stats

Dartford suffered their biggest defeat in competitive competition for 16 years when they were hammered 6-0 at Eastbourne Borough on Saturday. They lost by the same margin away at Histon in 2003 in the Southern League Division One East.

Out of the top six in the division only champions Torquay United have beaten the Darts at Princes Park. The other four games have ended in four wins with the Darts scoring seven without reply.

Billericay Town will guarantee a playoff spot if they win on Easter Monday and if there is a winner between Concord Rangers versus St Albans City.

The Darts can only make the playoffs on the final day of the season if they avoid defeat on East Monday and even then they will need results to go their way next weekend.

On This Day

Dartford strolled to victory in their last home game on 22 April beating Bishop’s Stortford 4-0 two years ago. Andy Pugh, Elliot Bradbrook, Duane Ofori-Acheampong and Alfie Pavey all found the back of the net. Dartford’s Isthmian Premier League title party was in full swing when in the penultimate game of the season they beat Hendon 2-1 with Danny Harris scoring both. Two days later celebrations began down on the beach at Bognor Regis.

Billericay Town v Dartford

Dartford face a tough away match this weekend when they travel to Isthmian Premier League champions Billericay Town.

For the all the headlines created by the Essex club they have started life in the National South comfortably. The Blues are currently in second place, three points behind the leaders with an unbeaten home record.

Meanwhile the Darts are down in sixteenth with three away defeats in four, however they can take some confidence in the spirit they showed last weekend when drawing 2-2 with Eastbourne Borough, who started the day in third place.

Charlie Sheringham’s homecoming was described by the striker as ‘eventful’, he told www.kentonline.co.uk: “I played quite well, scored a goal to equalise and was a little bit unfortunate to get sent off”, the 30-year-old will miss the trip to Essex. Debuting in last weekend’s draw was Amadou Ba, who made a positive impression in his first loan appearance from Southend United.

After failing to score in five of the last six matches before last weekend, Dartford were relieved to score twice last Saturday. Eastbourne Borough twice took the lead only for Sheringham’s penalty and Elliot Bradbrook’s close range volley in stoppage time to leave the scores level.

It’s been eight and half years since Dartford faced Billericay Town in the Isthmian Premier League. The Blues won both encounters winning 1-0 in February 2010 and a month later beating the Darts 4-1 at Princes Park. In the season before, Dartford did the double winning 1-0 courtesy of a Lee Noble free kick in October 2008 and 2-0 at home in February 2009, with goals from Brendon Cass and John Guest. Current managers Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle were part of the playing squad in each of those campaigns.

It’s not often a newly promoted team is one of the favourites to win the title and on field results so far prove Billericay Town deserve that tag. However, performances on the pitch have been overshadowed by off field drama which is nothing new to the club over the last few years.

For a team enjoying only their second ever campaign at National South level, the last one was in 2012/13 when the Blues finished second from bottom, the opening five games saw the Essex club drop just two points. Jake Robinson, who comfortably leads the National South goalscoring charts on ten goals, scored all four in the opening day victory at Truro City. A draw in their first home game with Concord Rangers was followed by three straight victories and then the drama began.

Losing for the first time in 18 league matches stretching back to March, Harry Wheeler was harshly sacked after defeat to Chippenham Town. A decision owner Glenn Tamplin admits was a mistake, he told www.essexlive.news: “I made a mistake in letting him go – it was my fault. I’m learning as I go and Harry is a great loss. I’ve tried getting Harry to come back but he doesn’t want to come back and I understand that because I sacked him and I shouldn’t have done”. Wheeler now at Maidstone United has taken head coach Tristan Lewis and sports scientist Craig Lewis with him.

The Blues went on to beat St Albans City on Bank Holiday Monday, then more off field controversy ensued after their second loss of the season at Woking.

Tamplin, who once appointed himself as manager, sacked himself then rehired himself two days later, is now trying to sell the club because of accusations affecting his family and health. However, if an investor cannot be found then Tamplin will continue, he told www.essexlive.news: “It is looking like I am going to stay because I can’t find investors that are willing to put their hand in their pocket every week like I do and I’m not going to hand it over to someone that is going to let the club sit in this league or go down a league and not continue with the dream that I sold to the fans and the community”.

With all the focus in the national media, Billericay Town were glad to be back in action again last weekend when they visited Hemel Hempstead Town. The Blues ran out 2-0 winners and for once Robinson was kept of the scoresheet. Adam Cunnington scored his first of the campaign and Moses Emmanuel netted his third for the season. Conor Hunte made his debut in a line up which included former Dartford goalkeeper Alan Julian, who made 45 appearances for the Darts during the 2013/2014 National League campaign.

Head to Head

Billericay Town wins: 2 / Dartford wins: 2 / Draws: 0

Current Form

Billericay Town (WLWLWW) Dartford (DLWLLL)
Hemel Hempstead Town A 2-0 Eastbourne Borough H 2-2
Woking A 1-2 St Albans City A 0-2
St Albans City H 3-2 East Thurrock United H 2-0
Chippenham Town A 0-2 Hungerford Town A 0-1
Weston-super-Mare H 4-2 Wealdstone H 0-3
Welling United A 3-0 Concord Rangers A 0-2

Previous Meetings

06.03.2010 Dartford 1 Billericay Town 4
02.02.2010 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 0
14.02.2009 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 0
04.10.2008 Billericay Town 0 Dartford 1

Stats

Charlie Sheringham’s goal on Saturday was his first for the club since rejoining, his previous goal for the Darts was on 13 April 2013.

The Darts trailed twice last weekend and equalised on both occasions, the Darts have now picked up four points from losing positions (W1, D1).

Dartford are yet to score in the opening 15 minutes of either half.

On This Day

Dartford produced an excellent performance six years ago in the National League sweeping Hereford United aside at Princes Park. The 4-0 rout started with Ryan Hayes’ left foot drive into the top corner and followed by James Rodgers’ header from a Hayes cross. Danny Harris scored the Darts third and a Jon Wallis free kick completed the comprehensive victory. That win was the first on this day since 1991 when Dartford beat Ware 5-1 in the F.A Cup first qualifying round. The last fixture played by Dartford on 15 September was three years ago when they lost 2-1 to Oxford City, Andy Pugh scoring for the Darts.

National League South Season Preview 2018/2019 – Part One

 Bath City | Billericay Town | Chelmsford CityChippenham Town | Concord Rangers

Bath City

Founded: 1889 / Ground: Twerton Park

Over the last four years you cannot fault Bath City for consistency. The Romans left the National League via the relegation trapdoor six years ago, since then they have gone through off field transition. The Somerset club turned to filmmaker and fan Ken Loach, who campaigned for a community owned club, the appeal was successful and last summer the transition was completed. During that period, Bath City finished successive seasons in fourteenth followed by back to back ninth place finishes. Hoping to benefit from the playoff places being extended to seventh, the Romans had to settle for the top ten last term, even with the disruption of manager Gary Owers leaving in September for Torquay United.

Last Season

National South: 9th

F.A Cup: 4th Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 1st Round

County Cup: Semi-Final

League Top Scorer: Tom Smith (10 goals)

Average Attendance: 702 (6th in National South)

The Manager – Jerry Gill

Appointed manager of Bath City in October 2017, Gill took over from Gary Owers who had left for Torquay United. The appointment marked the return of the former defender who played over 200 times for the Romans in the nineties. His playing career included a League Cup Final and promotion to the Premier League with Birmingham City and a League Two playoff triumph with Cheltenham Town. Gill started managing eight years ago with Weymouth, but he resigned after 44 days with the club struggling financially. Since then he has held coaching roles at Bristol Rovers, Birmingham City and Kidderminster Harriers as well as with Norwich City’s and Wolverhampton Wanderers’ academies.

The Summer

With Bath City’s golden boot winner Jack Compton signing for Chippenham Town, Gill swooped to sign John Mills from Hereford FC. The striker scored 140 goals in three seasons with the Bulls and before that he netted 57 in one campaign with Didcot Town. Ross Stearn makes the move from Sutton United a permanent one, he will be back at Twerton Park for a third time after two loan spells in 2013 and 2015. Also, Adam Mann joins the Romans after scoring 24 goals with Evesham United in the Southern League Division One West last term. Defender Robbie Cundy arrives from National South rivals Gloucester City, Ryan Brunt from Exeter City and goalkeeper Ryan Clarke from Torquay United. Having impressed during pre-season The Romans signed midfielder Joe Raynes from Frome Town. Bath City also welcome the return of James Morton on loan from Bristol City until the end of January 2019. Miles Welch-Hayes was named in the National South’s Team of the Year and returns to the Football League with promoted Macclesfield Town. Ryan Case, Nat Jarvis and George Rigg have also left the club with the latter two moving to rivals Chippenham Town.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 31 / Bath City wins: 40 / Draws: 19

Previous Meetings

21.04.2018 Dartford 2 Bath City 0
24.10.2017 Bath City 1 Dartford 2
04.03.2017 Dartford 2 Bath City 0
22.10.2016 Bath City 0 Dartford 1
16.01.2016 Dartford 4 Bath City 1
05.09.2015 Bath City 0 Dartford 0

Next Meetings

Saturday 4 August 2018 at Twerton Park

Saturday 9 February 2019 at Princes Park

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Billericay Town

Founded: 1880 / Ground: New Lodge

An ambitious club under owner and former manager Glenn Tamplin, Billericay Town delivered under the pressure of high expectations. The Essex club have attracted old Premier League stars such as Jamie O’Hara and Paul Konchesky and signed players who should be playing higher up the pyramid. With financial allure, the Blues built a squad who should have won the Isthmian Premier League and they did, as well as the League Cup. Billericay Town also reached the F.A Cup first round for only the fourth time in their history and were F.A Trophy quarter-finalists last season. Ricay’s last and only foray in the National South ended in relegation five years ago, expectations are higher this time.

Last Season

Isthmian Premier: 1st

F.A Cup: 1st Round

F.A Trophy: Quarter-Final

County Cup: Winners

League Top Scorer: Jake Robinson (34 goals)

Average Attendance: 1057 (2nd in Isthmian Premier)

The Manager – Harry Wheeler

At 23-years-old, Harry Wheeler beat a record set by Andre Villas Boas when he became the youngest person to gain a UEFA A-License. Joining from Welling United in April 2017 he led the Blues to success last term winning the Isthmian Premier League and League Cup. Wheeler played for Stevenage, Hampton & Richmond Borough and St Albans City before moving towards a coaching career. He ran the reserve team at Potters Bar Town, managed St Albans City at 26-years-old and was head of Professional Development at Dagenham and Redbridge for two years. This summer he added owner Glenn Tamplin as his assistant, who was also Wheeler’s predecessor.

The Summer

High ambitions and a step up in non-league football means plenty of change for Billericay Town. Simon Walton will bring experience to the team having played for Sutton United last season, Walton has played in the Football League with Leeds United, Cardiff City, Ipswich Town, Hull City and Plymouth Argyle. Promoted with Dulwich Hamlet in May, Ricky Hayles switches allegiances to Ricay, apart from a short stint with Welling united the defender has spent most of his career in Essex with the likes of Tilbury, Thurrock and East Thurrock United. Wheeler has also persuaded former Truro City captain Ben Gerring to join his side as well as England C international Jake Howells from Dagenham and Redbridge, former Bromley striker Moses Emmanuel, left back Callum Kennedy from AFC Wimbledon and winger Connor Hunte from Greenwich Borough via Kingstonian. Between the sticks, 18-year-old Josh Strizovic comes in as back up after spells with Waltham Forest and Burnham Ramblers. Scott Doe made over 300 appearances for rivals Dagenham and Redbridge, the 29-year-old joins after spells with Whitehawk and Boreham Wood. Adam Coombes showed his potential at Welling United two years ago scoring 31 goals which included four hat-tricks. The striker moved to Sutton United, but injury hampered his progress, so he returned to the Wings. The 27-year-old will now be playing in Essex again with Billericay Town. There have also been notable departures including Rob Swaine going back to local rivals Chelmsford City, Billy Bricknell who scored 105 goals for the club in 184 appearances, Rob Evans and Josh Urquhart both played over 50 times last season. Goalkeeper Jack Giddens leaves for East Thurrock United, Leo Chambers and Louie Theophanous both join Kingstonian and Kevin Foley was released. Olly Sprague, Liam Hughes, Byron Lawrence, Luke Rooney, Sanchez Watt, Nick Wheeler and Charlie Cole are also no longer part of Wheeler’s plans.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 2 / Billericay Town wins: 2 / Draws: 0

Previous Meetings

24.04.2010 Dartford 1 Billericay Town 4
07.11.2009 Billericay Town 1 Dartford 0
02.05.1981 Dartford 2 Billericay Town 0
13.12.1980 Billericay Town 0 Dartford 1

Next Meetings

Saturday 15 September 2018 at New Lodge

Monday 22 April 2019 at Princes Park

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Chelmsford City

Founded: 1878 / Ground: Melbourne Stadium

Last season, the Clarets celebrated a tenth consecutive campaign in the National South. The Essex side will think that’s not worth celebrating simply because they are desperate for a crack at the National League. With an exception of a three-year mediocre spell, Chelmsford City have made regular appearances in the playoffs reaching the end of season finale six times in the last decade, losing the final two years ago. Joint favourites to win the National South last term, The Clarets made a solid start and were amongst the front runners, but they dropped off the pace only to frustratingly lose another playoff semi-final.  The Essex club have spent the summer talking of a takeover and hope this to be resolved fully soon.

Last Season

National South: 3rd

F.A Cup: 1st Round

F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round

County Cup: Runner Up

League Top Scorer: Philip Roberts (18 goals)

Average Attendance: 897 (2nd in National South)

The Manager – Rod Stringer

When Rod Stringer took over two years ago Chelmsford City had spent the previous three seasons outside of the playoffs. Joining from rivals Bishop’s Stortford he has turned the Clarets into title contenders finishing fourth and third since his arrival. He has a proven track record of getting teams challenging for promotion winning the Isthmian Division One North with Aveley, then taking them to the Isthmian Premier League playoffs. Stringer moved to Braintree Town and in his only season at Cressing Road he won the Isthmian Premier League. A spell at Bishop’s Stortford wasn’t as successful as previous roles, but Stringer has brought optimism and consistency back to the Essex club.

The Summer

Rod Stringer has looked across the county border this summer bringing in a number of players from Kent sides. Joe Anderson and Tom Wraight join from Maidstone United, Anderson spent four years at Bromley before playing for the Stones whilst Wraight only managed 26 appearances last season off the back of a decent record at East Thurrock United where he scored 43 times across two seasons. Another former Maidstone United man, Alex Akrofi scored 34 goals in 68 appearances for Tonbridge Angels and is now a Claret. Joining from Gillingham is striker Rhys Murphy, who impressed on trial in pre-season, he has also played in the Netherlands for Telstar in 2012 as well as Dagenham and Redbridge, Oldham Athletic and Forest Green Rovers. Amos Nasha moves from local rivals Concord Rangers, experience goalkeeper Ross Worner comes in from Sutton United and 30-year-old defender Rob Swaine returns to the club for a second spell. Familiar with Stringer at Braintree Town, Jai Reason teams back up with the Chelmsford City boss after spells at Eastleigh and Boreham Wood. Stringer also managed to convince prolific striker Scott Fenwick to stay and move down from the North East. The Clarets have picked up Jordan Chiedozie who netted 29 times in 39 appearances for Margate last term. The striker had a spell with Dartford on loan in 2015 and has featured for Concord Rangers, Poole Town and Cambridge United in the past. Kudus Oyenuga leaves Melbourne Park for Princes Park for a new chapter with Dartford, Michael West moves south to Eastbourne Borough and goalkeeper Sam Beasant is now at Concord Rangers. The experienced Chris Dickson has left to continue his career at Hampton and Richmond Borough.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 36 / Chelmsford City wins: 55 / Draws: 91

Previous Meetings

10.02.2018 Dartford 1 Chelmsford City 2
21.10.2017 Chelmsford City 1 Dartford 0
07.05.2017 Dartford 1 Chelmsford City 2
03.05.2017 Chelmsford City 0 Dartford 0
18.02.2017 Dartford 0 Chelmsford City 1
14.01.2017 Dartford 0 Chelmsford City 1

Next Meetings

Tuesday 7 August 2018 at Princes Park

Saturday 19 January 2019 at Melbourne Stadium

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Chippenham Town

Founded: 1873 / Ground: Hardenhuish Park

Competing at their highest level in the football pyramid didn’t faze Chippenham Town last season. Having gained confidence by winning the Southern Premier League with a record number of points, the Bluebirds settled in the National South with a mid-table finish. To add a touch of gloss to their debut campaign the Wiltshire club also won the Wiltshire Premier Shield. Chippenham Town made the most of their home form losing just four times at Hardenhuish Park, comparative to teams in the playoffs. However, they did lose the most away games in the league, the same amount as relegated Whitehawk. Overall a solid start for the Bluebirds’ life in the National South.

Last Season

National South: 13th

F.A Cup: 2nd Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round

County Cup: Winners

League Top Scorer: Rhys Healey (6 goals)

Average Attendance: 600 (8th in National South)

The Manager – Mark Collier

Chippenham Town had hit a low point in 2013 when they lost 9-0 to Stourbridge. Mark Collier was on holiday in Egypt at the time and when he was asked to become manager he obliged. Year on year Collier has improved the Bluebirds league position and just over a year ago he won the Southern Premier League with his side recording 103 points. Last season was his first in the National South and the Wiltshire club finished in a respectable thirteenth. Prior his appointment at Chippenham Town, Collier famously led Swindon Supermarine to the F.A Cup second round, where they lost 1-0 to Colchester United.

The Summer

When Chippenham Town take on rivals Bath City on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day three new signings will be up against their former club. Jack Compton scored 12 times for the Romans last term, George Rigg made 25 appearances and Nat Jarvis have all joined from Bath City. The Bluebirds add experienced 31-year-old Yan Klukowski from Torquay United, the midfielder also played for Forest green Rovers, Newport County and York City. Goalkeeper, Will Puddy comes in from Hereford FC to take Jared Thompson’s place, who returned to parent club Chelsea. Whilst left back Kieran Parselle makes his move from Gloucester City.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 1 / Chippenham Town wins: 0 / Draws: 1

Previous Meetings

20.01.2018 Chippenham Town 2 Dartford 2
09.09.2017 Dartford 3 Chippenham Town 0

Next Meetings

Saturday 13 October 2018 at Hardenhuish Park

Saturday 13 April 2019 at Princes Park

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Concord Rangers

Founded: 1967 / Ground: Thames Road

The Beachboys retained their status in the National South in their penultimate game of the season. Concord Rangers won a relegation six pointer against Hungerford Town to stay up. Even with safety confirmed, the Essex club still had a massive say in where the title would end up. On the final day they were two down against Havant and Waterlooville then fought back to level. In the final minute they conceded the goal that sent the title to Hampshire. The Essex club have now completed five seasons in the National South, the new management team will be hoping the sixth campaign will be less of a battle at the wrong end of the table.

Last Season

National South: 17th

F.A Cup: 4th Qualifying Round

F.A Trophy: 3rd Qualifying Round

County Cup: Quarter-Final

League Top Scorer: Steve Cawley (14 goals)

Average Attendance: 263 (22nd in National South)

The Manager – Sammy Moore

New to the management game, 30-year-old Sammy Moore has had one year’s experience as a manager which was at Leatherhead. He was part of Ipswich Town’s F.A Youth Cup winning side in 2005 and went on to play for Brentford and Stevenage Borough. The midfielder won the Isthmian Premier League with Dover Athletic nine years ago, then made it into the Football League with AFC Wimbledon through the playoffs two years later. Moore had a spell with Leyton Orient before returning on loan to Dover Athletic. A year ago, he was appointed Player Manager at Leatherhead and impressed enough to replace Adam Flanagan at Concord Rangers this summer.

The Summer

New manager Sammy Moore set his stall out early in the transfer window and made wholesale changes. After ** years at Dartford, Ryan Hayes will be showing his skills with Concord Rangers next term, the winger played 580 times for the Darts and scored 108 goals. Another former Dart, Tyrone Sterling was a F.A Trophy finalist last season with Bromley he will be reunited with Hayes. The former Leatherhead boss, Moore raided his old club by bringing over Frazer Shaw, the experienced Sean Clohessy and midfielder Sam Blackman. The exciting signing of Billy Knott, ex Bradford City, Sunderland, AFC Wimbledon and Gillingham plus a host of other Football League clubs has provided quiet optimism amongst the Beachboys. Lee Minshull will link up again with Moore and Jack Midson, Jack Parkinson joins from Welling United as a player coach, Kojo Awotwi signs from VCD Athletic and Nana Boakye-Yiadom from Dulwich Hamlet. Concord Rangers will also welcome Danny Green on the wing and 30-year-old goalkeeper Sam Beasant from Chelmsford City. On the way out, last season’s top scorer Steve Cawley moves to Hemel Hempstead Town, Ben Greenhalgh joins Dartford, Khale Da Costa switches to St Albans City and Steve King leaves after ten years. Billy Roast and Lewis Knight were also released.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 4 / Concord Rangers wins: 1 / Draws: 2

Previous Meetings

06.01.2018 Concord Rangers 1 Dartford 1
15.08.2017 Dartford 2 Concord Rangers 0
11.03.2017 Concord Rangers 1 Dartford 1
24.09.2016 Dartford 2 Concord Rangers 1
27.02.2016 Dartford 1 Concord Rangers 2
18.08.2015 Concord Rangers 2 Dartford 3

Next Meetings

Tuesday 14 August 2018 at Thames Road

Saturday 26 January 2019 at Princes Park

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