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Pre-season Preview

The FIFA World Cup will be half way through the quarter-finals on Saturday, Dartford will be preparing for the brand new National South campaign.

Managers Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle take over at Princes Park and have already got a glimpse of their new look squad, when the players returned to training. Now it’s time for the pair to assess their summer signings and those retained from last term during pre-season friendlies.

PURE DFC takes a look at what is coming up for the Darts before they kick off against Bath City on Saturday 4 August.

MILLWALL (Saturday 7 July – Princes Park – 12pm kick off)

The Lions are back at Princes Park and surprised many in their return to the Championship. After a two year absence, Millwall finished last season in eighth missing out on a playoff spot, their highest finish since 2001/2002. The Lions recorded a club record 17 game unbeaten run and equalled another accolade of six away wins in a row. Millwall drew with Dartford in a friendly last summer, Romaric Logan put the Darts ahead and Ben Thompson equalised. The Bermondsey based club have visited Princes Park six times winning five and drawing one.

AVELEY (Monday 9 July – Parkside – 7.45pm kick off)

Eight years ago, Deren Ibrahim, Lee Noble, Elliot Bradbrook and Tom Bonner faced Aveley in a friendly. Dartford, the reigning Isthmian Premier League champions at the time drew 0-0. In the 2009/2010 title winning season, Dartford beat Aveley 4-1 and drew 2-2, although it was the entertaining 5-4 defeat in the Isthmian League Cup which stood out. The Darts also won 4-0 thanks to Jay May’s hat-trick and drew 2-2 two years earlier, when Dartford became Isthmian Division One North champions; Aveley won that league a year later but returned to that division in 2012.

SEVENOAKS TOWN (Saturday 14 July – Greatness Park – 3pm kick off)

Micky Collins banged in the goals for Dartford during the Kent League days and now he’s a title winning manager at Sevenoaks Town. The former Darts striker scored 35 times in 60 appearances between 1992 and 1995, now he is preparing the Oaks for life in the Isthmian League South East. The Kent side will be playing at their highest ever level this season and have made positive strides since joining the Kent League in 2003.

GILLINGHAM (Tuesday 17 July – Princes Park – 7.30pm kick off)

Another Football League club to return to the home of the Darts, Gillingham finished seventeenth in League One last season, six points above the drop. Regular visitors to Princes Park, the Gills have won all seven friendlies against Dartford. In the build up to last year’s National South campaign the Darts lost 2-1. Gabriel Zakuani and Josh Parker scored first half goals for Gillingham. Former Gills youngster Tom Murphy, who will be hoping to earn a new contract with the Darts, scored a consolation.

COLCHESTER UNITED (Saturday 21 July – Princes Park – 3pm kick off)

Welcoming to Princes Park for the first time, the Darts will host League Two side Colchester United. The U’s finished in thirteenth place last season, their worst league performance since 1993/1994. The Essex club also went out of the F.A Cup in the first round for a seventh consecutive campaign. Colchester United started 2017/2018 slowly but one defeat in thirteen games, from mid-October to New Year’s Day, moved them into fifth. However, the U’s couldn’t keep the momentum going and they finished last term taking one point from the final five games.

THAMESMEAD TOWN (Tuesday 24 July – Princes Park – 7.45pm kick off)

An away game at home for the Darts as they face their tenants in a friendly for a third season in a row. Last season Elliot Bradbrook scored a hat-trick in a 4-0 win and the year before Ben Francis netted three in a 5-0 victory. Also on the list of friendly hat-tricks against the Mead is Charlie Sheringham, who scored three in a mid-season behind closed doors friendly in 2010. The Darts have won their last six pre-season matches against Thamesmead Town scoring 19 without reply; however the Mead did win 3-2 in 2008. Dartford’s tenants are now playing in the Isthmian South East Division.

FOLKESTONE INVICTA (Saturday 28 July – Cheriton Road – 3pm kick off)

Neil Cugley has been charge of Folkestone Invicta for 21 years, even outdoing former Darts boss Tony Burman. Cugley played for the Darts in the late seventies and mid-eighties and has a road named after him, where Dartford’s former Watling Street ground once was. His Isthmian Premier League side finished fourth last term scoring 104 goals, the fourth time in five campaigns they have hit over a century of goals. When they won the Isthmian Division One South two years ago they managed 114 points to finish 24 clear at the top. The Darts had regular meetings with Invicta from the Kent League days through to the Southern League and at one point lost eight in a row against them.

Joining the Darts for the new season will be Ben Greenhalgh, Kudus Oyenuga and Delano Sam-Yorke whilst Callum Driver and Alex Wall return to the club. Last season’s captain Elliot Bradbrook stays along with Lee Noble and Gibraltar international goalkeeper Deren Ibrahim. Defenders Tom Bonner, Ronnie Vint and Mark Onyemah remain at Princes Park and so does striker Andy Pugh. Flanagan and Coyle, who took over from Burman will also be searching for players to bolster the squad, so expect some trialists.

Folkestone Invicta v Dartford

The Darts start their quest to retain the Kent Senior Cup with a trip to Folkestone’s Buzzline Stadium.

Dartford’s triumph in May this year was Tony Burman’s third piece of silverware in four seasons. With an F.A Trophy fixture on the weekend the county cup is likely to see some players rested. Burman spoke to PURE DFC, he said: “We’re going to take everyone down to Folkestone, but we have to give ninety minutes to the guys who haven’t played”.

Dartford are delighted with Bradbrook's stunning strike

Strikers Jacob Erskine and Tony Garrod did not feature in Saturday’s superb 3-1 victory over Kent rivals Dover Athletic so it maybe a good chance to see the pair in action. The squad of seventeen also includes last seasons player of the year Lee Noble and pacey forward Danny Harris who are keen to get more minutes under their belts after substitute appearances on the weekend.

Preparation for the cup tie couldn’t have gone any better. Dartford’s biggest home crowd of the season witnessed another win against Dover Athletic. Elliot Bradbrook was upended when he stormed into the penalty box and Adam Green converted the spot kick on seven minutes.

The Whites fought back and won a free kick on thirteen minutes. Dover’s Argentinian, Agustin Battipeidi brilliantly placed a free header beyond Louis Wells to level the scores. At half time the sides were level and after the game Burman commented: “We pressurised them, played a bit higher up the pitch and we managed to get the penalty, it was a good start”, he added: “I thought Dover controlled the game in the first half with their football and fair play to them”.

In the second half Dartford moved up a gear. With the game level Ryan Hayes won a free kick from what looked an impossible angle but nonetheless the winger went for goal. With help of a deflection Hayes gave Dartford the lead and with two minutes remaining captain Elliot Bradbrook scored a brilliantly placed curler into the top corner and made sure of the win.

The Darts boss recognised the excellent effort his side put in, he said: “We worked a good team very hard. As much as they had control of the game they had to put a lot of work in to do that. In the second half we were the fitter side, they probably couldn’t keep with us”.

Also on Saturday, Folkestone Invicta took part in an Isthmian Division One South fixture and they came away with a 2-1 triumph. Stuart King put Invicta in front after 51 minutes against struggling Croydon Athletic. With eight minutes remaining the game turned dramatic. Croydon’s George Landais equalised but with two minutes on the clock substitute Simon Austin won the game for Folkestone. The win for Invicta leaves them occupying sixth place in the Isthmian Division One South division and a point behind the playoffs.

In the first round of the Kent Senior Cup they needed extra time to defeat Faversham Town 3-2. In front of 107, Josh Vincent scored twice putting Folkestone ahead both times. James Everitt’s winner made sure of progression to round two.

Like Dartford, Folkestone spent a long period in the Southern League before their demise in the early nineties. Invicta joined the Kent League in 1991/92 and became Division Two champions. Another similarity between the two clubs is that a prolific goalscorer became manager and is still in charge today.

Neil Cugley manager of Folkestone Invicta

In 1997, former Dartford player Neil Cugley left Ashford Town to manage Folkestone Invicta. During Cugley’s reign he has experienced plenty of ups and downs. In 1999 the club returned to the Southern League and in 2000 Cugley achieved a second promotion to the Premier League, however after three seasons the club were relegated.

After switching to the Isthmian League in 2005, Invicta have yo-yo’d between the Premier League and Division One. In 2008, they went down on the final day and two years later were back in the Premier League despite a ten point deduction. Last season they finished bottom of the pile and returned to Division One again.

As Dartford progressed up the leagues and Folkestone flitted between divisions the last league meeting between the two clubs was in the 2003/04 Southern League East season. That year Invicta completed the double over the Darts with 6-1 and 1-0 victories.

The last competitive fixture between Dartford and Folkestone was the Isthmian League Cup clash in 2006. The tie ended 2-2, Anthony Henry scoring both goals for The Darts. After extra time the two clubs could not be separated and Dartford progressed 5-3 on penalties. It’s been almost six years since Dartford last drew Folkestone in the Kent Senior Cup. On that occasion Invicta won the tie 2-1.

The winners will play Tonbridge Angels or Sittingbourne away in the Quarter Final.

Did you know

In total, managers Tony Burman and Neil Cugley have been at the helm at their respective clubs for a combined 24 seasons

Neil Cugley is Invicta’s record goalscorer in one season when he scored 46 goals during the 1982/83 season

Since 1992, when Folkestone Invicta gained senior status, they have never won the Kent Senior Cup but have been runners up on four occasions in 1998/99, 1999/2000, 2003/04, 2009/10

The Darts have won the Kent Senior Cup ten times. Between 1930 and 1935 Dartford won the competition four times in five seasons.