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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.

Pre-Season Preview

Dartford begin their preparations this month for the up and coming National South campaign, with a series of pre-season friendlies. Pure DFC takes a look at July’s opponents in the build up to the 2017/18 season.

Millwall – Saturday 8th July at Princes Park
Links with the Lions continue with another friendly at home against the League One playoff winners. Neil Harris guided Millwall back to the Championship after a two year absence, finishing last season in sixth. The Londoners bounced back from playoff final disappointment in 2016 by winning at Wembley in May, defeating Bradford City. Steve Morison’s winner five minutes from time secured promotion. The Lions also enjoyed a decent F.A Cup reaching the last eight and beating three Premier League teams on the way. AFC Bournemouth, Watford and Leicester City were dispatched, but quality showed in the quarter final derby when Tottenham Hotspur won 6-0. Since moving to Princes Park, the Darts have hosted five friendlies against the Lions all ending in defeats. Tony Burman has used links with the Bermondsey based club in the past, most notably the signing of current squad member Keaton Wood.

Gillingham – Tuesday 11th July at Princes Park
The Gills will be the second side to visit Princes Park this summer, the League One club just kept above the relegation zone last term. The highest ranked Kent club in English football return to the home of the Darts after a friendly almost a year ago, Ryan Hayes scored for Dartford in a 2-1 defeat. Twice the Darts have played the Gills in the Kent Senior Cup since moving to Princes Park and in 2015, Tom Wynter and Jack Simmons scored as Tony Burman’s side won 2-1, atoning for the 7-3 loss in the competition the season before. The Dartford versus Gillingham friendly has been a regular pre-season fixtures in recent times with the Gills winning all six since 2009.

Phoenix Sports – Saturday 15th July at Phoenix Sports Ground
Based in Barnehurst, Phoenix Sports became champions of the Southern Counties East League in 2015 tasting defeat just once. In the same season they reached the fifth round of the F.A Vase. Two seasons have past and in each of those campaigns they have recorded their highest ever league position, in the Isthmian Division One North. Switching to the Division One South this summer will mean a whole set of new opponents for Steve O’Boyle’s team, who have a number of former Darts in their ranks such as Dajon Golding, Richard Seixas and Ashley Probets. Dartford won a friendly 2-1 last summer with goals from Ellis Brown and Ben Francis, the year before Tom Bradbrook netted both in a 2-0 victory.

Sutton United – Tuesday 18th July at Princes Park
Dartford host one of the heroes of last season’s F.A Cup in their third pre-season warm up. Rewind back to November and the Darts lost an entertaining F.A cup first round fixture 6-3 against the U’s. Dartford pegged the visitors back three times until Paul Doswell’s side ran away with the tie. The National League club went on to knock out Cheltenham Town, AFC Wimbledon before famously beating Leeds United 1-0. A home fifth round tie versus eventual winners Arsenal ended in a respectable 2-0 loss. Sutton United enjoyed a decent return to the National League last term having won the National South the season before, the Surrey club finished twelfth thanks to their home form which has been excellent over the last few years.

Cambridge United – Saturday 22nd July at Princes Park
Whilst Dartford were reprieved in the National League, Cambridge United secured a place in the Football League via the playoffs beating Gateshead in the final, that was three years ago. The U’s are now led by former Crystal Palace and Leeds United midfielder Shaun Derry, who guided Cambridge United to an eleventh place finish in League Two last time out. Tom Bonner will face his former club who he joined from the Darts back in 2013, the defender made 13 appearances but injuries prevented the 29 year old from making a bigger impact. During Dartford’s stay in the National League they recorded a famous 2-1 victory at the Abbey Stadium in 2012. Tony Burman’s side remained unbeaten against the U’s during that two year period with three consecutive draws.

Bromley – Tuesday 25th July at Princes Park
Dartford’s penultimate friendly this summer will be against National League side Bromley. The Darts have enjoyed a decent record against their opponents winning five of the last six, including the Kent Senior Cup final six years ago. This time the Darts will be up against former winger Luke Wanadio, who had an excellent time in his only season at Princes Park scoring 13 goals last season. Tyrone Sterling is another former player now with Bromley, the full back signed in May from Dover Athletic. Neil Smith helped the club avoid second season syndrome in the National League by leading them to tenth last term, the club’s highest ever finish. The last meeting between the two sides came in an entertaining F.A Cup tie with Dartford winning 4-3 thanks to goals from Danny Harris, Ryan Hayes, Elliot Bradbrook and his brother Tom.

Thamesmead Town – Saturday 29th July at Princes Park
The Mead head South for their new campaign switching from the Isthmian Division One North to South. Over recent years Dartford have shared close ties with the club and will be landlord’s to Thamesmead Town this season in a groundshare agreement. During a three year period in the nineties the Darts met their tenants six times in the Kent League winning three, drawing two and losing once. Last summer Ben Francis scored a hat-trick in a 5-0 friendly victory versus the Mead, whilst in 2014 Andy Pugh netted the winner. Dartford also won 2-0 in 2011 and 2012 and 5-0 in a behind closed doors friendly in October 2010. Thamesmead Town did beat the Darts 3-2 nine years ago and 2-1 the year before that.

Dartford v Gillingham

Dartford aim to avenge last season’s heavy defeat to Gillingham,when they meet in the Kent Senior Cup second round.

The Darts were thrashed 7-3 in the competition eleven months ago at the very same stage. Gillingham went on to reach the final losing to Charlton Athletic.

The Darts have already beaten opponents from a higher division in round one. Goals by George Sykes (now on loan at Canvey Island), Callum McNaughton and academy striker Dajon Golding earned a 3-1 win of National League side Welling United.

Gillingham have yet to play in this season’s Kent Senior Cup having received a bye in round one. Entering the second round stage, Justin Edinburgh is expected to field a side full of youngsters and fringe players.

With a National South fixture on the weekend, Burman is likely to follow suit and the second round tie could be a chance to see some of the academy players breaking through. Already this campaign the likes of Deren Ibrahim, Ronnie Vint, Kaka Dembele, Ebou Adams and Ben Francis have featured in the league having represented the club at academy level.

Gillingham returned to the competition in 2012 after a 13 year absence. Last season was the furthest they reached since making their come back. Previously, the Gills had been eliminated after only one match before making the final last term.

Under the guidance of former Newport County manager Justin Edinburgh, the highest ranked Kent side are top of League One.

Gillingham v Dartford

Dartford will conclude the Kent Senior Cup second round on Wednesday when they visit League One opposition for the second time in four days.

Tony Burman will pit his wits against former Dartford player manager Peter Taylor, who is in charge at Gillingham. Both clubs are sitting in the same position in their respective leagues and the winners will make it into the draw for round three, which will take place after the match.

In past season’s Burman has used the competition to mix first team players with those at the fringes of the squad. With a tough game on Sunday and the F.A Trophy fixture with Solihull Moors to come, changes to the starting line up are likely.

The F.A Cup second round defeat at Bradford City became Dartford’s fifth in a row in all competitions. Meanwhile, the Gills have tasted victory just once in their last 11 league games. However, Gillingham edged closer to a trip to Wembley with a 1-0 Football League Trophy win over Leyton Orient on the weekend.

Dartford won the Kent Senior Cup in 2011 and were close to retaining the title in the following campaign by finishing runners up. Triumph three years ago was the tenth time the Darts won the honour and the first since 1988, under Peter Taylor. Gillingham have to go back to 1948 for their last Kent Senior Cup title having won the competition just twice.

Only three times have these two sides met in the Kent Senior Cup, each occasion in a semi-final. In 1894, the Darts won 4-0 against New Brompton, Gillingham’s former name to reach the final where they lost to Royal Ordnance. The season before Gillingham last won the cup, Dartford knocked them out in the last four with a 2-1 triumph on the way to winning the competition. The last Kent Senior Cup meeting between the two clubs was 24 years ago, the Gills progressed to the final with a 3-2 victory only to finish runners up.