Rss

Archives for : Season Review

Season Review 2018/2019

Although this season didn’t have the same excitement of the title race a year ago, once again Dartford’s campaign went right down to the wire. Denied a playoff spot on the final day of the season means the Darts will play in the National South for a fifth year in a row.

Over the last nine months there has been plenty to talk about, tactics, transfers, some unexpected moments and former players returning. We say goodbye to our former captain Elliot Bradbrook, we’ve watched Andy Pugh’s slow progress to recovery, we’ve seen a goalkeeper score and an outfield player in goal. We could have done with more goals at the right end, better player recruitment and the avoidance of an end of season slump.

In May, long serving manager Tony Burman departed from his role after more than 13 years.  An exodus of players who came so close to clinching the league title moved on leaving a new era on the horizon. However, the new looked towards the old. Two former league winning Dartford defenders were appointed, the club stepped into the world of joint managers making Adam Flanagan and Jamie Coyle responsible for rebuilding the team.

Debatable whether joint managers work, the duo have been asked to stay on next season and hopefully their choice of signings improve this summer. The squad needed an overhaul and so ten new players made their way to Princes Park before the campaign kick started. Ben Greenhalgh has stood out from the new crop coming third in the annual John Stevens Memorial Trophy, for home Player of the Year. The winger also spent most of a Kent Senior Cup tie in goal, but the Darts went out on penalties. On the flip side half of the summer signings moved on before January was out. Alex Wall left before the season began, Billy Roast and Simon Mensah departed in September, Chez Isaac in October and Jamie Philpot in January. The remaining four, Callum Driver, Kudus Oyenuga, Delano Sam-Yorke and Manny Ighorae have all spent time out on loan and Flanagan himself has even doubted if he and Coyle recruited well enough.

After just two weeks of the pre-season schedule, the Darts and Andy Pugh suffered a major setback. Only eleven minutes had gone when Pugh accidentally collided with Colchester United’s goalkeeper, Rene Gilmartin. The Dartford striker broke his leg and would only return to action nine months later, a cruel blow to both player and club. Hopefully we can look forward to Pughy having a bigger role next season.

Torquay United, Woking and Billericay Town were listed as the favourites for the National South title with Dartford and Chelmsford City in the ‘will be there or thereabouts’ section. When the Darts opened their campaign with maximum points in the first two games, which included a rare win over Chelmsford City, the optimism increased. By Bank Holiday August a weakness in front of goal started to show, Dartford went four consecutive games without scoring. The Darts would sink to seventeenth place, their lowest league position of the season. A 2-0 win at home to East Thurrock United alleviated the problem temporarily.

Recognising the shortfalls in front of goal Charlie Sheringham was brought back to Princes Park, and to provide some better-quality service, a void created by Ryan Hayes summer departure to Concord Rangers, winger Tom Knowles was signed on loan from Cambridge United. Hayes would later return to the club in October after being frozen out at Concord Rangers.

September started with the obligatory defeat to St Albans City, then came two fixtures that showed the Dartford spirit building. Driving from midfield, experienced midfielder Lee Noble knows what that spirit encapsulates and yet again been a shining light winning Player of the Year once more. Likewise, Bradbrook understands the ethic required and for a period of time teammates began to follow his lead. Last minute draws at home to Eastbourne Borough then away at Billericay Town sparked a sequence of one defeat in nine league outings. Bradbrook will be missed next season after announcing his retirement, the midfielder scored an incredible 142 goals in 444 appearances. He has been part of the squad that has won the Isthmian Premier League in 2010, the National South Playoff Final in 2012, two Kent Senior Cup triumphs and has been an inspirational leader and former captain. The midfielder is Dartford’s second all-time top goalscorer and is sixth in the all-time appearances list.

In the same month several loan signings were made, Amadou Ba, Kenneth Yao and Jordan Wynter, with the latter the only one to remain until the end of the season. Dartford also struggled past AFC Uckfield Town in the F.A Cup before getting comprehensively knocked out by Oxford City, the F.A Trophy campaign also ended abruptly at the first hurdle two months later. Evidence was still there to suggest Flanagan and Coyle’s squad was still a work in progress.

More signings were made in October with Andre Coker and Daniel Johnson arriving to Princes Park. Goalkeeper, Deren Ibrahim signed off in style scoring his second career goal which turned out to be the winner at Chippenham Town, the former number one would make one last appearance before moving to coach at Charlton Athletic. In came Bailey Vose on loan from Colchester United to replace the long serving Ibrahim.

The Darts started putting positive sequences together and signs of a gelling squad were showing. However, Flanagan and Coyle felt that finishing touches were required. Dan Darbyshire and Phil Roberts were added to the squad in December, Billy Crook and Joe Healy in the New Year and Darren McQueen in February. Dartford were becoming harder to beat and with excellent home form they headed towards the top seven. Phil Roberts started to find his scoring boots in January and in March volleyed an audacious effort Goal of the Season contender against Gloucester City, but after failing to turn up to a match at Weston-super-Mare in April he was out the door.

A February double over title challengers Woking had the club believing a playoff place was on the cards and at the beginning of March there was even talk about a third-place finish. A run of just two defeats since the New Year, the campaign now had a more positive vibe. But in a season of twists and turns the Darts were about to enter their worst run of form under Flanagan and Coyle.

Dartford can be excused for losing to champions elect Torquay United, although the Devon club did have ten men for most of the game, but what was to follow was not excusable. One point from three relegation threatened teams, including a 6-0 drubbing at Eastbourne Borough was humiliating for the club and had Flanagan questioning his players publicly in the local press. In a sequence of six games, Dartford picked up just two points and their playoff hopes were hanging by a thread.

The Darts took hold of that thread with one hand scoring twice in the final two minutes to beat Billericay Town in the penultimate game. Had the Darts not come from behind to win 2-1, the season would have been over. So, into the last day and a Dartford victory coupled with Billericay Town and St Albans City failing to win would be enough. It was looking good with the Darts a goal to the good and both Billericay Town and St Albans City losing. Then Oxford City struck twice, and Dartford’s playoff grip loosened. In the end the Darts finished tenth missing their target of reaching the top seven. Now we wait until it all starts again in August.

Season Review 2017/2018

Dartford were left heartbroken last weekend when they were pipped to the National South title on goal difference. For the neutral the race for the championship was gripping, for the club it was an emotional rollercoaster. An afternoon in Bognor saw the Darts going up for nine minutes, until an 89th minute winning goal at Havant and Waterlooville, by former Dartford striker Jason Prior snatched automatic promotion away, handing the Hawks the title.

In a season where it seemed no one wanted to win the division, it all ended up in a two-horse race. The Darts can be proud they were involved in the closest of contests and were challenging for a place in the National League all season. Of course, it’s not finished yet.

It could be fate, should Dartford win the playoffs they will extend their winning streak to eleven, beating the club record. Now that would be sweet consolation, but after last weekend be cautious as football can be cruel.

Dartford were joint favourites to win the National South with their playoff conquerors of last season, Chelmsford City. Tony Burman kept faith with his squad but lost the services of Luke Wanadio and Tom Wynter as well academy graduates Kaka Dembele and Ben Francis.

Burman managed to fill the vacant positions by signing Lyle Della-Verde from Concord Rangers and picking up left back Mark Onyemah, who had already had a loan spell with the Darts in the past. The Dartford boss also gambled to strengthen his strike force by signing Warren Mfula from the lower echelons of non-league.

August came too soon, immediately Dartford were plunged into an injury crisis. When the opening day came around they couldn’t name a recognised striker in the starting eleven, the result a tame 0-0 draw with Hungerford Town. Warren Mfula and new signing Richard Sho-Silva made debuts in the 2-2 draw with Braintree Town, in which the Darts showed typical fighting spirit coming from two goals down. A third draw in a row, this time against Havant and Waterlooville, left the Darts in sixteenth and without a win, but then things started to click.

When Elliot Bradbrook and Lyle Della-Verde scored the goals to seal a 2-0 win over Concord Rangers, they set Dartford on their way.

And then arrived Alfie Pavey…

Named National South’s Player of the Year, the striker left rivals Welling United and made his mark in the Dartford white. Pavey scored 22 league goals including the stunning last-minute winning bicycle kick against his former club on Boxing Day, what a goal that was. He netted his first since returning to the club in the 7-1 demolition of Oxford City, a game in which Warren Mfula took home the match ball with a second half hat-trick.

After five games unbeaten East Thurrock United inflicted the first defeat on the Darts leaving Burman’s side in sixth place. In September, the goals continued to flow and for a moment, after the 4-2 win over Eastbourne Borough, a day in which Ryan Hayes made his 400th start, the Darts went top for the first time. However, Dartford were quickly knocked of their perch with a 3-0 defeat at Weston-super-Mare.

Dartford’s cup journey began in mid-September and Elliot Bradbrook’s hat-trick against Barking in the F.A Cup, then Pavey’s treble versus Needham Market in a 6-1 victory set the Darts on their way. Pavey was on hand again in the last qualifying round at Burgess Hill Town earning a first round tie with League Two side Swindon Town.

Cup commitments and another defeat to Chelmsford City were responsible for Dartford’s drop to seventh in the league by mid-October, but then they leapfrogged to the top in the following game when they beat Bath City 2-1. From then on, the Darts remained in the top two leading the pack for three more months.

The F.A Cup run came to a halt in November as the Darts were taught a harsh lesson. Swindon Town completed a professional job beating Dartford 5-1, at least Richard Sho-Silva’s consolation got the biggest cheer of the afternoon.

Out of the F.A Cup and on to the F.A Trophy, the Darts edged past Brentwood Town before taking National League side Boreham Wood to replay. A 1-1 draw was followed by a 2-2 stalemate but the Wood won on penalties.

By now the Darts weren’t playing brilliantly but no other side was taking advantage of any slip ups. Danny Mills, a striker with National South pedigree was signed on loan from rivals Ebbsfleet United, but the goals weren’t forthcoming for the 26 year old causing discussion amongst the terraces. For the record, he has scored in his last four appearances, hopefully good timing for the playoffs. The Darts also welcomed back Nathan Collier, who fitted in like he’d never been away.

The title was anyone’s to claim and when Dartford held on to a 1-0 win over Havant and Waterlooville in January, belief was growing. Then that belief was questioned in the second half of the month and the beginning of February. An away draw with Chippenham Town and defeats to St Albans City and Chelmsford City (again!) meant Burman’s men couldn’t take the opportunity to pull away from the chasing pack, it would prove costly. Although Wealdstone and Truro City fell victim to two good Dartford performances, Poole Town caused an upset at Princes Park another costly moment.

With Havant and Waterlooville now heading the table and Hampton and Richmond Borough close behind, the race was down to three. The Darts faced a showdown with Hampton and Richmond Borough on Good Friday in an utter mud bath of a pitch. Once more Pavey come up with the goods calmly chipping in a last-minute winner. By now Dartford’s incredible winning streak was in full flow and victory at Gloucester City put them top once more.

Still the Hawks wouldn’t give up and with Hampton and Richmond Borough out of the reckoning it was all building up to an unbelievable climax. The Darts started grinding out results, keeping six clean sheets, with new goalkeeper Berti Schotterl, in seven games, but they needed more goals to boost the goal difference.

The final week of the season was upon us and the tide turned to Hampshire. Havant and Waterlooville played a depleted East Thurrock United and at 1-1 the Essex club ran out of steam, the Hawks smashed in five more goals putting them ahead of Dartford by three goals, just three goals.

And then that afternoon at Bognor…

Words cannot describe the feeling amongst the club immediately after the final whistle blew, but if Dartford want to return to the National League they better get over the heartbreak quickly. The playoffs…to be continued.

Season Review 2014/2015

1st – Barnet – 92 pointsBFC

Deservedly winning the title on the final day of the season, Barnet become Conference champions for a record third time. Manager, Martin Allen picked up a second league winners medal in three years, having won League Two with Gillingham, and his know how had the Hertfordshire club leading the Conference for the majority of the campaign. An opening day 5-0 win set the tone in a consistent season as the Bees went on to open up a comfortable gap. John Akinde’s 31 goals earned the striker the golden boot award in his first season with the Bees, the striker helped his side top score with 94. A wobble in the New Year and February allowed challengers to claw back the deficit. Having led the way for five months, Barnet were knocked off the top at the start of March. The Bees wasted no time and returned to the summit immediately, an eight match unbeaten run had Allen’s side a point clear entering the final day showdown. Facing Gateshead at home, The Hive was in a celebratory mood as the season closed with a 2-0 victory, stretching the unbeaten run to nine ensuring the Conference title returned to Barnet. The honours board now reads at The Hive, Conference champions 1991, 2005 and 2015.

Did you know…
Barnet had six spells at the top of the table and ended up at the summit 42 times, after completing a match.

2nd – Bristol Rovers – 91 pointsbristol rovers

This season’s playoff winners were officially the most difficult team to beat in the Conference Premier, Bristol Rovers’ extraordinary form from September to the end of the season meant Barnet couldn’t quite shrug them off until the very end. After three games, the Gas were shown that life in non-league wasn’t easy. Relegated from League Two, Bristol Rovers opened their campaign with a draw, defeat to eventual champions and a loss to promoted Altrincham. Darrell Clarke soon pulled his troops together and embarked on a nine game unbeaten run. After defeat at home to Forest Green Rovers, the Gas set a season’s record of a further twenty matches unbeaten and ended eight games without a loss. The best defence in the league kept 22 clean sheets and with summer signing Matty Taylor and Ellis Harrison netting 31 between them, Bristol Rovers were always hot on Barnet’s tails. Going into the final day, Clarke’s men knew they had to win and they did in style with a 7-0 thrashing of Alfreton Town. A 19 match unbeaten away run looks good on paper but too many draws on the road cost Bristol Rovers the title. A playoff semi-final win over Forest Green Rovers meant a Wembley showdown with Grimsby Town. A record playoff final crowd gathered to witness a 1-1 extra time draw but ‘Gas Heads’ went home celebrating with a 5-3 penalty shoot-out victory.

Did you know…
Bristol Rovers hit the woodwork 16 times, the joint highest with Conference Premier champions Barnet

3rd – Grimsby Town – 86 pointsgtfc

Qualifying for the playoffs for a third successive season, Grimsby Town broke their record points haul but went home as bridesmaid’s yet again. The Mariners have come so close in recent years losing two playoff semi finals and a F.A Trophy final. This time Paul Hurst’s side managed to keep in close contact with the top two and were still within a shout of the title going into the last month. Entering April, the Mariners were a point behind leaders Barnet thanks to a run of eight wins from nine, including victory against the champions. As expected and consistent with their last two campaigns, Grimsby Town’s defence was difficult to breach. In attack, Lenell John-Lewis’ 16 goals and Nathan Arnold’s ten assists helped make the Mariners a solid yet productive team. The opening to the season was mixed with three draws against a mixture of opposition but back to back 6-1 and 7-0 wins against Gateshead and Alfreton Town made the Conference sit up and take notice. Indifferent form in very small patches turned out to be the difference as the top two continued to remain ahead of Grimsby Town. The majority of their campaign consisted of strong unbeaten runs and so a playoff spot was well deserved. The Mariners defeated Eastleigh in the semi-final but a fourth Wembley defeat in a row prevented a return to the Football League.

Did you know…
The Mariners recorded the most shots on target with 285, averaging 6.19 per game.

4th – Eastleigh – 82 pointseastleigh

A terrific debut season for the Conference South champions who for a consecutive campaign set the clubs highest ever finish. The backing of Stewart Donald and the management of Richard Hill led the Spitfires to an impressive fourth spot. The Hampshire club bought in a wealth of experience recruiting the likes of Stuart Fleetwood, Jack Midson, James Constable and Crag McAllister. Constable’s 18 strikes continued his prolific record in the Conference Premier. Eastleigh’s attacking prowess, second top scorers in the division coupled with consistently beating teams in the bottom half led to a strong first term at the top of non league. One of many highlights included a 2-1 away win at Bristol Rovers and a new stand opening in December to increase capacity at the Silverlake Stadium. Eastleigh have been a growing club despite nine years in the Conference South, but the move to professional status has taken the Spitfires higher. For a successive season a newly promoted side reached the playoffs and like FC Halifax Town the campaign before it was a step too far. Eastleigh faced third place side Grimsby Town, after a 2-1 loss at home the return leg finished 3-0 to the Mariners, the Spitfires dream of reaching Wembley ended in a 5-1 aggregate defeat.

Did you know…
The offside trap was perfected by Eastleigh when they caught their opponents out 221, more than any other club, a staggering 67 times more than second place Aldershot Town.

5th – Forest Green Rovers – 79 pointsfgrfc

Constantly starting as one of the favourites, Forest Green Rovers finally showed their promise this term. Since the investment of Dale Vince, Rovers have disappointed including three tenth place finishes in a row. This time instead of fading after early promise, the Gloucestershire club ended the campaign strongly. Accumulating the most points in 2015, Rovers broke into the top five over the New Year and their consistency kept them above the playoff line. The first half of the campaign could have been just as impressive had Adrian Pennock’s team converted draws into wins. Jon Parkin’s success up front with 25 goals left him six behind the golden boot winner John Akinde. Capable of putting together strong unbeaten runs, with two sequences lasting ten and 12 games respectively, the Gloucestershire club may have fancied their playoff chances. An array of midfield creativity helped the frontline with Marcus Kelly, Rob Sinclair and Elliot Frear all inside the top ten assist makers. Currently the longest serving Conference Premier club Rovers threatened to depart after 17 years, for the first time in this spell they reached the playoffs. Facing promotion favourites Bristol Rovers, Pennock’s side were unable to make the final as they lost 3-0 on aggregate.

Did you know…
Forest Green Rovers were often caught napping up front being caught offside 135 times, the highest in the division.

6th – Macclesfield Town – 78 pointsmtfc

There is a lot more to be positive about at Moss Rose as the Silkmen narrowly missed out on a playoff place. One more goal on the final day of the season at Torquay United would have been enough as Forest Green Rovers drew, as it was Macclesfield Town could only earn a point. Beneath the end of season disappointment the Cheshire club had less off field speculation about finances than the previous campaign, a manager in John Askey who is a club favourite from his playing days and up until mid-February the title was in reach. The financial situation at Moss Rose had an impact in the end as a small squad ran out of steam, in the final two months won just three from the last eleven fixtures leading to a drop to sixth place. An exemplary home record laid the foundations of a much improved campaign, the best home defence and only two defeats at Moss Rose. The Silkmen got results, even if the fewest number of goals were scored in games featuring Macclesfield Town. Waide Fairhurst and Matthew Barnes-Homer netted 19 between them but other than that their attack was as productive as a mid-table team.

Did you know…
Macclesfield Town recorded their best home record since 1997/1998 when they went unbeaten. This term they picked up 49 points (W14, D7, L2).

7th – Woking – 76 pointswokingfc

This season’s best part time team in the United Kingdom, Woking recorded their highest finish for eighteen years and their biggest Conference Premier points tally since 1996. Garry Hill’s reputation grows as he manages to keep improving Woking’s final league position ever since he took charge in 2011. For part of the campaign it looked as if though the Cards would surprisingly challenge at the very top, they occupied second and third on a number of occasions between September and December. Scott Rendell continued his excellent form in front of goal by netting 24 times, only Jon Parkin and John Akinde scored more. The season started with a nine match unbeaten run, including a 6-1 thrashing of Conference South playoff winners Dover Athletic. Three consecutive defeats weren’t enough to derail the Surrey side as they soon climbed to second. Approaching the New Year became a little sticky with an indifferent November and a run of eight games without victory in December and January. Dropping to eighth, Woking picked themselves up as consistency returned for the remainder of the campaign, nine wins, three draws and three losses for the final run in kept the Cards ahead of the part time pack.

Did you know…
Woking’s 76 points was their highest in the Conference Premier for 19 years, when the Cards finished runners up on 83 points.

8th – Dover Athletic – 68 pointsdover

The Conference South playoff winners will be more than pleased at their first season back at the top of non-league football for twelve years. Yet the hard part is still to come with the dreaded ‘second season syndrome’ approaching, a jinx playoff winners of the Conference South seem to suffer from. For now, the second best team in Kent can reflect on a solid campaign helped by Stefan Payne’s contribution of 15 goals and nine assists. Had anyone mentioned a top ten finish mid-September they would have been classed as mad. Dover Athletic struggled to get to grips with their new surroundings losing eight of their opening eleven matches. The tide turned and the rest of the season was a blast for the newboys. A thirteen match unbeaten run took them through September to the last day of January. Resounding wins at home against Nuneaton Town as well as Kent rivals Welling United and Dartford lifted the Crabble support. A minor blip followed but Chris Kinnear could be excused as he got his side back on track losing just twice in the final eleven. The Whites also managed to enjoy a F.A Cup run to the third round where they bowed out to Premier Leaguers Crystal Palace.

Did you know…
Dover Athletic picked up 31 out of 36 points at the Crabble against teams who finished in the bottom half.

9th – FC Halifax Town – 66 pointsFC Halifax Town

The Shaymen were unable to repeat their excellent season a year ago and so missed out on the playoffs. It started all so well despite the loss of star striker Lee Gregory in the summer to Champions hip side Millwall. The campaign begun with manager Neil Aspin signing a new two year contract, despite having a year to run and in September he was rewarded with Manager of the Month. FC Halifax Town boasted a 100% record after five games and showed no signs of missing a quality striker. The rest of the season played out inconsistently until March when the only consistency was picking up a point. The Shaymen drew nine out of eleven games towards the end of the season ending with a four match losing streak. Lois Maynard managed to find the net eleven times closely followed by Scott Boden on ten. Away from home FC Halifax Town struggled to find goals with only four teams scoring fewer on their travels. However, the back remained tight away from the Shay recording the fourth best defence. Their second term in the Conference Premier was always going to be tough after a superb return last campaign, the Shaymen certainly found that out.

Did you know…
Jamie Jackson’s yellow card against Aldershot Town came after only 26 seconds on the field, the quickest caution of the season.

10th – Gateshead – 66 pointsgfc

Last term the Heed were just one game away from a return to the Football League for the first time in 55 years, this time last season’s playoff runners up only just made the top ten on goals scored. Form against those who finished above them yielded only one victory but the story was so different up to November. Gateshead lost only twice in their opening sixteen matches as they set to challenge for promotion continuing where they left off last campaign. At the start of November, the Heed were second behind Barnet but the distraction of the F.A Cup changed the picture. A run to the third round and a 7-0 defeat against Premier League’s West Bromwich Albion in January came at the end of a period of one win in nine league games. Gary Mills guided the Tynesiders through the rest of the campaign inconsistently but always on the fringes of a playoff spot. When their chance of promotion disappeared they still had a major say in the title race. Gateshead’s final day defeat handed Barnet the title and ended the campaign with one win in nine. With the season closed Mills moved to take the reins at Wrexham, the appointment of a new manager will have to wait until after Chairman Graham Wood leaves his post.

Did you know…
Gateshead managed just one win against teams finishing above them, the Heed also lost to the top five at home.

11th – Wrexham – 66 pointswfc

With a summer of rebuilding, Wrexham were led by Kevin Wilkin who impressed with his spell as Nuneaton Town boss. Wilkin took some key players with him in Louis Moult and Wes York, Moult managed 16 goals in a side which were unable to live up to expectations. The Welsh side completed their seventh campaign in the Conference Premier and after three consecutive playoff failures have struggled to reach those same heights. Still, the Red Dragons improved on last term’s seventeenth but a return to the Football League eludes them. Up until the end of September, Wrexham were in a healthy third position but form dipped for too long, only three more league were recorded from October through to the end of January. The New Year saw an improvement as the Red Dragons were tougher to beat, losing just four more in 2015. Wins were interspersed with draws but even still Wrexham finished fairly strong. The Welsh side performed admirably in both cup competitions reaching the F.A Cup third round, giving Premier League Stoke City a run for their money. Yet Wilkin lost his job when a 2-0 lead was thrown away in the F.A Trophy final to Conference North underdogs North Ferriby United, the 3-2 defeat denied Wrexham any silverware and their second F.A Trophy in three years.

Did you know…
Wrexham ended their campaign with a nine game unbeaten run at the Racecourse Ground, the longest current sequence.

12th – Chester – 63 pointsCFC

When their campaign started Chester must have thought ‘here we go again’. Reprieved last term as Hereford United were demoted for their financial issues, the Blues lost the opening game 5-0 to eventual champions Barnet. By the time April arrived Steve Burr’s side were the most improved team from the Conference Premier class of 2013/2014. Fourth from bottom last season, Chester were twelve points and nine places better off this time. Add a run to the F.A Cup second round which included a 2-1 win at Southend United and a respectable 0-0 draw at Barnsley then Chester took advantage of a second bite of the Conference Premier cherry. The Blues finished just three points behind their rivals Wrexham and recorded their highest league position since forming as Chester. John Rooney topped scored with eleven whilst Sean McConville impressed with nine strikes and eleven assists. Their slow start always had the Cheshire club looking over their shoulder but stability approached in January. The Blues went on a run of taking thirteen out fifteen points giving them a cushion to hit a poor patch, one victory in nine. The final three fixtures boosted Chester’s final position as they took all nine points including an entertaining 5-3 triumph over Nuneaton Town on the final day.

Did you know…
Since reforming in 2010, Chester recorded their highest ever finish to retain their Conference Premier status.

13th – Torquay United – 61 pointstufc

Despite an opening day defeat Torquay United lived up to expectations over the first eleven games reaching second place. Chris Hargreaves ‘ side kept eight clean sheets in that time which contributed to the Gulls six straight victories. A ten match unbeaten run came to halt unexpectedly at bottom of the table AFC Telford United and from then on Torquay United were not quite the same. The Gulls lost five from six and only won five more up to the beginning of April. By which time it was too late leaving Torquay United in a disappointing sixteenth. Hargreaves felt the frustration and revealed the average wage of £375 per week for his first team against Kidderminster Harriers, sparking national headlines. Luke Young’s creativity impressed with his fourteen assists, the joint highest in the division with Eastleigh’s Jai Reason. However, the Gulls lacked a striker to earn them more points. The Devonshire club did finish fairly strong though winning three and drawing one of their final four fixtures conceding just once. Last time Torquay United fell from the Football League it took them two attempts to return, they will have to try once more next term after a disappointing campaign.

Did you know…
Torquay United conceded the most fouls this term by giving away 513 free-kicks, an average of 11.13 per game.

14th – Braintree Town – 59 pointsBTFC

It was the first time in six years that the Iron failed to improve on their league position. In all fairness it was always going to be challenging considering the last four campaigns set new record high finishes. The man instrumental to the success of Braintree Town will not be at the helm next term, Alan Devonshire turned down a new contract offer. The Essex club were consistent throughout 2014/2015 and drew the fewest number of games in the division. The first two months started well and Devonshire’s side looked set to continue where they left off in April 2014. By mid-September the Iron were in seventh but a sticky run of ten without a win, including six games without a goal left them in the bottom half. Winning ways returned more often and apart from two further blips Braintree Town finished where you would expect. The highlight of the season came in March when the part timers went to Plainmoor and convincingly beat Torquay United 5-1, their highest scoring away win since competing in the Conference Premier. Jordan Cox and Dan Sparkes shared the club’s golden boot with ten league goals.

Did you know…
The Iron suffered the most 1-0 defeats in this season’s Conference Premier losing by a single goal ten times, they also recorded the most 2-0 wins with seven.

15th – Lincoln City – 58 pointslcfc

A fourth season completed in the Conference Premier since relegation four years ago, the Imps have made little progress by finishing between fourteenth and seventeenth on each occasion. Lincoln City started the campaign with Gary Simpson in charge and a four game unbeaten run, winning three after drawing their opening game. Six defeats from seven and a whole host of draws slid Simpson’s side down to mid table. Three goals up against Forest Green Rovers on 1 November, the Imps conceded the lead in the final twenty minutes to draw 3-3. The board reviewed the progress made and decided it was time to place Simpson on ‘gardening leave’. Chris Moyses was named the new boss having been promoted from the Lincoln City Centre of Excellence. Moyses remained in charge until the end of the season and initially the appointment looked promising when a run of six wins in seven moved his side up the ladder. Form returned to pre Moyses level as the Imps earned just four more victories in the final nineteen fixtures. Defensively on their travels Lincoln City struggled conceding 43 times, the fourth highest in the division. Ben Tomlinson was one of the bright sparks of the campaign netting 14 times, whilst Jordan Burrow grabbed ten goals.

Did you know…
The Imps were left without their kit when their hotel in Southampton suffered a fire, the incident led to their match at Eastleigh being rescheduled.

16th – Kidderminster Harriers – 57 pointsKHFC

It feels like Kidderminster Harriers missed their chance to return to the Football League two years ago. Taking the title to the final day, the Harriers missed out finishing runners up. The longer the Worcestershire club have spent in the Conference Premier greater off field pressures have caused managers to come and go and now board members. Harriers started off on the front foot unbeaten in their opening seven and perhaps their expectations were raised too high. However, Gary Whild had his team contending for the playoffs even up until January, finishing that month in fifth spot. Two months prior it was announced Kidderminster Harriers were having financial difficulties and when the transfer window opened players moved on. The wage budget was cut and out went Michael Gash, Chey Dunkley, Nathan Blissett, Kyle Storer and Marvin Johnson. Fans favourite, Lee Hughes did return to Aggborough where he started his career over 20 years ago scoring a goal every other game. It was no coincidence that form dipped, Kidderminster Harriers went on to win just once in their final fifteen games picking up eight out of 45 points available. Chairman Kevin Rae quit the club along with two directors and at the end of the campaign Harriers only had five players contracted players for next term, the wage budget is to be cut again.

Did you know…
Kidderminster Harriers recorded their lowest league position since returning to the Conference Premier, the last time they finished lower in the football pyramid was in 1997/98.

17th – Altrincham – 56 pointsaltrincham

A three year absence from the Conference Premier made no difference to Alty who had enough in the tank to take their foot off the gas. In Conference Premier seasons gone by Altrincham have consistently been in the lower reaches of the division, so their final position this term went with historical form. Losing five from their opening six games made safety look a long way off, yet in that spell they took the scalp of playoff winners and runners up Bristol Rovers. By October, Altrincham started to fit in with the division and up until February showed why they were capable of staying up. Damian Reeves brought his Conference North goalscoring form with him by scoring an impressive 18 goals, only three others in the league scored more times than the 29 year old. A decent run of just two defeats from a dozen matches moved the Greater Manchester club towards the middle of the standings. With fifty points reached before the end of March, Alty added seven more against FC Halifax Town, Dartford and Southport. The final four games all ended defeat but by then the mission had already been accomplished. Manager, Lee Sinnott will be pleased with survival and the way his team altered to their new surroundings.

Did you know…
The Conference North playoff winners of last season used the fewest number of players this term, 21 players took part in their first campaign back in the Conference Premier.

18th – Aldershot Town – 53 pointsAldershot Town FC

This time the Shots started on a level playing field compared to last terms ten point deduction. Andy Scott began the campaign in charge but dreadful form in the depths of winter cost Scott his job. The Hampshire club couldn’t find any sort of consistency in the early part of the season, and the reliance on Brett Williams’ goals throughout the campaign continued. The Shots had an awful December and January and during that time lost nine out of ten. Club captain, Chris Barker took the hotseat and the 34 year old guided Aldershot Town to a more comfortable position. When the defender took charge, the Shots were just six points from the drop zone, an unbeaten run of six games helped him secure the role until the end of the season. Barker may well have done a decent enough job but it will be former Dundee and Alloa Athletic boss Barry Smith at the helm next term. Aldershot Town eventually surpassed last season’s points tally by two points, but would have been way off had it not been for the Shots starting 2013/14 with minus ten points. Off the field, Chairman Shahid Azeem seems to have stabilised the club but on the field the Shots failed to make any progress.

Did you know…
Brett Williams took 42 seconds to score after coming off the bench against Alfreton Town, the quickest goal scored by a substitute this season.

19th – Southport – 51 pointssfc

Two excellent runs kept Southport afloat for another campaign in the Conference Premier. This time the Sandgrounders had their fair share of managerial changes bringing instability to Haig Avenue. Even still, Southport waded through and stayed up despite constantly keeping an eye on those trailing closely behind. Martin Foyle was the man responsible for getting the Merseysiders off to a slow start and by October he was sacked following a 5-2 defeat at home to Woking. Three wins in their opening 14 matches left the club third from bottom and in stepped Gary Brabin. The new boss made an immediate impact setting a six game unbeaten run but his tenure was short lived. In January he chose to move to coach at Everton’s academy leaving Southport looking for a third manager of the campaign. Four defeats in a row soon followed making Paul Carden’s task tougher but he pulled his team together in an unbeaten March taking 14 points out of the 18 available. With six games remaining Southport were just three points shy of the 50 point mark but they had to wait to the final match to reach it, the Sandgrounders ended too close to the drop zone for comfort.

Did you know…
Southport collected the most yellow cards picking up 88, Luke George’s 15 cautions was the most by a single player.

20th – Welling United – 45 pointswelling

Two major decisions severely affected Welling United’s return the Conference Premier taking survival down the wire. The Wings participated at the top of non-league for the first time in 14 years and with promising manager Jamie Day in charge, the Conference South champions looked as if though they would ease to safety. All was going to plan until November which saw the loss of Harry Beautyman to Peterborough United then a fortnight later decision one, Day left. Conference South side Ebbsfleet United wanted to flex their financial muscles and picked Day to lead their spending spree, the 35 year old accepted. The second decision came days before Christmas when Welling United gambled on Jody Brown from Grays Athletic. Brown was unable to make a positive impact and one win in nine games made his position shortlived. The Kent club managed to lose nine in a row and so it was up to right back Loui Fazakerley to have a go in the dugout. With the Wings sliding down the ladder fast, Fazakerley managed back to back victories at home to Kidderminster Harriers and Wrexham. The penultimate fixture away to Alfreton Town proved crucial; avoiding defeat would give Welling United an advantage over their opponents going into the final day, a 2-2 draw turned out to be enough, both sides lost on the last day.

Did you know…
The Wings had 12 players red carded in their first Conference Premier campaign since 1999/2000, more than any other club this term. Midfielder, Jake Gallagher saw red three times.

21st – Alfreton Town – 45 pointsatfc

In the end the Reds went down with a whimper, a crushing 7-0 loss a title chasers Bristol Rovers returned Alfreton Town back to the Conference North after a four year spell in the Conference North. The Derbyshire side conceded the most goals shipping in 90 and a goal difference of minus 41 was twenty short of Welling United’s. Nicky Law was always playing catch up not helped by the fact the manager began the campaign with a six match ban. The Reds lost all six of those fixtures and one more on his return to the sideline for good measure. Good results against fellow strugglers Southport, AFC Telford United and Nuneaton Town lifted Alfreton Town out of the drop zone, but this was only temporary. Four more defeats in a row, this time without scoring and a further four successive defeats a month later left them in trouble. Surprisingly, the Reds managed to move out of the bottom four when form picked up in 2015. With only three defeats between January and March, including seven unbeaten gave the Derbyshire a fighting chance of survival. The final five matches were too tough against three of the playoff contenders, the Reds lost three before a damaging 2-2 draw with Welling United, ultimately leading to the final day catastrophe.

Did you know…
Alfreton Town failed to pick up a single point against all top 12 teams on their travels.

22nd – Dartford – 39 pointsdfc

Lightning struck twice for the Darts when they ended up third from bottom for a successive campaign. Last term Hereford United and Salisbury City helped the Darts out leading to the Kent club’s reprieve. Although this time the consequences are far smaller AFC Telford United’s points deduction moved Dartford up one place weeks after the campaign ended. On paper the squad looked in better shape, despite preparing for Conference South football in the summer, but on the field where it matters the Darts were five points shy of last season’s total. In almost a repeat to last term a terrible ten game period was the catalyst to a bottom four finish. In November and December 2013 Dartford went on a ten game losing streak, equally a club record. A year later from November to January the feat was almost repeated; a win at Wrexham in the middle of a poor ten game run prevented the record being equalled again. Against the bottom sides Dartford fared better than the campaign before but an increase in draws and almost as many defeats left the Kent side relegated. Lee Noble impressed and Elliot Bradbrook yet again top scored from midfield. The Darts failed to fire on all cylinders up front with only Nuneaton Town scoring fewer goals.

Did you know…
Dartford may have recorded the fewest attempts on goal with 318 shots, but Ryan Hayes goal after 25 seconds against Kidderminster Harriers was the quickest this season. The midfielder’s  goal was one of three corners he directly scored from this term.

23rd – AFC Telford United – 36 pointsAFCTUFC

In danger of becoming a ‘yo-yo’ club AFC Telford United returned to the Conference North after one season. The Bucks finished bottom two years ago before bouncing back at the first attempt, now the Shropshire club drop a division once more. Liam Watson led the Bucks to the Conference North title a year ago and was rewarded with the chance to keep AFC Telford United in the top non-league division. However, his start failed to take off with the first win coming after 12 games albeit an entertaining 4-3 victory versus Torquay United. The Bucks were rooted to the bottom for the majority of the campaign and by December Watson lost his position as manager with Steve Kittrick taking over. In the second half of the season AFC Telford United did manage to pick up almost twice as many points as the first half. High scoring draws against Nuneaton Town and Eastleigh and a 4-0 win away to Wrexham, showed life in attack. When the goals dried up more defeats followed and despite moving of the foot of the table Kittrick’s team fell through the relegation trapdoor. The current boss will be hoping for a clean slate next term, especially after he went public over players not wishing to play for the club.

Did you know…
AFC Telford United’s home record was the worst in the division; the Bucks also had the worst home defence conceding 44 times.

24th – Nuneaton Town – 36 pointsntfc

An unstable and poor season for Nuneaton Town, who finished the last two seasons in fifteenth and thirteenth. Boro struggled throughout, a stark contrast to last term when they were flirting with the Conference Premier playoffs. A poor start to the campaign cost Brian Read his job in September, the Scotsman was dismissed just seven games into the new season. Boro had only scored twice in that time during a 2-1 home win against newly promoted Altrincham. Former Ebbsfleet United boss Liam Daish took over but failed to make a major impact working with the least prolific attack and a leaky defence. Off the field, Chief Executive Officer and director Ian Neale resigned following his arrest in October which led to a suspended sentence. On the field, when Daish managed to plug the leaky defence Boro went on a seven game unbeaten run during February and March, in that time Nuneaton Town kept six consecutive clean sheets helping them move up to fourth from bottom. Any chances of survival ended when they lost five of their final six games, picking up a point. To make matters worse, three points were deducted for an ineligible player to ensure the wooden spoon for Boro.

Did you know…
The Boro scored just 13 times on their travels and failed to score in 56% of their away games, the worst away attack in the division.

Season Review 2013/2014

1st – Luton Town – 101 pts

ltfc champs

We’re Going Up: Luton Town return to the Football League

At the fifth attempt and after four managers failing, the Hatters are back in the Football League. Recruiting John Still was a master-stroke, the 64 year old showed patience and experience  to glide Luton Town to the title. With the largest support onside, Kenilworth Road’s pressure filled atmosphere from previous seasons was lifted. A winning margin of 19 points and a goal difference of +67 are Conference records, their unbeaten run of 27 matches a club record as well as their 23 clean sheets. Goalscoring was never a problem, the club fell one shy of equalling another landmark. The second month of 2014 saw the Hatters pull away at the top. February’s run included a 7-0 victory over Hereford United followed by scoring five against Nuneaton Town and Wrexham, results which signalled their intent. A century of points and 102 goals, striker Andre Gray grabbed 30 of those to take the golden boot. Still strengthened his personnel throughout the campaign with notable contributions from loanee Paul Benson, who netted 17 goals and midfielder Pelly Ruddock. Supporters will now feel justice has been done on the pitch, after the way the club suffered administration and points deductions leading to the Hertfordshire club’s demise. After seven painful years sliding down the football pyramid, Luton Town have begun their climb back up.

Did you know…Luton Town’s title party in their penultimate game attracted a crowd of 10044, the highest in the Conference Premier since Oxford United’s 10298 versus Northwich Victoria in 2009.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Third Round
Top Scorer: Andre Gray (30)
Average Attendance: 7387
Discipline: 47 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

2nd – Cambridge United – 82 pts

cufc fat

Glory: The U’s first of a double Wembley win

Deservedly promoted, the pace setters at the beginning of the campaign looked to have the makings of a championship winning team. Opening with a 5-1 win against newboys FC Halifax Town, the club set off on a 16 game unbeaten run, the second best start to a Conference Premier season. Not many could breach the U’s defence, who along with champions Luton Town conceded the fewest goals. Manager, Richard Money had strikers to his disposal but couldn’t find that 20 goal a season man. Kwesi Appiah looked likely scoring ten in 14 league appearances but he was only a loan signing and was recalled, a longer spell may have provided what the U’s needed. A tight unit at the back and a strong midfield kept his side in the title race until the end of  February. Money made no secret of the fact that the successful F.A Trophy campaign became a distraction. The outspoken boss prioritised promotion and even wanted to be done with F.A Trophy replays. Once Cambridge United reached Wembley then failure wasn’t an option, a 4-0 win over Conference South side Gosport Borough handed the U’s the trophy. The playoff spot was secured with a 7-2 victory at Hyde, the biggest away win in this season’s league. With a trophy in the cabinet and the campaign extended, the U’s took their foot off the gas losing their last four matches without scoring. Money and company returned to the venue where they lifted silverware by making the playoff final.  It was third time lucky for Cambridge United who became the first team to reach Wembley three times via the Conference Premier playoff, the U’s lost both in 2008 and 2009. Former Gateshead striker Ryan Donaldson scored what turned out to be the winner in a 2-1 triumph to take the U’s back into the Football League.

Did you know…Cambridge United were the only unbeaten Conference Premier team against champions Luton Town, the run also includes two F.A Trophy ties. The U’s also had the best disciplinary record picking up just 29 yellow cards and one red in the 46 league games.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Winners
Top Scorer: Luke Berry (12)
Average Attendance: 3085
Discipline: 29 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

3rd – Gateshead – 79 pts

ghghg

Close: The Heed celebrate reaching Wembley but lose out

When Gateshead, in one of its former guises exited the Football League 54 years ago the road heading back has been long and windy. Although the club is not there yet, it looked a long way off in August when the Heed lost their first four matches. A draw and a win was not enough for Anth Smith to persuade him to stay as he offered Chairman, Graham Wood his resignation. The news leaked on social media leaving Smith’s position untenable, not a ideal start to the campaign. Along came Gary Mills, successful in taking York City to playoff and F.A Trophy glory in 2012. Mills made the Heed a tough team to beat and with the passing style built up over the last few campaigns guided his team upwards. Six wins from seven in late September and to the end of October stealthily moved the Heed into the top half. By mid January the Tynesiders reached fourth and even after a small blip the following month wasn’t enough to put Gateshead off. Ending this term on 12 matches unbeaten secured the clubs highest ever non league finish. The form team often triumphs in the playoffs and Gateshead defeated Grimsby Town 4-2 on aggregate, thanks to two late goals. Reaching Wembley for the first time in their history the Heed faced third placed Cambridge United who ended with the worst form out of the playoff contenders. The form book was torn up when Gateshead missed out on a long awaited return to the Football League.

Did you know…Compared to last season’s final standings, Gateshead are the biggest movers up the table climbing 14 positions. In 2012/13 the club finished 17th.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: James Marwood (10)
Average Attendance: 885
Discipline: 59 Yellow Cards / 3 Red Cards

4th – Grimsby Town – 78 pts

Denied: More semi-final disappointment

Denied: Mariners suffer more semi-final disappointment

Always within a shout for promotion the Mariners matched last year’s placing with five fewer points. The backbone of the side remained from last campaign but the managerial team changed. In September, Rob Scott was suspended and left Paul Hurst in sole charge of the club, at this point Grimsby Town’s indifferent start left them in eighth. Form was found at the end of September after beating Dartford 5-2, Hurst’s team tasted just two defeats in 12 leaving them in a strong position. The nearly men of last season, F.A Trophy runners up followed by a playoff semi-final loss, almost slipped back out of contention and despite a fixture backlog Grimsby Town kept in touch. An incredible 16 league matches in the final two months, playing mostly Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday’s the Mariners had a strong end to the season. Ross Hannah top scored for the Lincolnshire club and Craig Disley chipped in from midfield. Once again, Grimsby Town came so close losing two more semi-finals. A two legged defeat against eventual winners Cambridge United in the F.A Trophy was followed by more playoff heartbreak, this time versus Gateshead. No doubt that the Mariners will be amongst the favourites next time round but competition in the Conference Premier is only getting tougher.

Did you know…Out of the 11 away victories Grimsby Town recorded they only conceded three times. On the road, the Mariners boasted the second best record and defence.

F.A Cup: Third Round
F.A Trophy: Semi Final
Top Scorer: Ross Hannah (13)
Average Attendance: 3568
Discipline: 81 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

5th – FC Halifax Town – 77 pts

lee gregory

Revelation: Gregory shines for the Shaymen

An astounding home record and a superb end to the campaign earned 2013’s Conference North playoff winners another crack at the end of season lottery. Only this time the jackpot was bigger with a place in the Football League. Since the dissolution of Halifax Town, the new FC Halifax Town continued their rise towards where they feel they belong. Opening their campaign in the worst possible fashion, with a 5-1 away loss at Cambridge United and ending the match with nine men, the Shaymen grew in stature throughout the season. Almost unbeatable in the league at the Shay, the Yorkshire club chalked up 16 wins, six draws and a defeat at home. Outscoring all but the champions with the help of 29 strikes by the excellent Lee Gregory, FC Halifax Town deserved a shot at the playoffs. A run of nine wins from ten in March up to mid April, in which they dropped two points and kept an astonishing seven clean sheets in a row secured fifth spot. The playoffs were a step too far, after an obligatory win at the Shay their one goal lead wasn’t enough. Cambridge United turned the tie around in the second leg winning 2-1 on aggregate. However, defeat shouldn’t take anything away from what the Shaymen achieved in 2013/14. If Neil Aspin can keep his squad together then it surely won’t be long until FC Halifax Town for another shot at the big time.

Did you know…Gregory may have rattled in the goals but it wasn’t a one man team in front of the opposition’s net. The Shaymen had 22 different goalscorers, the most by any club this term.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Lee Gregory (29)
Average Attendance: 1597
Discipline: 72 Yellow Cards / 8 Red Cards

6th – Braintree Town – 74 pts

Boss: Alan Devonshire yet again gets the most out of his team

Leadership: Devonshire takes part timers to the top six

Goal difference denied Braintree Town with the tag of best part time team in the country last season. This time the Irons convincingly took the honours but strangely ended up disappointed. With a fixture backlog as horrendous as Grimsby Town’s, Alan Devonshire’s group of semi-professionals dug deep to the very end to try and gatecrash the playoffs. Unable to overturn FC Halifax Town’s three point cushion on the final day of the season, the Essex club can be extremely proud of what they achieved. Once more, Devonshire has guided his team to their highest ever league position for the fourth year in a row, Braintree Town continue to defy the odds. With a small budget and an average attendance of just under 1000, Devonshire kept the majority of last season’s squad and that familiarity has been beneficial for the Iron. The Essex club surprisingly kept up with top five pace all campaign. The only reason Braintree Town dropped to 17th is because they played just three league matches throughout the whole of January and February. All of which makes the efforts of the part time squad in the closing stages of the season even more wonderful. Ten games in March and a further nine in April should have tired the Iron out, they kept pushing and against the odds picked up a win at Luton Town to spoil a promotion party. Devonshire certainly got the best out of a small squad and once again the Conference Premier sat up and took notice of Braintree Town’s achievement.

Did you know…Braintree Town have improved their final league position for the last five campaigns. The Iron in the Conference South ended 14th, 7th and 1st. Whilst in the Conference Premier they have finished 12th, 9th and 6th.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Daniel Holman (13)
Average Attendance: 994
Discipline: 66 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

7th – Kidderminster Harriers – 72 pts

ghghgh

Success: Joe Lolley and a Harriers cup run

Runners up a year ago Harriers set their sights high this term. Unfortunately, they couldn’t repeat the incredible run of 25 wins from the last 29 games in 2012/13. A decent home record at Aggborough was counteracted by below average away form, including heavy defeats against the top two (6-0 v Luton Town and 5-1 v Cambridge United). In fact it was the thrashing at Kenilworth Road which effectively ended Steve Burr’s reign when chairman Mark Serrell sacked him to help achieve thier “aim of promotion to the Football League”. Harriers had drawn with League One Peterborough United in the F.A Cup before the announcement. The F.A Cup itself was a welcome distraction with the club reaching the fourth round. Sutton United and Newport County AFC were soundly beaten, Peterborough United defeated in a replay and Premier League Sunderland pushed to the end. A 1-0 defeat at the Stadium of Light brought the cup curtains down but the run put Joe Lolley (nine league goals) in the shop window, snapped up by championship side Huddersfield Town. Immediately after Burr came former Coventry City boss Andy Thorn who lasted two months before the axe fell on him. In February, Mark Serrell was the next to go after online criticism overstepped the mark, the chairman stepped down with Kidderminster Harriers in tenth. Stability was needed and so the club promoted from within. New chairman Ken Rae appointed Gary Whild who was Burr’s second hand man, Whild earned the right to become manager in March. With more to talk about off the field than on, the Worcestershire club will want to put this campaign behind them.

Did you know…The Harriers matched last seasons home record with 15 wins, four draws and four defeats, they did score four less goals but conceded the same.

F.A Cup: Fourth Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Michael Gash (11)
Average Attendance: 2035
Discipline: 74 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

8th – Barnet – 70 pts

ghghghghg

The Hive: First season at a new home for the Bees

Season number one at the newly built Hive started with a Champions League winner as coach, a 3-0 home win and an opening month of promise. Edgar Davids begun life in the Conference Premier with victory against Chester and ended with defeat versus the same side. At the end of August the Bees were in second spot, hope in North London of a return to the Football League at the first attempt was growing. One win in September put a damper on those hopes and failure to turn a point into three cost the Bees. Barnet lacked goals for the position they finished only grinding out wins and draws. A three month spell of one defeat in 12 lifted the Hertfordshire side to the playoffs. A peak was always followed by a trough and a frustrated Davids ended his coaching role by mutual consent. Barnet were capable of putting a run of victories together, five at the most but they could also suffer consecutive defeats, four in March. A familiar face returned, Martin Allen took charge of the club for a fourth time in his managerial career and his appointment may see a different Barnet next term.

Did you know…Barnet recorded the most wins by a single goal (14) including nine 1-0 wins, the most in the league alongside Cambridge United.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Jake Hyde (11)
Average Attendance: 1706
Discipline: 68 Yellow Cards / 8 Red Cards

9th – Woking – 68 pts

ghghghgghh

Goalscorer: Woking’s Scott Rendell top scored for the Cards

The Cards can be content with their second season back in the Conference Premier. An improvement of six points and three places on 2012/13 consolidated Woking’s status. It wasn’t all plain sailing for manager Garry Hill who had to tweak his squad to get he desired results. Only three wins in the opening 17 games left the Surrey club in the relegation zone. Averaging a goal a game, Hill felt more was required from his attack so in came Jack Marriott on loan from Ipswich Town. An immediate impact was made when he scored a brace on his debut in a 3-0 win against Dartford. The 19 year old netted 12 in 22 games over two spells with the Cards. The coup of former Luton Town striker Scott Rendell in January added more verve up front, the experienced 27 year old added 17 goals to the for column. When the two played together they combined to score 24 goals in 21 matches. Woking steadily lifted themselves to ninth by close of play, which included a run of six straight victories in March through to the first week of April. Away from the Kingfield Stadium Woking weren’t afraid to attack, recording the second highest amount of away goals only bettered by champions Luton Town. Behind the strike force summer signing Josh Payne impressed earning Supporters and Players’ Player of the Year awards, the England C international featured in 40 matches. Woking will be delighted with a top ten finish, a stable squad and a boss who will approach his fourth full campaign in charge at Kingsfield Stadium.

Did you know…Woking conceded just four goals in the fifteen minutes leading up to half time, the fewest by any team this season.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Scott Rendell (17)
Average Attendance: 1601
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 6 Red Cards

10th – Forest Green Rovers – 67 pts

fgfgfgfg

Record: Klukowski adds to his Rovers tally

Always amongst the favourites come the end of the summer break, their 8-0 opening day win backed up their tag. Starting the season with the attacking force of Wrexham’s top scorer in 2012/13 Danny Wright, Matty Taylor, James Norwood and Matthew Barnes-Homer, who top scored for Macclesfield Town the previous season, Rovers on paper looked strong. Dave Hockaday had assembled a squad he felt could mount a challenge knowing this could possibly be his last chance, and it was. Three months into the campaign Hockaday left by mutual consent. Forest Green Rovers were sitting in a disappointing 16th after a run of three points from 24. What Hockaday failed to realise is goals win games but not when you’re conceding at the wrong end. Former assistant Gary Seward was placed in charge but he too left after just a game. Seward was hoping to get the job but when he learned he wouldn’t, the 52 year old departed. So on to Adrian Pennock, who left Welling United in 2007 for a coaching role at Stoke City. Pennock improved performances ever so slightly but the Gloucestershire club continued to blow hot and cold throughout the campaign. When Barnes-Homer left in January the experienced Lee Hughes arrived to keep an attacking force flowing. In midfield the scoring exploits of Yan Klukowski added a dozen more to the for column, the club finished third highest scorers. Klukowski’s own feats broke a club record of 48 Conference Premier goals. Rovers had a decent record on their own patch but failed to record an away win against any team above them in the table. If their defence had been tighter on their travels then certainly Forest Green Rovers would have finished further up the standings. Instead they had to settle for a third consecutive tenth place finish.

Did you know…Outside of the top six Forest Green Rovers had the biggest goal difference of +14. When they finished tenth last season they had the biggest goal difference outside of the top five with +14.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: James Norwood (19)
Average Attendance: 1195
Discipline: 61 Yellow Cards / 10 Red Cards

11th – Alfreton Town- 67 pts

ghghghghghg

Akinde: Celebrates one of his 17 league goals this term

Another improvement on the previous year left Alfreton Town feeling dizzy from such great heights. The Reds best achievement was entering unknown territory by flirting with the idea of reaching the playoffs. When they beat Barnet at home in September and occupied third spot pundits thought it was a one off, and it was for another three months. The Derbyshire club dropped out of the top five until a 2-1 home win versus Southport in their last game of 2013, a win which took them back to third place. What was most surprising was the Reds held their position for the next 13 out of 14 matchdays. By the end of March a serious challenge for the playoffs had reached its pinnacle, Alfreton Town were being taken seriously. The season was a month too long, for a club on a low budget with average crowds of 800 it was always difficult to compete the full distance. In the final months the Reds faded picking up just two points, the Derbyshire side ended the campaign without a win in their final eight fixtures. When chairman Wayne Bradley said in the summer that manager Nicky Law was “possibly worth four places in the league table” he was right. Deducted three points for an illegible player, fielded against Kidderminster Harriers in December, Alfreton Town would have finished ninth, an improvement of four places on the previous campaign. Law kept some key players from last season’s squad like Adam Clayton and added John Akinde, experienced John McGrath and later Shaun Harrad. Akinde top scored with 17 whilst Harrad chipped in with seven in 13 starts. A fantastic season for Alfreton Town, all this for a team that reverted back to part time football in the summer.

Did you know…At home Alfreton Town only lost one game against the teams that finished above them. The Reds picked up more points per game than any other club against teams in the top half of the Conference Premier.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: John Akinde (17)
Average Attendance: 805
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

12th – Salisbury City – 67 pts

ghghgghg

The Young One: Harris applauds his sides efforts

Four years on and Salisbury City have gone full circle, in 2010 the Wiltshire club were demoted having finished in twelfth. Two playoff victories in three seasons saw the Whites back in the Conference Premier finishing back in twelfth again. Their return started with the summer news that Darrell Clarke vacated the manager role for an assistant position at Bristol Rovers. Salisbury City appointed the youngest full time manager Mikey Harris, 28 years old. Harris did an excellent job for the Whites but had to learn quickly when his side lost their opening three games. Learn they did, the Whites came back with an eight match unbeaten run where they dropped just four points. The rest of the campaign went by inconsistently and only twice more Salisbury City won consecutive matches but never more than two, likewise the same could be said about draws and defeats. Dan Fitchett contributed with 13 league goals and earned an England C call up and last season’s top scorer James White found the net 11 times. Elliott Frear impressed along with team mate Angus MacDonald who was also chosen to wear the Three Lions shirt in a C international. Towards the end of the campaign former Dart, Charlie Sheringham returned to Conference Premier football scoring five in seven appearances. Off the field Salisbury City continue to struggle reaching the crowds they desire, averaging just over a 1000 the Whites initiative to attract double the amount of people walking through the turnstiles haven’t paid off. In December 2013, the club confirmed they had exited administration after five years of financial trouble. With crowds as low as they are, the club announced in early April that they still operate at a loss and are struggling to sustain football at Conference Premier level. Off the field Salisbury City could also be heading in a full circle..

Did you know…Salisbury City attempted the fewest shots at goal this season. The Whites had 357 efforts with 46% hitting the target and 58 resulting in goals.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Dan Fitchett (13)
Average Attendance: 1003
Discipline: 64 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

13th – Nuneaton Town – 66 pts

ghghgh

Hat Trick: Moult ended with a flourish

The season was just too long for Nuneaton Town, who were playoff contenders up until the end of March. Incredibly, Boro topped the table after nine games winning seven and going unbeaten. The strike partnership of Andy Brown and Louis Moult flourished in the first ten games of the campaign with the couple scoring 13 of the team’s 17 goals. Manager Kevin Wilkin managed to take the tail end of last season’s form into 2013/14.  The next nine fixtures went by without victory but Boro managed to string four wins in a row to get out of the barren spell. By the end of the year Nuneaton Town were in a very respectable seventh. It was in 2014 when Boro’s inconsistencies took over by showing form more akin to where they finished the campaign. Wilkin who had been in charge since 2006, won three promotions via the playoffs, taking Boro from the Southern League Division One Midlands up to the Conference Premier.  In March, the 46 year old was tempted by Wrexham and switched allegiances. After the change in manager Nuneaton Town ended the campaign on a slump, winning one from their last nine fixtures. It will be down to former Ayr United boss Brian Reid to lead the club next term, the Scotsman managed the final three games picking up a win, loss and draw. What Boro did do well was beat the teams below them, at Liberty Way they defeated the bottom ten and away from home lost just twice. The Warwickshire club will have good memories of 2013/14 with their time in the early limelight. Performances from certain players were noted such as Gareth Dean, James Belshaw, James Armson and Moult who all represented the England C squad this term.

Did you know…Boro recorded their best unbeaten start (9 games) to any of their previous Conference Premier season’s including under their former guise as Nuneaton Borough.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Louis Moult (17)
Average Attendance: 1209
Discipline: 45 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

14th – Lincoln City – 65 pts

ghghgh

Good Start: Tomlinson hits 18 goals in début campaign

Small progress has been made by the Imps since sliding into the Conference Premier league in 2011. The Imps have gained three positions since their return as they continue to struggle to find the right balance. At Sincil Bank they had the fourth best defence but scored only 30. Whereas the same number of goals scored away from home registered the fourth best attack. A sound start to the campaign featured four wins, a draw and a defeat leaving Lincoln City in fourth spot. An average September threatened to derail Gary Simpson’s team and eventually the coming months did. October to early January was bleak, the club picked up just eight points and recorded one victory in 14 attempts. Relegation form had hit the club with Simpson cautiously looking over his shoulder. However, the manager’s experience and his side finding the net with more frequency managed to settle nerves around Sincil Bank. The final stretch from February to the end of the season saw a return to earlier form. If the campaign started on 1 February the Imps would have finished in the final playoff spot. Ben Tomlinson who was signed in the summer had a decent début season scoring 18 league goals. In defence Tom Miller impressed winning the club’s Player of the Season and being put on England C standby.

Did you know…The Imps have only finished higher in the Conference Premier on one occasion when they ended the 1987-88 campaign as champions

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: Third Round
Top Scorer: Ben Tomlinson (18)
Average Attendance: 2354
Discipline: 76 Yellow Cards / 7 Red Cards

15th – Macclesfield Town – 61 pts

ghghghghg

Prolific: Jennings was a major hit for the Silkmen

Similar to last season, a couple of goalscorers and a F.A Cup run were the highlights of the Silkmen’s campaign. In 2012/13 the club reached the F.A Cup fourth round losing to the eventual winners. This time they reached the third round going out to Championship side Sheffield Wednesday, after a replay. A year ago, Matthew Barnes-Homer and Wade Fairhurst scored 31 between them, both players left in the summer.  This season Scott Boden top scored with 18 goals and loanee Connor Jennings netted an incredible 14 in 16 appearances, the pair notching more than half the Silkmen’s goalscoring total. It was no coincidence that Macclesfield Town’s best part of the campaign coincided with Jennings breaking into the first eleven. Before the campaign even started the Cheshire club faced difficulties off the pitch announcing they needed £50,000 to keep going, after ending last term half a million pounds in debt. Desperate for cash the Silkmen toyed with the idea of selling a chance to play hoping to raise £20,000, the offer was later withdrawn. When John Askey opened his first full season in charge with no wins in the first nine fixtures, supporters became concerned. Cue the first of Jennings’ goals and a climb up the ladder, until the 22 year old striker left at the end of February. Although safe, March and April just passed the club by. Knowing Conference Premier football was guaranteed the Cheshire side slipped back into their lowest league finish for 21 years.

Did you know…John Askey used just 23 players in this season’s Conference Premier campaign, the least amount of players used by any team. It’s not surprising the Silkmen only had ten different goalscorers, also the fewest.

F.A Cup: Third Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Scott Boden (18)
Average Attendance: 1512
Discipline: 71 Yellow Cards / 2 Red Cards

16th – Welling United – 60 pts

ghghghgh

Wings Return: Day secures Welling United’s status

Champions of the Conference South returned to the Conference Premier after a thirteen year spell away from the top flight of non league football. Manager, Jamie Day has now spent almost five years at Park View Road and has improved the Wings league status in every full season he has been in the hot-seat. The Kent club had a steady start including a confidence boosting win against Grimsby Town. In September three consecutive victories left Welling United in a dizzy seventh spot. Over the course of the campaign the Wings on paper were inconsistent, but no more than you would expect for a newly promoted part time side with one of the lowest average attendances. Overall, you could argue results were consistent enough to get the job done to survive and build for next term. So much so that Jamie Day and his squad managed to tail off towards the end without fearing the dreaded drop zone. Welling United’s mission was well and truly accomplished with the added bonus of reaching the F.A Cup second round. Last season’s top scorer Ross Lafayette continued to find the net whilst Kurtis Guthrie impressed. A 5-2 triumph over Forest Green Rovers, reaching sixth in October and Joe Healy’s stunning scissor kick which hit national headlines were all highlights. One blemish on record was a home defeat to the lowest ever points scorers in Conference Premier history. In a midweek January game, the Wings lost 1-0 to Hyde.

Did you know…The Wings won 601 free kicks, more than any other side at an average of 13 a game.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Ross Lafayette (16)
Average Attendance: 807
Discipline: 79 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

17th – Wrexham – 59 pts

Disappointment: Morrell shares fans frustrations

Disappointment: Morrell shares the fans frustrations

What a come down for the Welsh boys this term, finishing in their lowest ever position. Last season the club visited Wembley twice winning the F.A Trophy and losing out on promotion via the playoffs. Andy Morrell remained in charge with the weight of expectation on his shoulders. After three campaigns finishing in the top five and missing out on a return to the Football League, the Reds came nowhere near this time around. An opening day win against Welling United was the highest position they reached all season, the remainder of the campaign disappeared into obscurity. Wrexham failed to win more than two games in a row and the only consistent spell was a six match winless streak after the opening day victory. The third best supported side in the league were left just as disappointed as Morrell and on 24 February he resigned. The Welsh club took their time with a new appointment and a month later Kevin Wilkin joined after impressing at Nuneaton Town. With the strikers at Wrexham’s disposal it was Johnny Hunt, not your out and out striker that found the net the most. Coupled with the fact the Reds conceded more goals than ever in any of their previous Conference Premier seasons confirmed why Wrexham finished as lowly as they did. The Racecourse Ground will see some rebuilding in the summer as Wilkin looks to stamp his mark on a club desperate to emulate the recent successes of Welsh sides.

Did you know…Leading up to half time, Wrexham lacked concentration conceding the most (16) in the fifteen minutes before the break.

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Second Round
Top Scorer: Johnny Hunt (11)
Average Attendance: 2993
Discipline: 73 Yellow Cards / 7 Red Cards

18th – Southport – 53 pts

ghghghghghg

Survival: Hattersley celebrates one of his ten goals

A home record worthy of the top ten was the main reason the Sandgrounders survived with a game to spare. Southport picked up one win on the road all season against bottom club Hyde. Heavy defeats included 5-1 away to Aldershot Town and 4-1 losses at Tamworth and Hereford United, all teams around them in the league standings. At Haig Avenue, the Merseysiders beat the top five, Luton Town and Cambridge United 1-0 and Gateshead, Grimsby Town and FC Halifax Town 2-1. All was going just swimmingly in the first month with Southport winning four from six and ending August in fifth. Then the next 24 matches yielded just three wins as the club slid into a relegation battle. During that run the club would bid farewell to Alan Wright who lasted just seven months in charge. Southport opted for experience to keep the side afloat and out of harms way, John Coleman who had success with Accrington Stanley. It took a while for Coleman to get his side to gel, picking up one league win in his first nine Conference Premier matches. In February and March the Sandgrounders found form with Dan Hattersley and Karl Ledsham finding the net more regularly. Out of the teams down at the bottom, Southport looked like they had the capabilities to survive but it wasn’t easy. The final month of the campaign started slowly but then a win versus Tamworth edged the club closer to remaining a Conference Premier outfit, a feat confirmed on Easter Monday when they played FC Halifax Town at Haig Avenue.

Did you know…Southport’s home form was their best in any of their previous Conference Premier campaigns. The Sandgrounders picked up 44 points at Haig Avenue and just nine points away from home.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Dan Hattersley  (10)
Average Attendance: 1049
Discipline: 67 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

19th – Aldershot Town – 51 pts

fgfgfgfgf

Shots Secured: Aldershot’s celebrate staying up

It took the Shots seven games to break even after having ten points deducted at the start of 2013/14. That type of form would have had the Hampshire club safe by mid March but that would be too comfortable for their supporters. Two key factors in Aldershot Town’s survival was the goal scoring prowess of Brett Williams, who finished behind Luton Town’s Andre Gray and FC Halifax Town’s Lee Gregory in the goalscoring chart, and a decent goal difference. If the club hadn’t entered administration and suffered a points deduction they would have finished 15th. At home the Shots beat, with the exception of a final day defeat to Hereford United, everyone around them giving Andy Scott’s side an edge in the battle. A second relegation in a row would have been disastrous for Aldershot Town but with a clean slate next term, under chairman Shahid Azeem, who took over the club in August, the Shots can look to the future. The Hampshire outfit will hope that glimpses of that future comes from back to back home games when they beat Southport 5-1, Braintree Town 2-1 and Tamworth 6-0.  Prior the trio of triumphs Aldershot Town lost succesive away matches 4-0 to Cambridge United and FC Halifax Town. As the club was still involved in a battle to stave of Conference South football, in April with four to play they were in the relegation zone. Andy Scott and company showed character in the final stretch with an inspired Williams firing them to within safety. On the final day a bizarre set of results was required to condemn the Shots to the second tier of non league football. Had it not been for a Good Friday win at Woking their final game versus Hereford United would have potentially been win or bust.

Did you know…The Recreation Ground hosted the most Conference Premier goals this season when 80 were scored, the same amount as Luton Town’s Kenilworth Road.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: Fourth Round
Top Scorer: Brett Williams (24)
Average Attendance: 1947
Discipline: 57 Yellow Cards / 3 Red Cards

20th- Hereford United – 51 pts

ghghg

Fine Margins: Late win keeps the Bulls in the league

For the Bulls instructions for the final day of the season was to win. If ever their was a hero in Herefordshire in 2013/14 then step forward Michael Rankine. After Good Friday, Hereford United were two points behind Chester going into the last match of the campaign. All the club could do was beat Aldershot Town and hope results go their way, anything less then the financial mess would get worse with a drop down a division. At 3.15pm the Bulls looked down and out when news filtered through that Chester took the lead against Salisbury City. Sam Smith gave Hereford United hope with a goal against the Shots and when Salisbury City levelled that hope grew. Chester went ahead once more and even worse the Bulls conceded, the clock ticked down, the direction Hereford United were heading. With four minutes of the season remaining drama unfolded, James White equalised at Chester to make it 2-2. Then, Michael Rankine added his name to Hereford United folklore netting the winner two minutes from time, the Bulls survived. Confidence at Edgar Street had nose dived so quickly in 2014 and the off field problems accelerated the decline. A dozen games without a win included a 7-0 thrashing against champions Luton Town, and five games without a goal. February and March saw Martin Foyle’s side score just three times and poor form ended Foyle’s spell in charge. Caretaker Manager, Peter Beadle saw out the campaign leaving him with plenty to do in the final month of the season. Throughout the last two years the club has struggled financially, so desperate for cash bucket collections were organised and donations accepted. To the teams around them this was a bitter pill to swallow as the club survived on goal difference.

Did you know…The Bulls were the slowest starters this season when they registered just two goals in the opening the fifteen minutes of league games.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Michael Rankine (7)
Average Attendance: 1758
Discipline: 59 Yellow Cards / 1 Red Card

21st – Chester – 51 pts

Gutted: Chester come so close

Gutted: Chester come so close on the final day

After one season the Blues return to the Conference North in heartbreaking circumstances. From the very beginning Chester struggled to adapt to the step up losing their opening five matches. Fans were given an August Bank Holiday to remember as over 6000 turned out at Wrexham’s Racecourse Ground to see Chester win 2-0 in the cross border derby. Although in the next four months wins were hard to come by, the defeats were less frequent and the Blues ability to draw kept them within touching distance of safety. Neil Young who had taken Chester up the pyramid left by mutual consent in January with the club third from bottom. Former Kidderminster Harriers boss Steve Burr arrived and made an immediate impact winning his first two games. For the first time the Blues had a long spell out of the relegation zone which lasted 19 matches, the run needed to last just one more. Facing Salisbury City in the final game, the Blues held a two point advantage which increased a couple of times before being pegged back to two points again. Twice Chester took the lead and at 2-1 up with four minutes to go a four point cushion was enough but then Salisbury City equalised reducing the gap to two again. Two minutes later in Hampshire, the favour they wanted from Aldershot Town wasn’t forthcoming and Hereford United’s late winner closed that two point gap. Finishing level on points is a harsh way to go down, the Blues outscored Hereford United throughout the campaign but the extra goals conceded were costly. Chester were relegated on goal difference, a heartbreaking way to drop out of the Conference Premier.

Did you know…Chester picked up the most yellow and red cards this season as they finished bottom of the fair play league. The Blues racked up 95 cautions and 11 dismissals.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: James Seddon (7)
Average Attendance: 2366
Discipline: 95 Yellow Cards / 11 Red Cards

22nd- Dartford – 44 pts

Dartford v Alfreton Town, 10 August 2013

Sidelined: The Darts missed Ryan Hayes’ trickery

History repeated itself for the Darts as they suffered the second season syndrome becoming synonomous with Conference South playoff winners. Twenty eight years ago, Dartford followed up a third place finish with relegation in the next campaign, this time last term’s eighth place was overshadowed by another relegation. From best part time team in the country to the Conference South, Dartford struggled to attract enough firepower despite the signings of Adam Birchall and Jason Prior in the summer, Birchall’s loan was not renewed and Prior suffered injury. Away from Princes Park goals leaked at the wrong end and by October the Darts were just above water. Tony Burman lost the services of creative winger Ryan Hayes in November, a ten game losing streak that month through to December left the club in perilous trouble. Relying on the loan market for Cambridge United’s Rory McAuley and Luton Town duo Jim Stevenson and Alex Wall temporarily turned fortunes around. In January and February, the Kent side were defeated only once in eight games with their defence tightening up. Crucial dropped points against relegation rivals Aldershot Town, Southport then Chester and with Wall being recalled, hopes of a an escape ended on Easter Monday with the season ending on a four game losing streak.

Did you know…In their 125th year, Dartford equalled a club record of ten defeats in a row. The Darts suffered the same fate in November and December that they did in the 1938/39 and 1952/53 seasons.

F.A Cup: First Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Elliot Bradbrook (9)
Average Attendance: 1251
Discipline: 54 Yellow Cards / 4 Red Cards

23rd – Tamworth – 39 pts

ghghggg

Down: Tamworth return to the Conference North

A five year stay in the Conference Premier ended before Easter. During their spell in the top tier of non league they never finished higher than 16th. When Tamworth were relegated seven years ago it took the club just two attempts to return, fans will be hoping for a swift comeback. The Staffordshire side once again went through a large turnover of players, stability on the pitch cost Tamworth. An unbeaten run of three matches at the beginning of the campaign was as good as life got for the Lambs, back to back wins only arrived once relegation was confirmed. Dale Belford led the club for a full term having previously been caretaker manager on three occasions. With an experienced front-line in Darren Byfield, Justin Richards and Nick Chadwick the trio failed to score the goals the club hoped. Only Hyde stopped Tamworth from finishing bottom in a few main statistics, the Lambs had the second worst home record, goals scored away from home and overall defence. Only five players started more than 30 games compared to 24 players who managed less than ten starts. From 21 December 2013, Tamworth climbed out of the drop zone once and that was when they drew with Hyde. Belford’s boys soon fell back through the trapdoor and one win in 17 attempts made the Lambs certain for relegation, the poor sequence also included a five match spell without a goal. Last season Adam Cunnington’s goals kept Tamworth up, this time there was no one to make up for a leaky defence resulting in a poor campaign and a bottom four finish.

Did you know…The Lambs conceded 592 free kicks, the most by any Conference Premier side and used the most players (43).

F.A Cup: Second Round
F.A Trophy: Fourth Round
Top Scorer: Richard Peniket (7)
Average Attendance: 965
Discipline: 87 Yellow Cards / 6 Red Cards

24th – Hyde – 10 pts

ghghghgh

At Last: A win after 29 games of waiting

On a Tuesday night down in Kent the team bus of Hyde arrived and a crowd of 436 expected the usual. At most Hyde could come away from Park View Road with a point. #Tigerlove had grown on Twitter to unexpected levels and Jeff Stelling always anticipating the negative scoreline. With a league record of winless games closing in, set by AFC Telford United last season, fans of the Greater Manchester club really had been through the mill. An opening day 8-0 defeat at Forest Green Rovers set the tone and by the time they faced Welling United the club had just four points. Hyde fans had to wait 11 hours for a goal which spanned almost a month, and a run of 12 matches without a point which was ended at home against Nuneaton Town. The Tigers were relegated with just under seven weeks until the end of the season. Scott McNiven’s side had to suffer last minute heartaches and some thrashings on the way, 5-2 versus Wrexham, 6-2 against Forest Green Rovers (the Gloucestershire club rattled a total of 14 past Hyde’s defence), 5-1 at home to FC Halifax Town and a 7-2 home loss against Cambridge United.  Although the Tigers ended with a goal difference of -81, having conceded 119 times, it was that cold Tuesday night worth remembering. Two second half goals from Louis Almond and Connor Hughes gave Hyde their first win of the season after 27 league games, avoiding becoming the first ever team in Conference Premier league history to end a campaign without a win. Throughout the season good humoured Tiger fans watched on in hope, such a rarity was their only win that Jonathan Reynolds, the Labour MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, wrote on Twitter:  “Definitely time to book an open-top bus!”

Did you know…Hyde have set a new unwanted record of lowest points (10) gained in a Conference Premier season breaking the 18 points Leigh RMI managed in 2004/05.

F.A Cup: Fourth Qualifying Round
F.A Trophy: First Round
Top Scorer: Scott Spencer (8)
Average Attendance: 689
Discipline: 72 Yellow Cards / 5 Red Cards

 

Season Review 2012/2013

1st – Mansfield Town – 95 pts

mtfc champs

Credit: Press Association

Paul Cox led the Stags back to the Football League after a five year absence. Mansfield Town put a magnificent run together in the second half of the season to move from outside of the playoffs to the summit. The Nottinghamshire side’s impeccable timing meant they spent just four matchday’s in pole position. Struggling for consistency up until November, the Stags went on a record equalling run of twelve successive wins during which they racked up the back to back mauling of Dartford 5-0 and Barrow 8-1. Backed by owner John Radford, who rewarded Cox with an Aston Martin after the Barrow victory, Mansfield Town also made F.A Cup headlines by bowing out to a controversial Luis Suarez goal in a 2-1 defeat against Liverpool in the third round. A staggering 23 wins from their last 28 fixtures was supported by Matt Green’s 25 league goals in 2012/13, which included seven in his last six games to finish the Conference Premier’s top scorer.

2nd – Kidderminster Harriers – 93 pts

Anthony Malbon celebrates goal_480_Landscape

Picture: Adrian Hoskins

Handicapped by a terrible start to their campaign with five straight defeats and scoring in just one of those matches, Harriers began to click in September. With no wins and rock bottom after ten matches Steve Burr turned the season around. A consistent back four built foundations for the team which kept 16 clean sheets including a period of 416 minutes without conceding. When the goals followed Kidderminster flew up the table with two sequences of seven straight triumphs. Harriers only lost three times in their last 31 fixtures but the title eluded them. Jamile Matt’s short return to Aggborough was a success with eight goals in as many appearances, the striker switched to Fleetwood Town. Anthony Malbon and former Cambridge United striker Michael Gash picked up the scoring baton to secure a runners up place for their club. The disappointment on the final day of the season was compounded when they missed out on a Playoff final appearance in a 5-2 aggregate defeat to fifth place Wrexham.

3rd – Newport County AFC – 85 pts

Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Credit: Huw Evans Agency

Justin Edinburgh hailed this season as his best achievement which is something when you have an F.A Cup winners medal as a player to your name. The Exiles have come on leaps and bounds and a move to Rodney Parade has helped the club push on from the F.A Trophy final defeat last year. Edinburgh rebuilt a team for 2012/13 and visited Wembley for a second time in two season’s for an all Welsh Playoff final. Newport County flew out the starting blocks winning their opening five with Aaron O’Connor scoring six times. The striker continued his good form and when the goals dried up in stepped 24 year old Christian Jolley. The pair netted 31 league goals between them adding to the consistent performances from the rest of the squad, which never saw the Welsh club slip out of the top five. Overseeing Grimsby Town 2-0 in the Playoff semi-final, the Exiles reached Wembley for a successive season. Once again Jolley and O’Connor grabbed the headlines in a 2-0 victory over Welsh rivals Wrexham. The Playoff triumph secured a return to the Football League for the reformed club who last appeared in the old Division Four 25 years ago.

4th – Grimsby Town – 83 pts

ghg

Source: www.metro.co.uk

Difficult to beat and defensively sound, the Mariners kept more clean sheets than anyone else. James McKeown was influential in between the sticks and together with the back four in front of him Grimsby Town failed to concede on 19 occasions. A 12 game unbeaten run had the Lincolnshire club dreaming of a Football League return as they spent three months in the top two. The managerial duo of Rob Scott and Paul Hurst guided the Mariners to Wembley only for their side to lose the F.A Trophy on penalties. A strong squad struggled in March losing four on the bounce. For all their solidity at the back Grimsby Town lacked goals for a team pushing for a return to the Football League. The Mariners missed last seasons top scorer Liam Hearn through long term injury and his gradual return brings hope to a side who have to pick themselves up for a fourth season in the Conference Premier.

5th – Wrexham – 80 pts

fgfgf

Credit: Press Association

Title contenders until March and two Wembley appearances had last seasons runners up on the verge of a return to the Football League. After forty six gruelling games and F.A Trophy glory, Wrexham lost the Playoff final in the last four minutes. Andy Morrell’s side couldn’t quite achieve the staggering 98 points of last season, enough to take the title this term but the Welsh club are likely to bounce back for 2013/14. Morrell called on the experience of defender Stephen Wright, midfielder Dean Keates and strikers Dele Adebola and Brett Ormerod whilst Danny Wright top scored with 15 goals. Wrexham tasted defeat just once in the first 14 fixtures before hitting a period of inconsistency up to Boxing Day. An unbeaten run of 13 games followed which had the Dragons top of the table, the sequence was ended in a last minute loss at Dartford. From that night at Princes Park, Wrexham picked up just three more wins from their final 11 league matches dropping to fifth. A double win in the Playoff semi-final against runners up Kidderminster Harriers secured a second trip to Wembley, falling short of promotion once more.

6th – Hereford United – 70 pts

www.mobile.herefordunited.co.uk

Source: www.mobile.herefordunited.co.uk

A decent finish from the Bulls in a challenging return to the Conference Premier. Relegated from the Football League a year ago, Hereford United found life back in non league football tough at first. Unbeaten and second after four matches the Bulls struggled in September and October. Chugging along in the echelons of mid table Martin Foyle’s side moved into the top half and can take heart from a strong finish to the season, where the Bulls scored in 13 consecutive matches. There is no getting away from the fact the club has been in plight and failure to pay players wages in March and April causes concern. This summer will be crucial in determining where the Bulls stand in next seasons pecking order. Keeping hold of Lee Graham, 15 goal striker Ryan Bowman,  Player of the Year Sam Clucas and Josh O’Keefe will certainly give supporters more faith.

7th – Luton Town – 67 pts

ghghg

Source: www.bbc.co.uk

Season number four for the Hatters ended with the club finishing outside of the Playoffs for the first time in the Conference Premier. With big support comes big pressure and Paul Buckle became the fourth manager in as many seasons to fail to get Luton Town back to the Football League. An average crowd of 5882 were comforted by a tremendous F.A Cup run which saw the Hatters become the first side in 24 years to knockout top flight opposition in Norwich City. The fifth round tie against Millwall was a step too far and then Buckle departed.  Up until October, Buckle was moving towards the promised land but shock defeats at home to Braintree Town and Dartford made life difficult. In the New Year seven games without a win and a host of draws thereafter meant the Hatters slipped out of Playoff contention, so John Still picked up the reigns in February. The former Dagenham and Redbridge boss was defeated just twice making his side harder to beat. With the exception of Andre Gray, the Hatters couldn’t decide who was best to lead the line whilst the impressive Alex Lawless performed excellently in midfield. One senses Still will use his lower league managerial experience in the Summer ready for season number five.

8th – Dartford – 66 pts

ghghg

Picture: Dave Adkins

The Darts were crowned the best part time team in the country which surprised the Conference Premier. With very little change and a small squad Dartford’s hard work and commitment paid off recording a second highest finish in club history. At the start of the season three straight defeats left the Kent side playing catch up. From then on eight wins in ten gave the players belief they can compete. Home form was key in the four months they failed to record a victory on their travels, a sequence stretching to a dozen games. The club finished strongly and will fondly remember a double over Luton Town and having the best home record against the top half of the table. Tony Burman used the loan market wisely by bringing in goalkeeper Marcus Bettinelli and Csaba Somogyi from Fulham, whilst Charlie Sheringham retuned to the club with a few goals to replace top scorer Harry Crawford. The occasional blip at Mansfield Town and Kidderminster Harriers can be forgiven as the Darts beat the two sides earlier in the season. Burman will have to work hard to keep his squad in tact and help avoid second season syndrome.

9th – Braintree Town – 66 pts

fgf

Picture: Stephen Brading

Alan Devonshire continued to work wonders in Essex leading the Irons to a top ten finish. In their second season at Conference Premier level Braintree Town set a new record by finishing in their highest ever position, the points accumulated this term exceeded the 62 earned in 2011/12. In contrast to last season when the Iron reached second before sliding down the ladder, in 2013 they started the year in the drop zone. Struggling to find the net at the tail end of 2012 the tide turned with improved performances including seven wins in ten from January to mid-March. Sean Marks, Dan Holman and Kenny Davis all surpassed ten goals which helped to replace the summer loss of Jai Reason. Devonshire also continued to get the best out of defender Dean Wells who became the Supporters Player of the Year. A third season awaits Braintree Town in the Conference Premier as the club continues with their steady progress.

10th – Forest Green Rovers – 65 pts

ghg

Source: www.clickgreen.org.uk

Pre season promise captured the imagination of the Gloucestershire club and they started extremely well topping the table by the end of September. After just one defeat in the first dozen matches Rovers dropped off the pace rapidly losing four consecutive matches. It took a while to challenge again but due to the incredible form shown by other clubs the title was never really on. February and March signalled the end of the automatic promotion dream. An end of season slump of five straight defeats left Forest Green Rovers in a lower position than expected. With their season finishing on a whimper, Rovers support in the league increased from last season by 13%. Chairman Dale Vince believes with more fans coming through the gate  this will only aid the clubs ambitions to reach the Football League. David Hockaday with a decent set of players to choose from such as Jan Klukowski, James Norwood and goalkeeper Sam Russell would have at least hoped for a top five finish.

11th – Macclesfield Town – 63 pts

fgfg

Source: www.mtfc.co.uk

After relegation from League Two, the Silkmen had a massive clear out led by manager Steve King. The huge turnover of staff looked to have paid dividends despite an opening day defeat. Macclesfield Town went on to win six out of seven to top the standings. The form of striker Matthew Barnes-Homer was phenomenal netting 11 goals in the first 15 matches and ending the season on an impressive 18 league strikes. Unfortunately in six of those games the Silkmen were winless dropping to ninth where they ended 2012. King took the Cheshire club to the F.A Cup fourth round by shocking Championship champions Cardiff City 2-1 in the third round, then finally losing out to finalist Wigan Athletic. January to April didn’t quite see the return to form as the first eight games but defeats were less frequent. An inconsistent season ended with victory which broke a sequence of five straight losses. An uninspiring return to non league has left Macclesfield Town without a manager because King was sacked with a month to go. Former Silkman John Askey was put in charge until the end of the campaign.

12th – Woking – 62 pts

Source: www.wokingnewsandmail.co.uk

The champions of the Conference South will be pleased with their return to the Conference Premier. Three years away hadn’t worried the Surrey club whose fans got to witness a staggering 154 goals in games involving the Cards. Like fellow newboys Dartford, home form more than compensated for poor away results. A stable squad and few changes in the Summer has shown the Conference South has produced reliable teams to stay in the top flight of non league. At the Kingsfield Stadium results included the 6-1 thrashing of Nuneaton Town, a 5-2 beating of AFC Telford United and an astonishing 5-4 triumph versus Macclesfield Town, in which Woking were leading 5-0 just past the half hour mark. On their travels Garry Hill’s men were embarrassed 7-0 at Hyde after a 5-1 loss at Grimsby Town. Bradley Bubb (19 goals), 35 year old midfielder Kevin Betsy (13 goals) and Jayden Stockley all ended with ten goals or more. Joe McNerney and Adam Newton featured consistently in defence with combative midfielder Mark Ricketts holding in front. Woking used few players throughout the season, a testament to the commitment shown by the small squad.

13th – Alfreton Town – 60 pts

ghg

Picture: Laurence Griffiths (Getty Images)

A much more comfortable ride than their début season, the Reds started slowly and a 5-1 defeat to newboys Dartford sprung them into action. Alfreton Town became difficult to beat picking up plenty of draws but more importantly more wins than defeats. With the exception of a poor February the Derbyshire club never looked likely to battle the drop. Nicky Law’s side never reached higher than thirteenth so finishing in that very position shows the Reds experienced a decent ending to the 2012/13 season. Helped out by Paul Clayton’s 17 league goals and Ben Tomlinson’s 11 strikes Alfreton Town gained six more points than last campaign and two places. The Derbyshire club also reached the second round of the F.A Cup for only the second time in their history. The televised fixture at North Street ended in a 4-2 win for League One side Leyton Orient. The Reds who turned professional after promotion two years ago plan to tighten their strings with a move back to part time football. For now, the club can revel in the fact they have achieved their highest ever final league standing.

14th – Cambridge United – 59 pts

Source: www.cambridge-united.co.uk

Source: www.cambridge-united.co.uk

When pundits say the Conference Premier is the hardest league to get out of then Cambridge United should know. With their eighth successive season completed only Forest Green Rovers have served longer in current spells at the top of non league. Expectant fans will be disappointed with a fourteenth place finish. A draw to Nuneaton Town and defeat at home to Dartford at the end of August started an eight game barren spell where the U’s picked up three points from 24.  Although Jez George’s poor run of results was halted in victory at Barrow the manager stepped down in October paving the way for Richard Money. The new boss failed to find consistency with results and his squad using the third most players in the division. However, one consistent performer was striker Michael Gash whose 13 goals earned him a move to runners up Kidderminster Harriers in March, where he added six more to his tally. Josh Coulson, Rory McAuley and Rossi Jarvis continued to get picked most weeks but Money will have to have his squad more settled next term if he wants to meet the clubs high expectations. Tom Elliott’s contract renewal could be key next term.

15th – Nuneaton Town – 57 pts

Source: www.nuneaton-news.co.uk

Source: www.nuneaton-news.co.uk

It took a long time for Nuneaton Town to settle into their new surroundings after promotion via the Conference North Playoffs. Boro shipped in nine goals in their opening two games including an enthralling 5-4 opening day defeat to Ebbsfleet United. In September, Kevin Wilkin witnessed his side lose 6-1 to fellow newboys Woking. The loss at Kingsfield Stadium signalled the start of an eleven game winless streak as goals were really at a premium all season. No surprise then that 19 goal striker Andy Brown won the clubs Player of the Year. Nuneaton Town never left the bottom five from 8 September 2012 to 19 March 2013.  Wilkin managed to organise his starting eleven as Boro got to know the division better and in the final 15 games the defence kept nine clean sheets. Ending with a three match winning streak left the Warwickshire club jumping six places up the standings.

16th – Lincoln City – 56 pts

ghghg

Source: www.thisislincolnshire.co.uk

The Imps were consistent in the fact they finish sixteenth on home and away form as well as the final standings. Lincoln City lost just three matches against teams below them and these results along with doubles over Dartford, Braintree Town and the odd win at Wrexham and home to Kidderminster Harriers kept the Imps afloat. Seven games without a win after the opening day triumph was broken at home to Hyde. A spell of inconsistency was followed by a purple patch of six matches unbeaten then the club went back to their early season form. David Holdsworth left in February and Gary Simpson was appointed to help the club steer away from the drop zone. Simpson didn’t get results until March winning just over half of the remaining 11 fixtures. The Imps won their penultimate game of the season and were guaranteed status on the final day beating Hyde in style 5-1. Jamie Taylor and Vadaine Oliver reached double figures in the goal scoring charts leaving Simpson content with his side’s end of season form.

17th – Gateshead – 55 pts

Picture: Steven White

Picture: Steven White

Spare a thought for die hard Heed fans who spent more time away from home than any other set of supporters. Gateshead, Hartlepool, York, Blyth, Carlisle, Middlesbrough and Boston all hosted the Tynesiders in 2012/2013 due to drainage issues at the International Stadium. Ian Bogie couldn’t recapture the form of last season which saw Gateshead finish a respectable eighth with 74 points. The side struggled in their 23 scheduled away matches with only relegated Ebbsfleet United gaining fewer points. Steady to early November, the Heed parted company with Bogie a month later. Anth Smith took the hot seat and had to endure five straight losses leaving the club second from bottom by March. Smith guided the Tynesiders to safety by making his side a tighter unit and harder to beat. A tough and challenging season for a squad who racked up more miles than any other club and unsurprisingly played in front of the lowest average attendances.

18th – Hyde – 55 pts

Source: www.hydefc.co.uk

Source: www.hydefc.co.uk

Scott McNiven’s first full season with the Tigers ticked the survival box off the list, after promotion from the Conference North as champions. Hyde didn’t do things in half measures when they were on or off form the Tigers were capable of stringing sequences together. Two points from the first seven matches had the club at the foot of the table and then Hyde demolished Hereford United 5-2. Another five matches winless ended at home to Tamworth in October then results propelled McNiven’s team up to the dizzy heights of ninth, the Tigers took 25 points from 33 including a 7-0 trouncing of Woking. The New Year had the Greater Manchester club looking over their shoulder again as they lost four in a row, but a fortnight later started a run of six consecutive defeats with a solitary goal scored. No panic though as five victories on the bounce in March pulled Hyde clear for another season in the Conference Premier. Experienced striker Phil Jevons scored 15 with his last arriving in February whilst defenders Luke Ashworth and Josh Brizell put in reliable performances at the back. Midfielder’s Alex Brown and Liam Tomsett also impressed their peers.

19th – Tamworth – 55 pts

Source: www.thisistamworth.co.uk

Source: www.thisistamworth.co.uk

After four games the Lambs started full of promise taking ten points and occupying third position. That was as good as it got for Tamworth who really shouldn’t have been fighting for a place in next season’s Conference Premier on the final day of the season. Adam Cunnington top scored with an impressive 21 goals, a third of which came from the penalty spot. The Staffordshire side used a staggering amount of players throughout 2012/2013 but one who stood out alongside Cunnington was defender Duane Courtney. With the Lambs in eighteenth place by the end of January, the 4-1 defeat at home to Braintree Town meant the end of Marcus Law’s reign as boss. Dale Belford was put in charge for the remainder of the season where he picked up enough points to stave off a return to the Conference North.

20th – Southport – 54 pts

Picture: Gareth Jones

Picture: Gareth Jones

Last season was always going to be difficult to replicate as the Sandgrounders were the surprise package by almost gatecrashing the Playoffs. This season Southport showed the form more akin to their 2010/2011 campaign. For seven months of the season the Merseysider’s didn’t win, lose or draw more than two games in succession showing their erratic form. March proved to be a disappointing month when the Sandgrounders lost six successive fixtures but Liam Watson’s team managed to rack up seven more points from the final 12 available. Overall Southport struggled at Haig Avenue however their mid table away form ensured they stayed out of trouble in Watson’s last season as boss.

21st – Stockport County – 50 pts

Credit: Action Images

Credit: Action Images

In 2001/2002 the Hatters were part of the second tier in English football which included Manchester City. Eleven years on Stockport County will start in the sixth tier against teams like Northern Premier Champions North Ferriby United. Despite reaching 50 points, the highest total by any side relegated from the Conference Premier (excludes demotions) the Greater Manchester club still fell through the trap door. Occupying ninth on the first weekend of November five straight defeats followed heeding warning signs. Off the field things went from bad to worse, if it wasn’t for AFC Telford United’s abysmal season Stockport County would have got through the most managerial changes. Jim Gannon left in January after seven defeats in nine and a mini revival took place lasting five fixtures with Darije Kalezic in charge. Kalezic left the club by mutual consent with a month to go giving the uphill task of survival to former Gateshead manager Ian Bogie. On the final day at Kidderminster, a number of fans took out their frustration in unsavoury scenes which held up play for half an hour, resulting in Harriers defender Lee Vaughan being assaulted.

22nd – Barrow – 46 pts

fgf

Source: www.nwemail.co.uk

Five years at the top of non league football came to an end for Dave Bayliss and his Barrow squad. With the lowest tally in the goal scoring column and the second worst record in the conceded column, the Bluebirds struggled all season. Hammering’s away from Holker Street included the biggest defeat in the league as they suffered an 8-1 humiliation against champions Mansfield Town. Three days later the club lost 5-2 at Southport and a month before 6-1 away to Luton Town. On only four occasions Barrow scored more than two in a game and they failed to hit the net more than any other Conference Premier club. Adam Boyes still managed to find the target on 13 occasions supported by midfielder Richie Baker who managed ten goals. Highlights included a 2-0 away win against Playoff winners Newport County and a 1-0 home triumph over Luton Town. A tough season for the Cumbrians who will begin life in the Conference North once more.

23rd – Ebbsfleet United – 39 pts

ghghg

Source: www.gravesendreporter.co.uk

In a season where more talk has been made off the pitch than on. The Fleet will hope their next spell in the Conference South is as swift as their last in 2010/11. MyFC is a hot topic and with a potential takeover looming Fleet fans will be pleased to see the back of this season. A lack of subscriptions being sold and a hefty tax bill put the Kent club in as much jeopardy as their Conference Premier status. England C International Goalkeeper Preston Edwards and the strike partnership of Nathan Elder and Liam Enveer-Marum were Fleets only bright sparks. Elder and Enveer-Marum shared 26 of the 55 goals scored by Liam Daish’s squad. Ebbsfleet United spent the last five and a half months in the drop zone picking up just three wins in that time, the Fleet ended the season winless in ten and with the most goals conceded.

24th – AFC Telford United – 35 pts

ghg

Source: www.shropshirestar.com

Up until playing Dartford away on 9 October their season could have gone either way with five wins, six draws and only three defeats. Then the Bucks’ season slid down a slippery slope back to the Conference North. AFC Telford United failed to win since victory at Dartford until 13 April which set a Conference Premier record of 30 games without a win. Andy Sinton left on 31 January 2012 and was replaced with Mark Cooper. Meanwhile Graham Hyde remained as assistant manager but he got his chance when Cooper joined Swindon Town as an assistant himself on the first day of March. In the space of 39 days since Sinton’s departure, Hyde decided to resign and John Psaras took charge, with four games remaining the Bucks were relegated in a dismal 2012/13.

Club by Club: 2011-2012 Review

Woking

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 19 – Giuseppe Sole

The Cards enjoyed an exceptional season winning the Conference South by nine points. Having gone 17 matches unbeaten from 10 September 2011 to 1 January 2012, including six away wins on the spin many tipped Garry Hill’s side to win the title by early March. However the Surrey club were pushed until the final two weeks of the season.

Woking players celebrate a title winning season

During January and February Woking showed signs of dropping points but then came Giuseppe Sole. The striker netted in the final 12 matches amassing 15 goals, the most prolific spell of any Conference South player this season.

Deservedly the Surrey club lifted the trophy with consistent performances and the best away record, equalling Grays Athletic’s Conference South record of 15 away victories in 2004-05. At home they matched the number of wins whilst having the tightest defence conceding just 18.

Up front Garry Hill’s squad scored 92 goals, 49 as visitors. Four players scored over ten goals with Giuseppe Sole top scoring with 19, Paris Cowan-Hall found the net 14 times, Moses Ademola scored 13 and the experienced Elvis Hammond netted ten.

At the back The Cards kept the most number of clean sheets with 16, nine away from home.  Their efficiency in attack and solidity in defence resulted in the best goal difference of +51 and best away goal difference of +26.

To add to the league title Woking also took home the Surrey Senior Cup defeating Sutton United 3-1 in the final.

Did you know…

Woking scored 17 league goals between 31-45 minutes the most during this period of the game.

The Cards scored 47 first half goals more than any other Conference South club this season.

Dartford

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Runners Up
F.A Trophy Third Round Top Scorer 15 – Danny Harris

Dartford finished nine points behind the league champions but justice was done in the playoffs as the runners up earned promotion. Lee Noble may go down in Dartford history for netting the playoff winner against Welling United but excellent form at Princes Park, where they won 15 games, contributed to their return to the top flight of non-league football for the first time in 26 years.

Elliot Bradbrook lifts the playoff trophy for The Darts

Despite the loss of last season’s top scorer Charlie Sheringham, The Darts did not struggle for goals scoring in 90% of league games and all but one match at home.  Princes Park witnessed 52 goals, the highest home total of this campaign.

Tony Burman’s side ended up the best home team of 2011/12 winning eight in a row from 2 January 2012 to 31 March 2012, the start of that run included three consecutive clean sheets.  At home The Darts had the best goal difference of +33 and conceded the fewest goals (40) home and away.

Danny Harris top scored with 15 and was aided by the midfield support from Captain Elliot Bradbrook who netted 14. Charlie Sheringham managed 11 goals with his replacement Jacob Erskine matching the AFC Bournemouth striker. In the second half of the season loan signings Conor Essam then Luke Wilkinson complimented an ever present Adam Green, Tom Bonner and Lee Burns in defence as Burman tightened his defence.

For all the good work at home, Dartford had the second best away record which the club would have settled for at the start of the season when the playoffs were targeted. Tony Burman’s men accrued nine fewer points than Woking on their travels, those nine points turned out to be crucial.

Did you know…

Dartford scored in 21 consecutive games from 29 August 2012 to 28 January 2012.

The Darts scored 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and 52 second half goals, the most during these periods of the game.

Welling United

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy First Round Top Scorer 16 – Andrew Pugh

Jamie Day has worked wonders against financial difficulties but his side fell short losing the playoff final. Even still The Wings continue to impress on the field and their performances at Park View Road where they went 19 games unbeaten helping the Kent club counteract an inconsistent away record.

Andy Pugh top scored despite leaving the club

Welling United were challenging for automatic promotion during parts of the season and topped the Conference South at the early stages thanks to an opening day draw followed by six consecutive wins.

Andy Pugh left in January and he still finished the clubs top scorer. Although Jamie Day couldn’t find a prolific replacement, Loick Pires waded in with a dozen goals and Luis Cumbers netted 11.

The Wings stopped conceding goals in the second half of the season as they dried up at the other end. From 20 March 2012 to 14 April 2012 Welling did not concede a goal in 533 minutes of football and ended their away form with four clean sheets in a row.

During the whole season at home the Kent club kept the most home clean sheets (8) and conceded the fewest times joint with Woking (18).

Did you know…

The Wings scored 21 goals between 61-75 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Sutton United

F.A Cup 2nd Round County Cup Runners Up
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 16 – Craig Watkins

Sutton United can be proud of their first season back in the Conference South. The Surrey club erased memories of their last campaign at this level when they were relegated with just five wins.

The U's take on Nott's County in the F.A Cup

Paul Doswell’s experiences at Eastleigh helped The U’s to promotion last season and a playoff spot this time round. Unfortunately they missed out on a playoff off final showdown when they lost to Welling United 2-1 on aggregate.

Defensively The U’s were as good as any team keeping an impressive 16 clean sheets equal with champions Woking. Like the champion nine of those shut outs happened away from Ganders Green Lane.

Paul Doswell’s side were difficult to beat in general losing just eight times and drawing 14 including 8 on their travels. The U’s played decent football, even when losing Doswell would continue with his philosophy proven by a 5-0 defeat to Woking and 6-1 loss at Dartford.

Sutton United have good foundations to build on next season with reliable striker Craig Watkins and midfielder Harry Beautyman. The Surrey side also reached the second round of the F.A Cup losing to Nott’s County 2-0 and finished runners up in the Surrey Senior Cup.

Did you know…

In their last 42 home league games The U’s have won 29, drawn 10, lost 3, scored 87, conceded 40.

Basingstoke Town

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup 3rd Round
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 14 – Delano Sam-Yorke

The Stokes gate crashed the playoffs and entered the season finale in their best form. Basingstoke Town were going steady in fifth spot in the opening ten fixtures but their mid-season slump saw them laying in tenth at the start of February.

The Camrose fills up before a Conference South fixture

Frank Gray was sacked by Chairman Rafi Razzak on 20 February 2012 and in came Academy Manager Jason Bristow. The new boss experienced mixed results in his first five games but then everything on the field clicked. Four straight wins either side the loss at home to Woking earned the Hampshire club 24 points from 27 available.

The Stokes made it to the playoffs in the final week of the season. An eighth win in nine against Hampton and Richmond put them ahead of Chelmsford City. On the final day a goalless draw was enough to stave off The Clarets.

Basingstoke Town could not overcome playoff winners Dartford in the semi-final going down 3-1 on aggregate. The Hampshire club did reach the first round of the F.A Cup when they fell to a solitary Brentford goal. All in all, a great season for The Stokes.

Did you know…

The Stoke scored 18 goals between 16-30 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Chelmsford City

F.A Cup 2nd Round County Cup 4th Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 11 – Dave Rainford

Playoff losers in the past two seasons The Clarets missed out this time round. Chelmsford City are guaranteed to be challenging the top five and will be disappointed not to have finished in the playoffs.

Dave Rainford top scored for The Clarets from midfield

Glenn Pennyfather’s squad excelled away from the Melbourne Stadium and went 14 away matches without defeat, a Conference South record. In addition to this they conceded just 19 times on the road.

At the same time Woking were unbeaten from 10 September 2011 to 1 January 2012 Chelmsford City were also racking up an incredible 17 games without defeat. In fact the Essex club looked a certainty for at least a playoff spot.

The excellent form carried over to the F.A Cup when they reached the second round. Macclesfield Town needed two attempts to knock out The Clarets eventually prevailing in a 1-0 win.

Chelmsford City were a tough nut to crack, not only did they draw the most away games (8), suffer the least away defeats (3), kept the most clean sheets at home (8), they never lost by more than a goal.

The wheels started to fall off at the beginning of 2012 and completely came off by March. Glenn Pennyfather managed just three victories from March in the final dozen fixtures in a disappointing finish.

Did you know…

The Clarets are one of five teams who managed to keep 3 consecutive home clean sheets.

Chelmsford are one of 12 teams who failed to score in 3 consecutive games.

The Clarets scored 19 goals between 0-15 minutes the most during this period of the game.

Dover Athletic

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 15 – Billy Bricknell

It is safe to say that Dover Athletic had an inconsistent season which has left supporters slightly frustrated. Martin Hayes was expected to get the Kent club to the playoffs at least.

Ex Dart loanee George Purcell

By September Hayes was gone and Chairman Jim Parmenter appointed Nicky Forster. Although The Whites barely lost games they failed to pick up wins as well. At The Crabble they equalled the Conference South record for most consecutive home draws set by Bognor Regis Town in 2005-06 and Bromley in 2010-11.

In all fairness if Dover converted some of the 15 draws into wins they would have made the top five. The reason the club did not achieve more three point hauls were down to the failure to score at home on nine occasions, including a run of four consecutive games.

Nicky Forster’s side were better away from The Crabble, maybe due to the supporter’s expectations. Only three teams topped Dover’s away record and so they will try again next season.

Did you know…

Billy Bricknell and George Purcell scored 43.5% of Dover’s league goals this season, netting 27 between them.

Boreham Wood

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 12 – David Bryant

Ian Allinson continues to work wonders at the Hertfordshire club. On one of the lowest budgets The Wood rely on loan signings and for the second successive season achieved their highest ever finish.

Ian Allinson

At Meadow Park they guaranteed goals scoring in 20 consecutive home matches, only Havant and Waterlooville on the opening day stopped Boreham Wood.

It took a 3-1 win versus Dartford in October to kick start a floundering start to the season, prior the match they had only recorded two victories. Ian Allinson’s side went on a six match winning streak before showing typical mid-table form.

The Wood ended in a comfortable eighth place but it will be difficult to repeat this season’s success with a small budget and the lowest average attendance of 243, but when has that stopped the Hertfordshire club.

Did you know…

Boreham Wood had 23 different goal scorers, the most by any Conference South club this season.

Tonbridge Angels

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 29 – Frannie Collin

The Angels enjoyed a pleasing debut season in the Conference South having won promotion via the playoffs last season.

Frannie Collin the Conference South's top goal scorer

Tommy Warrilow can thank the scoring prowess of Frannie Collin who ended up with the Conference South golden boot. Collin netted 29 times for the Kent club and was the only Angels player to reach double figures.

The Angels played a more open game at Longmead and at their home ground 75 goals were scored for and against, more than any other venue. The club seemed to be more cautious on their travels picking up 8 draws and only once did they win by more than a goal.

One of Tonbridge’s strengths was to never give up; they scored 24 goals in the final 15 minutes of games. However, The Angels made it difficult for themselves by letting in 20 goals in the opening quarter of an hour of their matches, more than any other Conference South club.

Did you know…

Frannie Collin scored 41.43% of Tonbridge’s goals – the highest ratio by any Conference South player in 2011/12.

Salisbury City

F.A Cup 3rd Round County Cup Finalist – to be played
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 10 – Marvin Williams

Salisbury City also achieved Conference South football via the playoffs but they have far more experience this level. Demoted to the Southern League from the Conference Premier in 2010 the Wiltshire club have started to rebuild.

Salisbury City: Raymond McEnhill Stadium

Darrel Clarke led The Whites to a top ten finish in their first season back at this level closing the season with four straight wins. A poor middle patch of the season between September and February prevented Salisbury pushing for the playoffs but overall a steady league season ensures another crack at step two next campaign.

The Whites had the most average record winning the same amount as losing with a goal difference of +1. To sum 2011-12 they drew five consecutive away games, a Conference South record, amassed the most away draws (8) and the most consecutive draws home and away (4).

In the cups the club performed admirably reaching the second round of the F.A Trophy, the final of the county cup (yet to be played) and impressively mixed with the big boys in the F.A Cup. Arlesey Town were beaten in round one then Grimsby Town were defeated in a dramatic replay ending 3-2. In round three The Whites drew out Sheffield United at Bramall Lane losing 3-1.

Did you know…

Salisbury City will take on Swindon Supermarine in the Wiltshire Premier Shield Final.

Dorchester Town

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 8 – Ashley Nicholls

Dorchester Town finished in their highest position since 2006 which was a brilliant achievement for current boss Alan Knight. The former Portsmouth goalkeeper steered The Magpies to a respectable eleventh.

Alan Knight led The Magpies to cup victory

Former boss Ashley Vickers tenure ended in October and after 15 matches the club were seventeenth and looking set to repeat last season’s relegation battle.

Alan Knight made the squad more solid and after The Magpies drew their first game of the season on match 17, the side kept four straight clean sheets. Away from The Avenue Stadium the defence racked up nine clean sheets.

Down the other end of the field goals were difficult to come by with their top scorer Ashley Nicholls netting just eight. Prior an end of season mini slump Alan Knight was defeated only twice in seventeen. The Magpies did end up with some silverware beating Weymouth 6-2 in the Dorset Senior Cup.

Did you know…

Dorchester Town scored 9 penalties in the Conference South this season, the most goals from the spot this season.

Eastleigh

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 10 – Bradley Bubb

After six seasons in the Conference South, The Spitfires went full time in the summer and at the early stages of the season looked like they had made a mistake. The idea was to have younger players on full time contracts so the squad could gel over time.

Bradley Bubb top scored

Eastleigh showed their potential in fits and starts, after three fixtures The Spitfires were bottom but peaked at the end of February as they reached sixth. At home they were excellent until there was nothing to play for, Ian Baird’s squad put in an 11 match unbeaten run to propel the club up the table to finish twelfth, not quite what they hoped for but the squad has time.

 

The issue facing the Hampshire club is their inability to perform away from the Silverlake Stadium and finish in front of goal. Twice Eastleigh failed to score in an away match in four consecutive attempts. Furthermore they recorded the most blanks in the season (17) with 12 of them on the road.

Did you know…

Eastleigh won the Hampshire County Senior Cup beating AFC Totton 2-0 in a final which trialled goal line technology.

Weston Super-Mare

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 15 – Sahr Kabba

Craig Laird showed his faith in his players by keeping most of last season’s squad together. After four years fighting down the wrong end of the table Laird has managed a second mid-table finish in a row.

Nat Pepperall chipped in with ten goals

Stability in Somerset was really achieved in the first half of the season as The Seagulls flirted with the idea of reaching the playoffs. By mid-January Weston Super-Mare hit the heights of sixth place which had supporters dreaming of what could have been.

 

A run of seven straight defeats which included five blanks in front of goal, a solitary win, then a poor haul of four points from 24 saw The Seagulls slump down the pecking order into thirteenth. A county cup victory put the gloss on a floundering second half of the season but at least all the good work was already completed.

Did you know…

Weston Super Mare beat Clevedon 2-1 in the Somerset Premier Cup to retain their title after defeating Yeovil Town 1-0 last season

Truro City

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Quarter Final
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 13 – Scott Walker

A testing season for the rise and rise of Truro City because the Conference South has been a baptism of fire after a recording five promotions in six years, to go with a F.A Vase victory in 2007.

Treyew Road: home of Truro City

Manager Lee Hodges has not only had to put up with rumours of Plymouth Argyle’s apparent interest in his Chairman Kevin Heaney but also the clubs legal wrangling over unpaid tax. The rumours were dismissed whilst the tax bill was settled and so a debut season in the Conference South turned out satisfactory.

 

The White Tigers were quick out of the blocks almost leading the table after three games. Thereafter supporters didn’t know what side would turn up, the team that thrashed Farnborough 8-2 the highest score of the Conference South season or the players that lost 5-2 to Basingstoke Town a fortnight earlier.

One thing for sure is goals were guaranteed when the Cornwall club took to the field. Lee Hodges’ defence conceded 80 times, only Thurrock shipped in more. The White Tigers conceded in 37 matches and whilst they let in goals on 19 occasions on the road they scored in 20 of them, including finding the net in 16 consecutive away games.

This season has left some fans wondering if the club have peaked especially with the off field concerns but at least the supporters have been entertained.

Did you know…

Truro City scored 9 from the penalty spot, the most in the Conference South this season along with Dorchester Town.

The Cornwall side conceded 45 second half goals, the most by any club this season in the league.

Staines Town

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 2nd Round Top Scorer 9 – David Wheeler and Ali Chaaban

Staines Town finished fifteenth for the second year running. Last season they looked comfortable until they ended the campaign with six straight defeats and a final day draw. That type of form continued this season in Steve Cordery’s ninth and final year in charge.

Steve Cordery's final season

The Swans won two of their first 18 fixtures and up until the turn of the year looked certainties for the drop. The Middlesex club failed to keep a clean sheet and in their 23rd game faced high flying Woking. Staines Town caused an upset and won 1-0, two weeks later they repeated the score line at Chelmsford City. Perhaps this gave the squad the belief as points started to add up.

 

Steve Cordery will not be at Wheatsheaf Park next season, instead The Swans will be under the stewardship of former Wimbledon midfielder Marcus Gayle. Next season they will be hoping for a steadier campaign.

Did you know…

The Swans went 19 games without a home clean sheet and 11 without an away clean sheet.

Staines kept just one clean sheet at Wheatsheaf Park and that was in their penultimate home match.

Farnborough

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 12 – Reece Connolly

For a side that finished sixteenth, The Boro had some ups and downs in the Conference South this season. Another Hampshire club who went full time in the summer hoped to capitalise on last year’s runners up spot and push for the Conference Premier.

Spencer Day stopped the rot

Steve King was replaced by Garry Haylock and whilst the first eight games were steady Farnborough went nine matches without a win including a run of seven straight defeats, five at home as well as two absolute beatings within four days. After losing 8-2 at Truro City they were defeated 5-0 at Havant and Waterlooville, the club looked doomed.

 

Garry Haylock was sacked and Spencer Day appointed. The new boss recruited from his old club Chertsey Town and within a few weeks turned results around.  A run of six consecutive wins lifted the club up the table then two victories in the last ten saw them drop again. To cap off a topsy-turvy season the club were deducted five points for financial irregularities costing them two places.

Did you know…

The Boro did not manage a single draw at home, only Histon have gone a whole Conference South season without a draw in 2006-07.

Farnborough conceded 18 goals between 32-45 minutes and 45 times in the first half more than any other club.

The Hampshire side lost 12 times at Cherrywood Road the most home defeats in the league by any club.

Bromley

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup 2nd Round
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 13 – Hakeem Araba

A familiar tale for Bromley occurred when Hayden Bird resigned in the summer. Mark Goldberg returned for a third spell at the Kent club this time coinciding with new Chairman Ashley Reading taking over.

Hayes Lane: Home of Bromley FC

Up until October, The Lillywhites were inconsistent to say the least but eventually consistency settled in albeit the wrong type. Bromley went on a disastrous 14 match streak without victory picking up a meagre five points and so a relegation battle ensued.

 

At Hayes Lane they drew ten times and kept eight clean sheets, hardly a place if you wanted to see goals, the fewest at any venue this season. However it was their solidity which steered them to safety because from 21 January 2012 they won five, drew nine and lost just three.

The clubs highlight of the season was reaching the F.A Cup first round where they went out at Leyton Orient.

Did you know…

Bromley had the lowest average attendance of 483 out of the Kent clubs.

Eastbourne Borough

F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 11 – Ben Watson

Another club whose inconsistency ran up until October until their form took a turn for the worst. Sitting in mid-table The Sports embarked on a run of one win in 14 up to the end of January.

The Sports finished eighteenth

Garry Hill was sacked and along came former Southampton midfielder Tommy Widdrington. The Sussex club were left repairing a poor first half of the season to avoid a relegation tussle.

With wintry conditions halting much of the football played in February the following month was the most productive points wise. It was this form that kept The Sports from potential drama at the wrong end of the table although they tried their best.

 

In the final seven games they lost six and failed to score in four of them. Not quite the return to the Conference South expected by Eastbourne Borough fans.

Did you know…

The Sports conceded 18 goals between 45-60 minutes, the most by any club during this period.

Havant and Waterlooville

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 13 – Ollie Palmer

Havant and Waterlooville were involved in the most dramatic of endings to a Conference South season to survive on the final day. Entering their final match at home to Staines Town, The Hawks sat above Maidenhead United by a point.

The sun shined on Westleigh Park on the final day

After twenty minutes the Hampshire side looked in severe danger when news filtered through to Westleigh Park that Alex Wall and Reece Tison-Lascaris put Maidenhead two up against Eastleigh. To make matters worse Ali Chaaban scored for Staines Town as well.

Typical of the afternoon Havant and Waterlooville equalised courtesy of Scott Jones but straight from kick off Kyle Vassell had Staines back in front. Afterwards it looked like nothing would go right for Havant and Waterlooville when Christian Nanneti missed a penalty and so as it stood Maidenhead United were in the driving seat.

In the space of two minutes a glimmer of hope shone on Westleigh Park when Ollie Palmer equalised. A minute earlier Eastleigh’s Lee Peacock and pulled a goal back at York Road. Seven goals and a missed penalty in the first half meant the scores were Havant and Waterlooville 2 Staines Town 2 and Maidenhead United 2 Eastleigh 1.

If you thought the first half was enthralling then think again. With half an hour played the tides turned swiftly within four minutes. Eastleigh went in front with goals from Sam Wilson and Mitchell Nelson only for Tison-Lascaris to net one for Maidenhead United two minutes later, Maidenhead were all level but The Hawks were safe.

Incredibly in injury time, Staines Town fans started to taunt their opposition with news of a Paul Semakula goal to put Maidenhead United 4-3 up. The Hawks applied more and more pressure and with the last kick of the season an unlikely winner was struck by Joe Dolan, The Hawks stayed up.

Did you know…

Havant and Waterlooville conceded 18 goals between 45-60 minutes, the most in the Conference South during this period of the match.

Maidenhead United

F.A Cup 1st Round County Cup Semi Final
F.A Trophy 1st Round Top Scorer 10 – Alex Wall

Maidenhead United didn’t start too bad this campaign winning five of their first nine. Then the bad habits come back from last season in an atrocious winter.

The Magpies look down and out

Between mid-September and mid-December The Magpies picked up two points from 36, including a run of seven straight defeats and six consecutive away from home.

At home the Berkshire club had the worst defence conceding 41 times. Although form picked up after the terrible mid-season run Maidenhead United went on to lose one in eight, the final stretch put the club in a precarious position.

The heart-breaking end to the season serves as a warning to the club who were reprieved following the demise of Kettering Town and Darlington in the Conference Premier. They won’t want to go this close to relegation next time.

Did you know…

Maidenhead United went 14 matches without an away draw, the longest sequence in the Conference South this season.

The Magpies also conceded 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and between 61-75 minutes, the most during these periods.

Hampton and Richmond

F.A Cup 2nd Qualifying Round County Cup Winners
F.A Trophy 3rd Round Top Scorer 10 – Dave Tarpey

Hampton and Richmond will be plying their trade in the Isthmian Premier League next season because they never got going this season.

Jacob Erskine: Now at The Darts

The Middlesex outfit spent one week out of the bottom five and that was after the opening day of the season. In fact after 33 of their 42 matches they were in the relegation zone.

It took Hampton and Richmond ten attempts to record their first victory and a lack of fire power hindered their chances of survival. When Jacob Erskine left for playoff winners Dartford the task became harder.

Their downfall was really on their own patch where they won just three matches. Away from The Beveree Stadium an average record of tenth best in the Conference South was not quite enough.

Did you know…

Hampton and Richmond conceded in 37 out of 42 games, the most amount of games conceded in.

The Beavers scored 17 goals between 46-30 minutes, the most by any of the Conference South club this season during this period.

Thurrock

F.A Cup 3rd Qualifying Round County Cup 3rd Round
F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Top Scorer 10 – Lee Boylan

Thurrock were given a second bite of the cherry when they were reprieved last season and may have been better off in the Isthmian Premier.

Ship Lane will be hosting Isthmian Premier games next season

The Fleet set or equalled three unwanted Conference South records. The Essex club went 16 matches without a win, recorded the fewest number of victories in total and at home. Ship Lane didn’t welcome a triumph for six months going 17 without a win.

At home they failed to score in nine games, suffered 12 loses, scored a meagre 13 goals and had a goal difference of -23. Away, they went 12 without a win, 11 without a clean sheet, suffered 14 loses, netted just 20 times and conceded 40, ending up on a goal difference of -28. All of which were the worst records in the league during the 2011-12 season.

To compound the clubs misery The Fleet failed to score in 17 matches, had the worst attack scoring 33 (the least), conceded 84 (the most) and ended with a goal difference of -51. It’s safe to say that Thurrock didn’t enjoy the Conference South this time round.

Did you know…

Thurrock conceded 18 goals between 16-30 minutes and 22 goals between 76-60 minutes, the most during these periods.

 


Season Review Part Ten – A look back on 2010/2011

10 – April and May – Mission Complete

Oh Jackie Pallen!

Dartford entered the final month of the season in twelfth position and five points behind a top ten finish. Over April The Darts would play another seven league fixtures and a Kent Senior Cup Semi Final.

Lee Burns scores his first

It was a windy day in Hertfordshire which played a huge part in the result against St Albans City. Dartford started off well and forced Conor Gough into a save which he spilt then gathered up and Charlie Sheringham headed wide. Half way through the first forty five Dartford cleared their lines, Lee Burns flicked on a routine header thirty five yards from goal, and the wind carried the ball which bounced by the penalty spot. Dartford fans watched on in disbelief as Gough watched the bouncing ball sail over his head and into the net. What a way to score your first goal of the season, bizarre indeed. Burns celebrated in style, having recently become a father he cradled the tiny Lee Noble, typical Burnsy, no one could be happier. The crowd started to sing, “Where were you when Burnsy scored?” about time we all thought.

Early into the second half The Darts threatened with a couple of headers but it was the home side that made their chance count.  A long ball fell into Tony Battersby’s path and he neatly finished equalising for The Saints. The side at the bottom of the table came back into the game and when Paul Goodacre committed a foul a penalty was awarded. Battersby stepped up to make it two, struck his shot and smashed the cross bar.

Young Jack Pallen was given a start up front and when there was five minutes to go he chased down the ball forcing the St Albans defender into a mistake. Pallen was through one on one with Gough then slotted the ball beyond the keeper, Jack won the match.

St Albans City 1 Dartford 2 – Highlights

A Trip to the Coast

The emergence of Jack Pallen saw a change to the playing staff. Carl Rook went out on loan and Tony Burman signed winger James Rogers.  The Darts made the journey to the coast to take on Ramsgate in the Kent Senior Cup Semi Final. Now the side had got this far and silverware was in our grasp this competition mattered because it had been fifteen years since Dartford reached a cup final.

Sheringham's spot kick

The Rams held Dartford in the first half as both sides failed to score in the opening forty five minutes. In the second half,  Ramsgate failed to clear a corner and Tom Champion scuffed a half volley towards goal, Charlie Sheringham instinctively blasted the ball into the roof of the net from a couple of yards out, 1-0.

The lead was doubled when Jack Pallen was felled in the box and Sheringham converted the spot-kick for his fourth goal in this year’s competition. And just to make sure the tie was finished off ten minutes from time when Ryan Hayes stylishly cut inside to polish off Ramsgate with goal number three. The Darts had made it through to the Bank Holiday May finale.

Ramsgate 0 Dartford 3 – Kent Senior Cup Semi Final Highlights

Playing Without Fear

The win at St Albans City meant Dartford booked their place in next seasons Conference South. However, Tony Burman was determined for his side to finish in the top ten and play to the end. This type of attitude showed against the in form Woking who had taken an impressive 38 points from their last 45.

The first half was more than dramatic at Princes Park. Elliot Bradbrook was deemed to have handled in his penalty box. The decision was harsh considering Bradbrook was facing the opposite direction and the ball hit is hand. The experienced former football league player Elvis Hammond stepped up, the Dartford fans waited for the spot kick. Hammond struck the ball; Andrew Young guessed right, the ball rolled past the post and the scores stayed level.  The penalty count levelled up when Lee Noble was bundled to the floor giving Charlie Sheringham the opportunity to put Dartford in front. Sheringham stepped up, the Dartford fans waited for the spot kick. Sheringham struck the ball; Andy Little guessed right, the ball rolled past the post and the scores stayed level, déjà vu.

With fifteen minutes left to play in the first half no one could afford to blink, it was all action. Andrew Burgess took a free kick from way out on the right and his effort flew over Young into the far top corner. It was a goal Dartford fans had seen Ryan Hayes score on many occasions, this time the goal went against The Darts. Woking deserved the lead but were left completely stunned.

In the space of four minutes the following took place. Dartford won a corner on the left which was sent into the box by Lee Noble. Elliot Bradbrook rose the highest and headed in the equaliser. A couple of minutes later Lee Burns played a short pass into Jack Pallen who spotted a diagonal run by Sheringham. Pallen picked out his fellow striker, Sheringham slid in to win the ball. Sheringham got to his feet the quickest and lifted the ball over the Little into the goal. Unbelievably it did not stop there when Sheringham flicked the ball into Pallen’s path he expertly blasted in the third, what a turnaround.

Charlie Sheringham lifts the ball goalwards

The Darts played with confidence in the second half but failed to increase the lead and when Woking’s Adam Doyle was dismissed the game looked over.  With seven minutes remaining the visitors won another penalty, the third of the game. Craig Dobson was on duty after Hammond’s earlier miss, he scored to give The Cards a life line but it was all too late.

Dartford 3 Woking 2 – Highlights

Super Mario Defeats The Darts

With a cup final place in the bag and a placed in next year’s Conference South, Dartford’s top ten quest was dealt three fatal blows in the space of a week. Boreham Wood destroyed The Darts back in October with the help of Mario Noto and he was at it again.

Charlie Sheringham gave The Darts the lead to make amends for his second penalty miss in consecutive games.  The striker failed to score after Lee Noble won a penalty and his spot kick was saved.  Dartford won penalty number two when Tom Bonner was hauled down, this time Sheringham went down the middle to give The Darts the lead.

Noto again: Mario takes The Darts apart

A minute before the break Mario Noto curled a superb free kick beyond Andrew Young to level. After the restart Noto beat Young for a second time when another curled effort was unstoppable. For the second game in a row a third penalty was awarded which gave Noto the chance to complete a hat trick, he did. To make things worse The Wood netted a fourth through David Bryant and Lee Burns was sent off.  Noto had now scored five of Boreham Wood’s seven goals against Dartford.

Dartford 1 Boreham Wood 4 – Highlights

Fogden Strikes Again

In a jam packed week Dartford travelled to Hampshire on a Monday night to face Havant and Waterlooville. The pitch at Westleigh Park wasn’t pretty and neither was the result. After a few chances for Tony Burman’s side the home team opened the scoring on thirty three minutes. Dartford’s defence were caught napping and Sammy Igoe’s cross was turned into the net by Wes Fogden. Dartford pushed for an equaliser knowing victory against The Hawks will aid their top ten finish and potentially damage Havant and Waterlooville’s chances. It wasn’t to be and the Hampshire side took the three points.

Havant and Waterlooville 1 Dartford 0 – Highlights

Dress Rehearsal

Defeat against Havant and Waterlooville meant the Good Friday match against Bromley was crucial. It was Havant and Bromley in Dartford’s way to gate crashing the top ten. The fixture at Hayes Lane was also a dress rehearsal for the Kent Senior Cup Final. The dress rehearsal was a disaster.

The Ravens took the lead through Jerry Nnamani and three minutes later Jerrome Sobers doubled their advantage. Charlie Sheringham gave Dartford a lifeline from the spot before half time but two second half goals from Warren McBean and Leon McKenzie completed Bromley’s victory.

Bromley 4 Dartford 1 – Highlights

A Glorious Day

Three defeats in a row and the return of Jon Main in a Dover Athletic shirt had the Dartford fans up for this fixture. The rivalry between Dartford and Dover in the last five years had increased as their paths have crossed more recently. Like Good Friday the sun was beaming down and inside Princes Park the atmosphere was cooking. It is fair to say that Dover has had the upper hand over Dartford for some time but after the 2-0 win by The Darts in November the double was on.

The game started at pace and continued throughout the first half. The Dartford midfield worked tirelessly and combined some good moves but neither side could fashion a goal scoring chance until mid-way into the first forty five. Lee Noble lined up a corner on the left and sent the cross into the crowded box. Charlie Sheringham lost his marker with a run to the near post and flicked the ball into the opposite corner, Princes Park erupted.

Lee Noble and Lee Burns linked up well on the edge of the box and Burns’ volley was parried wide by Ross Flitney. Noble then led a counter attack which failed to materialise and his curling effort later on just missed the target. Noble was everywhere dictating the middle of the park and setting up attacks. Dover survived the first half only a goal down.

Dartford end their home campaign on a high

Ten minutes into the second half Burns played the ball inside to Elliot Bradbrook. The captain laid the ball off to Tom Champion and side footed the ball tamely towards goal, a slight deflection later and the lead was doubled, The Darts were ecstatic. Three minutes on and Andrew Young punted a goal kick to the half way line. Charlie Sheringham headed the ball onwards, Burns flicked on with his head and Danny Harris pounced onto the ball and expertly lobbed Flitney, 3-0 the crowd went crazy. The Dartford players celebrated with the fans, Dover players looked on head in hands and stunned.

To the credit of a handful of Dover fans who kept supporting their club and making noise The Whites tried to get back into the game but found Dartford difficult to break down. Adam Birchall was kept quiet and his only major chance one on one with Andrew Young saw The Darts goalkeeper come out on top. Ross Flitney had to twice tip shots over the bar in the Dover goal as Dartford attempted to increase their lead. After a corner was kept alive Noble took a pop at goal inside the eighteen yard box, Sheringham reached out a leg controlled the ball and poked the ball with the outside of his foot passed Flitney, 4-0 to The Darts, what a way to finish Princes Park’s league campaign for 2010/2011.

Dartford 4 Dover Athletic 0 – Highlights

In at Number Ten

30 April 2011 and Dartford’s long season was to end at Maidenhead United. Whilst The Darts were playing for top ten finish their opponents needed just a point to stay up. Dartford needed to win and hope Bromley were defeated by Eastleigh.

The first half passed by with the home side happy to see out the game and use up time. At the break all looked well for both sides because Bromley and Thurrock were two goals down at the interval. In the second half The Darts threw a spanner in the works when Charlie Sheringham latched onto Ryan Hayes through ball to lob Steve Williams in the Maidenhead goal. A second goal followed fifteen minutes later when Jack Pallen and Sheringham combined on the edge of the box. Pallen finished netting his second league goal of the season, the academy player was settling in just nicely. Two turned to three in the seventy second minute when Ryan Hayes hit a right footed volley sweetly into the corner.  The season was ending on a high, Bromley were still two goals down and Thurrock had managed to pull their game back to 3-2. The Darts partied, The Magpies were on edge.

Maidenhead were not finished yet and substitute Craig Faulconbridge’s glancing header with eleven minutes on the clock gave The Magpies some impetus. Jefferson Louis pulled another goal back with five minutes remaining; surely The Darts wouldn’t throw it away? Then in the dying moments of the season Louis turned his man, fired in a shot, over the cross bar. A close call in the end as the game finished 3-2.

Knowledge of results from elsewhere arrived at York Road. Farnborough 3 Thurrock 2, Maidenhead was safe. Bromley 0 Eastleigh 2, Dartford had gate crashed the top ten.

Braintree Town departed the Conference South as champions. Farnborough Town and Ebbsfleet United overcome Woking and Chelmsford City in the playoffs respectively. Ebbsfleet United won the playoff 4-2 to join Braintree in the Conference National. St Albans City and Lewes were relegated and Thurrock was given a reprieve due to the demise of Rushden and Diamonds in the league above, Bishop’s Stortford moved to the Conference North. Joining the Conference South for 2011/2012 is Sutton United and Tonbridge Angels from the Isthmian Premier League as well as Salisbury City and Truro City from the Southern Premier League. The new adventure awaits.

Maidenhead United 2 Dartford 3 – Highlights

For The Win?

Last time Dartford made it to a cup final was in 1996 so it had been a long time coming. Bromley had won the Kent Senior Cup in 2007 when they retained the prize. The two sides drew 2-2 at Princes Park back in September but the 4-1 defeat to Bromley on Good Friday was still fresh in the memory of players, staff and supporters. The final was to be held at Princes Park and crowd of 2025 made the effort to see who would be crowned champions of Kent.

Tony Burman stuck with Deren Ibrahim in goal who had played in every round, the rest of the team was as you would expect as The Darts aimed to win their third piece of silverware in four years. An expectant crowd wanted to taste glory again and typically a mix of excitement and nerves filled Princes Park.

Dartford started steadily passing the ball around in midfield using their full backs to good effect. Tom Champion won possession and played the ball back to Paul Goodacre. Tom Bonner received the pass and touched the ball inside to Elliot Bradbrook. Bradbrook exchanged a one two with Lee Noble then played the ball wide to Matt Jones. Jones knocked the ball wide to Ryan Hayes who was making his two hundredth start, he cut inside and whipped in an in swinger. Noble was on the end of it unmarked, the header went wide. A promising opening, Noble kicked the post knowing he should have scored.

The Darts celebrate the opener

Bromley hit back when Ibrahim was forced into a reaction save at the near post and the resulting corner was scrambled clear. The next chance came from Dartford when Danny Harris was given space and his curler was deflected out for a corner. Twenty minutes had passed and Hayes swung the corner towards goal, Charlie Sheringham nodded the ball across the crowded six yard box and Bradbrook poked the ball in, just what the Captain ordered.

Straight from kick off Bromley directly carved their way through the Dartford team, Harry Harding was one on one with Young, what a waste from the Bromley player as he blasted the ball over, Dartford went to sleep and were let off. The first half was suddenly over it had all gone so quickly and The Darts had the narrow advantage.

Five minutes into the second half and Bonner took a throw in the corner of the Bromley half, his throw was laid back to him and a first time cross bounced through three Bromley defenders. Hayes was waiting, looked up and calmly picked out the far corner with a side footed shot, Dartford doubled their lead. Hayes ran to the corner flag slid on his knees got up and ‘sang’ using the flag as a microphone. Dartford fans sang knowing silverware was in their grasp.

The Darts started to play with more confidence, Sheringham’s spin and shot went harmlessly over, Hayes tricked his way down the left side, Bromley were on the edge as Dartford won another corner. Hayes swung the ball underneath the goal posts, Craig Holloway fumbled and after fifty five minutes Dartford were three to the good. Hayes was congratulated and out came his imaginary guitar.

Dartford fans were starting to have fun knowing the cup was as good as theirs and if anyone had doubts they didn’t on the hour. Sheringham’s vision picked out Hayes and his first time low cross to the far post reached Harris who was lurking to tap the ball in, 4-0. The players knew the job was done. Although Bromley pulled one back through Warren McBean fifteen minutes from time, Dartford won the Kent Senior Cup for the tenth time in their history.

Dartford F.C - Kent Senior Cup Winners

The celebrations went on into the evening, a third trophy in four years. Back in January, who would have thought Dartford would finish in the top ten and win a cup? Tony Burman, his staff, his players, and supporters had achieved the best set of results since 1989. Dartford Football Club finished tenth in the Conference South, reached the last sixteen of the F.A Trophy, the first round of the F.A Cup and is now the Champions of Kent.

Dartford 4 Bromley 1 – Kent Senior Cup Final Highlights

Kent Senior Cup Final Presentation

Dartford for the win!

Pos Team Pld W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 42 27 8 7 78 33 +45 89
2 Farnborough 42 25 7 10 83 47 +36 82
3 Ebbsfleet United 42 22 12 8 75 51 +24 78
4 Chelmsford City 42 23 8 11 82 50 +32 77
5 Woking 42 22 10 10 62 42 +20 76
6 Welling United* 42 24 8 10 81 47 +34 75
7 Dover Athletic 42 22 8 12 80 51 +29 74
8 Eastleigh 42 22 6 14 74 53 +21 72
9 Havant & W 42 16 10 16 56 51 +5 58
10 Dartford 42 15 12 15 60 60 0 57
11 Bromley 42 15 12 15 49 61 -12 57
12 Weston-super-Mare 42 15 8 19 56 67 -11 53
13 Basingstoke Town 42 13 10 19 50 63 -13 49
14 Boreham Wood 42 12 11 19 56 67 -11 47
15 Staines Town 42 11 14 17 48 63 -15 47
16 Bishop’s Stortford 42 13 6 23 48 79 -31 45
17 Dorchester Town 42 10 14 18 49 59 -10 44
18 Hampton & Richmond 42 9 15 18 43 60 -17 42
19 Maidenhead United 42 10 10 22 43 70 -27 40
20 Thurrock 42 8 13 21 50 77 -27 37
21 Lewes 42 9 9 24 34 70 -36 36
22 St Albans City** 42 7 13 22 39 75 -36 24

*Welling United deducted five points

**St Albans City deducted ten points

Stuart Maidment

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins, videos courtesy of Ray Cherry.

 

Season Review Part Nine– A look back on 2010/2011

9 – March – Heading To Safety

Lucky Winner

After a fantastic February Dartford players and supporters were keen to begin March after a rare Saturday off. The Darts hosted Basingstoke Town on a Tuesday night with just two points separating the sides. For once this season Dartford were looking at the teams to catch rather than the teams hot on their heels, confidence in the team had turned for the better.

Although the first half was lacklustre with only half chances for either side the match was still in the balance. Basingstoke created their best chance mid-way through the first half when Frankie Raymond’s tremendous volley from the edge of the box looked goal bound, Andrew Young was equal to the Raymond’s skill and expertly tipped the ball over the crossbar. At half time the scores with level with neither team scoring. Dartford’s best opportunity came from Elliot Bradbrook’s volley which tested the alert Chay Morris who palmed the ball out for a corner. Billy Burgess was cautioned for a desperate challenge on the edge of his own box and just before half time Greg Draper went down running slightly away from goal, Burgess was the culprit again. The referee called Burgess over, oh no this looks ominous we thought, phew no card.

The second half favoured The Darts has the breeze picked up behind them. Jon Main shot wide from ten yards and Charlie Sheringham’s effort was well blocked. Basingstoke should have gone in front when Greg Draper headed wide from just five yards.

Callum Reynolds

Then on sixty five minutes a comedy yet unfortunate piece of misjudgement changed the game.  Dartford would not allow Basingstoke out of their half by pressing hard. Possession was won and Lee Noble picked up the loose ball which stayed glued to his feet. Unchallenged Noble continued to drive forward and unleashed a shot from 25 yards. Morris opted to catch the powerful strike but it slipped through his grasp, slowly the ball looped up onto the top of the cross bar and as it fell the unfortunate Callum Reynolds ran straight at the ball which hit his chest and over the line, comedy, fortunate but a Dartford goal nonetheless. From then on Dartford played better and hung on to victory.

Dartford 1 Basingstoke Town 0 – Highlights

The Late Show

Maidenhead United was on the slide and fast and they were next up at Princes Park. The Magpies had one victory to their name in the last 16 matches, scoring goals was not Maidenhead forte. Dartford only experienced one defeat in their last ten, a foregone conclusion?

Maidenhead started brightly and on just five minutes a quick turn from Kieran Knight and a delicious shot struck the corner of the cross bar. Andrew Young’s reflexes were required when a counter attack caught out The Darts; Young palmed the ball single headedly over the bar.

Charlie Sheringham blew a one on one chance on the half hour and the follow up by Lee Burns was headed over by the retreating defender. Burns, last season top scorer had still to break his duck; the crowd was urging Burnsy to score. Dartford looked like they could break the deadlock but a scuff here and a poor final touch in the box kept the game goalless.

Maidenhead United struck the cross bar for the second time in the match in the second half. The Magpies should have edged in front before the sixty minute mark when Young saved one on one but was rounded on the rebound only for the shot to hit the side netting.

Tony Burman, often questioned about his late substitution took action early. On the hour he replaced Lee Burns and Jon Main with Ryan Hayes and Danny Harris. The game turned and The Darts started to find some rhythm. Matt Jones launched a throw in to the near post and Bradbrook flicked the ball on, Sheringham pounced from close range heading into the net, the crowd erupted with relief.

Captain Bradbrook makes it two for The Darts

Victory was finally sealed two minutes from time. Ryan Hayes was sent down the right wing and looked up to spot Bradbrook at the far post. A low curling cross found the captain who took his chance well, 2-0. In the last minute the score was increased when Bradbrook scored again from another Hayes cross. The header from Bradbrook was too much for the Maidenhead goalkeeper who could only palm the ball in the side of the goal, 3-0, and third consecutive clean sheet and win, almost safe.

Dartford 3 Maidenhead United 0 – Highlights

Darts Demolish Whitstable

A mid-week Kent Senior Cup tie against Whitstable Town gave Deren Ibrahim and Adam Burchell their run out. Tony Burman’s men swept aside Isthmian Division One South side Whitstable Town in the last eight to record their biggest win of the season. Danny Harris opened the scoring on eight minutes when he pounced on a defensive error to curl the ball into the bottom corner from just outside the box. Whitstable levelled the tie five minutes later when a well worked move was finished by Lloyd Blackman. Just before the break, loanee Jon Main placed a sublime right footed curler into the top corner to make it 2-1.

Adam Burchell made it three by tapping into the empty net from inside the six yard box. The Darts hit the post and had a goal chalked off for offside before Tom Bonner added a fourth from two yards out as he reacted quickly to a rebound. Minutes later a deep cross from Ryan Hayes was kept in play by Burchell’s flick and finished off coolly by Charlie Sheringham. Another Dartford goal was ruled out for offside before Hayes’ free kick was nodded in for Burchell’s second and Dartford’s sixth. Dartford easily negotiated their way to the semi-finals.

Dartford 6 Whitstable Town 1 – Kent Senior Cup Quarter Final Highlights

Draw at The Camrose

Yes it’s a cliché in football but the trip to The Camrose really was a game of two halves. A very entertaining first forty five was followed up by a goalless stalemate in the second half. With Dartford fans still settling in the ground after a tipple at the bar, Delano Sam-Yorke got Basingstoke off to an explosive start by netting inside the first minute, an absolute shocker to concede. It was just a punt out of defence which led to a chase between Sam-Yorke and Joe Bruce, the Basingstoke striker made up the ground and poked the ball past the onrushing Andrew Young.

It took three more minutes for a bit of Ryan Hayes magic when his double step over was followed by skipping past an oncoming defender, this gave Hayes the necessary room to curl a low shot into the far corner, a brilliantly taken goal from the edge of the box. Twenty minutes later Hayes took free kick just of centre about 25 yards out, he curled the ball but Chay Morris touched the ball on the post.  The ball was kept alive and crossed towards Charlie Sheringham whose header was cleared off the line, however Danny Harris arrived late at the far post and bundled the ball into the net, Dartford had the lead. The lead was to last a quarter of an hour even though Dartford was in control, the tormentor was Sam-Yorke again. The striker cut inside waltzed through the defence and hit a hard low shot beyond Young.

Ryan Hayes scores with a fantastic solo effort

An exhilarating first half outshone the second which did still have its moments and continued to be played at a high tempo. Matthew Pattinson exquisite chip over Young looked like Basingstoke was going to take the lead, only for Young to magnificently tip the ball over. Elliot Bradbrook came close for The Darts and Pattison again caused trouble when his long range effort had Young rooted to the spot. The inside of the post saved Dartford, the scores stayed level. The woodwork took a battering, Matt Jones, Lee Burns, Tom Champion and Sheringham linked up. Charlie skilfully chested the ball down and on the volley hit a beauty, surely goal of the season, thud, the cross bar rocked again. Finally in the last five minutes Stuart Lake was left in space to win the game for Basingstoke, Dartford defenders watched on and was relieved when the ball again hit the woodwork. What an entertaining draw.

Basingstoke Town 2 Dartford 2 – Highlights

Goalless

Not every game can be as entertaining as the last but Dartford fans were happy with the result considering a) the poor record against Eastleigh b) it was another point towards our total and safety and c) Eastleigh looked the better side. Tony Burman’s side looked tired but put in enough effort to earn the draw. Andrew Young was kept busy, Eastleigh struck the cross bar twice and The Darts worked hard to keep The Spitfires at bay. Not a pleasant evening for entertainment but no one in a Dartford shirt cared, a point is a point.

Dartford 0 Eastleigh 0 – Highlights

The Darts are defeated at Wheatsheaf Park

Staines Massive

An away trip to Staines Town had Dartford eyeing up a top ten finish. The Swans was close enough in the league for this match to have some significance. Wheatsheaf Park was brought to life on four minutes when the home side went in front from a quick break finished by Andre Scarlett. Lee Burns squandered a chance to equalise as his search for his first goal of the season continued. Unfortunately the lead was doubled when Elliot Onochie cut into the box and set up Scott Taylor who made it two. Staines Town continued to control the game, Andrew Young made some vital saves but the Middlesex side were comfortable winners. Not all bad though it was only a second defeat in 13 matches for The Darts.

Staines Town 2 Dartford 0 – Highlights

Charlie Finds His Goal Scoring Boots

At this stage of the season there was only one side Dartford had not yet played and this was St Albans City. The Saints were in turmoil after a ten point deduction back and a run of six defeats out of seven in February. The Hertfordshire club did pick up form before the meeting at Princes Park by winning two in a row and holding league leaders Braintree Town. St Albans were as good as relegated due to their deduction of points and so some of the pressure was off their players. Dartford was as good as safe but with their eyes on a top ten finish.

Early on Lee Noble’s energetic run down the flank resulted in a cross to the far post which Charlie Sheringham headed downwards onto the foot of the post. Then when Lee Burns was sent through the moment everyone was waiting for arrived, surely his first goal of the season? Burns delicately cushioned a volley over the onrushing goalkeeper but the ball could not come down soon enough, the crowd groaned in desperation for Burnsy to score the elusive goal.

The Darts was looking bright and St Albans plugged away creating a few half chances. On 33 minutes The Saints attacked and Inih Effiong’s run was not picked out. He strolled through the gaping hole in the defence and as the ball fell to his feet he side footed the ball in off the post and so The Saints took the lead, a lead which lasted all of two minutes. A clever free kick from Dartford levelled the scores. Noble ran over the dead ball and past the right of the wall, James White shaped to shoot but passed to Noble. The effective midfielder cut inside one man took a shot which was parried into the path of Sheringham, 1-1. The first half included a 20 man brawl when Matt Jones went over the top with a lunging tackle; the referee booked a handful of players. Dartford also hit the crossbar and from two rebounds goalkeeper Paul Bastock somehow kept The Darts at bay.

Charlie Sheringham celebrates another goal

The second half followed suit and was packed with incidents too.  Danny Harris waltzed into the box for his scuffed effort was smothered by Bastock. On 51 minutes a long clearance was chased down by Burns he managed a shot/pass across goal and Sheringham outpaced the defender to tap in at the far post. Yet again the lead lasted a few minutes; Effiong’s persistent running and hold up play earned St Albans a reward when his measured cross was met by the head of Ollie Kelly to level the match. James White was then dismissed for the second time of the season when he was cautioned for a second time.

With a numerical advantage The Saints missed a sitter, hit the cross bar and was denied by Andrew Young in the Dartford goal. Tony Burman replaced Sheringham with Jon Main and Noble with Ryan Hayes, two changes which could have proved crucial. In the last minute Main chased Young’s drop kick, Bastock spilled the ball and Main applied pressure to Bastock. Bastock hauled Main down in the box, a penalty was awarded. Hayes grabbed the ball as quickly as he could sense a winner. He placed the ball on the spot, ran up and struck the ball left footed. Bastock had guessed the wrong way, thwack. The ball hit the post the game ended 2-2.

Dartford 2 St Albans City 2 – The Highlights

Super Shezza

Tony Burman signed James Rogers before the match against Lewes and handed him his first start in a Dartford shirt. The Darts were solid and the struggling Lewes side failed to get going in a fixture they needed to win to help boost their survival hopes.

Rogers made an impressive debut and coupled with Lee Burns’ endless running The Darts was in control. Burns volleyed narrowly wide in the first minute, he was getting closer. Lee Noble’s rasping volley on the edge of the box was parried, Lewes experienced an early onslaught. Three minutes later Princes Park witnessed a moment of pure magic. The ball bounced between two Lewes defenders and Danny Harris who anticipated the bounce pounced, the ball sat up nicely and he unleashed a corker of a volley across the goalkeeper and into the top corner.

Burns tried and tried to score again but could not apply the finishing touches missing a one on one. The crowd felt his frustration but continued urge him on. Then on 25 minutes super Charlie Sheringham doubled the lead at the far post with a header in off the bar, a scrappy but deserved second. In the second half Ryan Hayes was introduced again by Burman and caused Lewes problems. His chip forward found fellow substitute Jon Main who looped a cross towards Sheringham. Charlie expertly chested the ball, turned and hooked his shot low into the near post, a splendid move and a second brace in two games for Sheringham.

Dartford 3 Lewes 0 – Highlights

Marching On

The Darts had climbed up to twelfth place with a solid run of games. Tony Burman lost the services of striker Jon Main who returned to his parent club. Main was then loaned back out to rivals Dover Athletic causing a minor stir. Farnborough closed the gap at the top to just one with a tremendous March, they stretched their superb run to eight wins and a draw without defeat. Braintree Town were difficult to beat but tended to be drawing more games. Woking’s exceptional form propelled them into the playoffs at the expense of Chelmsford City. Throughout February and March Woking had won eleven, lost one and drew one, keeping ten clean sheets. St Albans City was twelve points adrift of safety with Maidenhead United and Lewes making up the bottom three, Thurrock had a four point cushion. With a month to go the title was open and the relegation battle continued.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 35 22 7 6 65 29 +36 73
2 Farnborough 35 22 6 7 72 38 +34 72
3 Welling United* 36 22 6 8 74 42 +32 67
4 Ebbsfleet United 35 18 10 7 62 46 +16 64
5 Woking 35 18 8 9 49 33 +16 62
6 Eastleigh 34 18 6 10 60 43 +17 60
7 Chelmsford City 36 18 8 10 69 45 +24 62
8 Dover Athletic 35 18 6 11 67 45 +22 60
9 Havant and W 33 15 7 11 50 40 +10 52
10 Bromley 36 13 11 12 41 51 -10 50
11 Staines Town 35 11 13 11 44 46 -2 46
12 Dartford 35 11 12 12 46 46 0 45
13 Weston-super-Mare 36 13 7 16 47 53 -6 46
14 Basingstoke Town 35 10 10 15 39 50 -11 40
15 Hampton and Richmond 34 8 13 13 40 45 -5 37
16 Dorchester Town 35 9 10 16 43 52 -9 37
17 Boreham Wood 35 8 10 17 46 62 -16 34
18 Bishop’s Stortford 35 9 6 20 37 71 -34 33
19 Thurrock 36 7 11 18 42 68 -26 32
21 Lewes 36 7 7 22 29 63 -34 28
22 Maidenhead United 34 6 8 20 31 60 -29 26
20 St Albans City** 36 6 12 18 35 60 -25 20

*Welling United deducted five points

**St Albans City deducted ten points

Stuart Maidment

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins, videos courtesy of Ray Cherry.


 

Season Review Part Eight– A look back on 2010/2011

8 – Mid-January to February – Dartford on Tour

Bouncebackability

Whilst Dartford was falling Farnborough was rising. The Boro had won three consecutive matches and striker Bradley Bubb was scoring for fun with eight goals in his last five league matches. The Darts had no chance especially if the last match between the two sides in August was anything to go by. Before the game Tony Burman signed full back Matt Jones from Bishop’s Stortford, George Purcell and Lee Burns were ruled out through injury.

Lee Noble who was recalled from his loan spell was on form and Dartford’s main hope, in the twelfth minute he was taken out in the penalty box. Dartford fans behind the goal were jubilant, great start. Charlie Sheringham stepped up to the spot to place his shot right footed and sent the goalkeeper the wrong way.

The lead lasted just eight minutes when on form striker Bradley Bubb was released on the left, his shot was struck well enough. Andrew Young pushed the ball upwards but it looped into the far corner. Dartford defenders all looked at one another, shoulders shrugged, here we go again.

Noble continued to weave inside out causing Farnborough some problems, he harassed, scurried at their defenders to put them under pressure. His enthusiasm rubbed off on the Dartford team until it went a step too far. Noble knocked the ball out to Elliot Bradbrook on the right who put in a deep cross to the far post. A misplaced header across the six yard box enticed Farnborough goalkeeper Michael Jordan to go for the ball. Noble steamed forward in an over enthusiastic attempt to win possession. The ball hit the goalkeeper; Noble’s outstretched leg went into Jordan’s chest. The referee charged to the scene, Farnborough players were furious and surrounded the referee, the red card was pulled out, Noble was sent off. The Dartford players were furious with the Boro reaction. Everything calmed down. The Darts had to play 55 minutes a man down. No chance for a win, let’s hope for a draw.

Tom Champion takes the plaudits

Adversity galvanised Dartford and three minutes after the restart Jon Main was sent through but the ball got caught between his feet. Main turned with his back to goal and layed the ball off to the onrushing Sheringham. Charlie drove the shot low and hard into the bottom corner from 19 yards, a quality finish, and an unexpected lead.

Fifteen minutes later, The Darts grew in confidence and boxed Farnborough into their own corner. The Boro tried to clear their lines three times and Dartford kept pressing. Main won possession and passed to Sheringham who looked up to notice Tom Champion on the edge of the ‘d’ and crossed the ball. One bounce, Champion adjusted his body, wrapped his right foot around the ball and his stunning volley landed in the top far corner of the net. The head strapped Champion milked the plaudits from the crowd, he deserved it. What was going on? Farnborough was shell shocked.

The Darts was denied a penalty, Main was denied by Jordan, it looked like Farnborough was a man down.  Then on 73 minutes The Boro failed to clear again from a corner. Sheringham flicked the ball on and Danny Harris nodded the ball past the goalkeeper at the near post, 4-1. Incredible afternoon.

Dartford 4 Farnborough 1 – Highlights

A New Cup Adventure

A new cup adventure began. Okay so it was ‘only the Kent Senior Cup’ but for some fans it was a realistic opportunity to land some silverware. The Kent Senior Cup is like the Football League Cup in some ways. Do we go for it? Do we try out some youngsters? Is it a chance to win something or a waste of time? However you feel about the cup it was here and Dartford faced Isthmian Premier League outfit Tonbridge Angels. Tony Burman opted for the young and promising Deren Ibrahim in goal and gave Adam Burchell a run out, other than that the first eleven could have started a league match.

Danny Harris opened the scoring on the hour when Ryan Hayes’ deep free kick to the far post was knocked down to Harris who swept the ball home. Charlie Sheringham replaced Hayes in the 85th minute then wrapped up the win. Sheringham took the ball down on his chest before cutting inside the defender and curling the ball beyond the Tonbridge keeper into the net. The Darts negotiated their way through the first round.

Dartford 2 Tonbridge Angels 0 – Kent Senior Cup First Round Highlights

Out of Harms Way

Despite the incredible win against the odds versus Farnborough, Dartford was still in the bottom three. The atmosphere surrounding the club lifted after a second win in succession against Tonbridge Angels. Next up was mid-table side Bishop’s Stortford who The Darts demolished earlier in the season.

Lee Noble was lively and was blocked off the ball early on, blood was spilt, and the challenge was nasty enough for Noble to change his shirt and to be bandaged up. The knock back failed to stop the midfielder as he controlled the game with his intricacy and skill; the sides were level at the break.

In the second half, Danny Harris was sent clear and rounded the goalkeeper. Harris went to ground, the referee deemed it a dive, yellow card, contentious decision. Jon Main was shut out, Bonner shot straight at the keeper, and Dartford was defending and playing on the break. With sixteen minutes remaining Noble delivered a low in swinger from the left, Billy Burgess jumped over the ball and Charlie Sheringham with his back towards goal turned on a sixpence and fired into the roof of the net, brilliant finish. The afternoon in Hertfordshire was a success, a third consecutive win and second consecutive clean sheet, 1-0 it finished. Out of the bottom three.

Bishops Stortford 0 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Thou Shall Not Pass

Princes Park hosted league leaders Braintree Town in a fiery encounter against The Darts. Dartford was growing in confidence but knew this would be a difficult fixture. The supporters started to believe, the team gained momentum, and everyone was starting to pull together. The Irons had won six in a row with strikers Sean Marks and Jamie Guy scoring eleven between them in the last seven matches.

Braintee Town showed why they were comfortable league leaders early on when Kenny Davis tested Andrew Young. Dartford’s Danny Harris failed to get on the end of Jon Main’s cross then on seventeen minutes, controversy. Charlie Sheringham went up for a header just inside the Braintree half; Matt Paine fell to the ground clutching his face. It was hard to tell what had happened but referee was convinced Sheringham threw an elbow to Paine’s face, red card, and uphill struggle.

Later on in the first half Irons player Kenny Davis was more than fortunate. When on the halfway line he lunged two footed at Danny Harris, the tackle was a shocker, the Dartford fans gasped in horror it was that bad. The referee unbelievably played on as Braintree won possession back and attacked, at which point the referee put a stop to the game. Braintree players raced towards the referee furious he stopped their attack, the man in black lost control of the match. Complete injustice for Dartford.

 

Captain Bradbrook nets the only goal of the game in a fiery contest

Like the Farnborough game the poor refereeing decisions galvanised Dartford supporters who remained incensed. The second half was tough; Dartford players worked their socks off against 11 men and the officials, as if it wasn’t hard enough playing the league leaders. Dartford held out until 81 minutes when the crucial moment arrived.  Lee Noble persisted to keep control off the ball on the half way line but was bundled over. The ball trickled to Elliot Bradbrook, The Captain dinked the ball forward which rolled underneath the foot of the Braintree centre half. Suddenly Jon Main was in, his first touch was heavy, his second was almost smothered by the goalkeeper, the ball bobbled up, Bradbrook reacted and side footed goal wards, goal! The Darts had beaten the odds again. Four consecutive wins, three consecutive clean sheets. Onwards and upwards.

Dartford 1 Braintree Town 0 – Highlights

The Darts Head North East

It was onwards and upwards indeed as The Darts and their faithful travelled to the north east. Dartford faced Conference National side Gateshead in the last sixteen of the F.A Trophy. Quite literally the journey was just too far for the Dartford players.

Phil Turnball’s deflected shot gave Gateshead the lead just before the break, if only The Darts could have held on. In the second half Gateshead were in control as they used their wingers to good effect. Substitute Brain Wake doubled the lead four minutes from time and with Dartford pressing forward were caught out again in the last minute by Kris Gale. Gateshead was barely troubled but like the Port Vale game in the F.A Cup the adventure was fun, Dartfordians could be proud.

 

This is Hardcore: Dartford fans travelled all the way to the North East

Gateshead 3 Dartford 0 – F.A Trophy Third Round Highlights

Gateshead to Weston

After the long trip north east The Darts and their travelling contingent travelled west as they clocked up the miles. A Tuesday night at Weston Super-Mare was to follow; a side Dartford soundly beat 4-1 back in September. The Seagulls was winless in six losing their last three, Dartford had won three league matches on the bounce.

Weston started brightly and Justin Porter tested the reflexes of Andrew Young. There were very few chances in the first half. The best efforts from The Darts came from Carl Rook and Charlie Sheringham. A tight game ensued and the second half was much the same until Weston’s Jamie Laird lost his footing, Sheringham turned quickly and beat goalkeeper Lloyd Irish in the 73rd minute. The season was turning around, another win, and another clean sheet.

Jon Main's first for Dartford

Loanee Strikes

The battle between Dartford and Braintree Town just eleven days ago was still fresh in the memory.  Charlie Sheringham was controversially sent off whilst Braintree’s Kenny Davis was lucky to stay on the pitch. Dartford supporters were still aggrieved by the events and really wanted to put one over the league leaders, furthermore our very own Ray Cherry was not allowed to film the match.

Dartford players were looking tired after long journeys and a crammed fixture list. Lee Noble was suspended and young Deren Ibrahim replaced Andrew Young in goal. On five minutes the league leaders attacked, a cross was unfortunately turned in by Billy Burgess, Dartford got off to a bad start. However parity was restored when Ibrahim’s punt up field was met by loanee Jon Main who lobbed the keeper with aplomb. The rest of the match was played out with both sets of players looking weary. The spoils were shared.

Unbeaten Run Continues

One of Dartford’s poorest performances was against Welling United in January. The Wings were coping well with off field problems and still challenging in the playoff places. Lee Noble was back and early on he set up Jon Main, his shot was tipped round the post. Another Dartford effort was hacked off the line. At the other end Joe Bruce was turned by Andrew Pugh and his curling effort was bravely blocked by Billy Burgess. A desperate lunge by Paul Goodacre gave Welling a free kick on the edge of the box, Jamie Day’s effort dipped just over the cross bar.

In the second forty five, Loui Fazackerley crossed for Liam Bellamy who nodded wide, Ibrahim was beaten. Elliot Bradbrook dug out an opportunity on the edge of the Welling box but his sliced volley ended inches wide scrapping the side netting. Then just past the hour The Wings took the advantage. After a number of testing corners they finally made one count when Jack Parkinson headed in from six yards.

Ryan Hayes scores an audacious free kick

Tony Burman made a double substitution on 73 minutes which proved to be a great decision. Ryan Hayes who had been out of the first eleven for a little while was introduced for his craft, Lee Burns came on for his endeavour. With eight minutes remaining Dartford won a free kick way out against the right touchline a good 30 to 35 yards out. Hayes looked up and struck the ball with power and swerve, Welling goalkeeper Tom Lovelock moved across to his near post, the ball swerved into the top corner, what a goal. Super sub Ryno saved the day.

Dartford 1 Welling United 1 – Highlights

Slip Up

It had been seven matches since Dartford lost, it had been 15 games since Hampton and Richmond last won. Normally in this position Dartford supporters will be expecting nothing but victory but with our record against the bottom sides we were still wary. After all, we lost to Thurrock when they were on a dreadful run; we were turned over by Dorchester Town which left us shocked. Dartford did not disappoint, well they did but some of us expected.

The Beavers came away from Princes Park with a resounding 4-0 win. Dean Wells scored against the Darts for a second time in the season when a corner was not cleared on 24 minutes. Six minutes before the break Ian Hodges doubled the lead. In the second half it took Hampton and Richmond a minute to make it three through Lawrence Yaku. Just two minutes later Yaku headed in his second. Let’s just call it a slip up.

Dartford 0 Hampton and Richmond 4 – Highlights

Back On Track

Dartford travelled to Dorset on a Tuesday night to put right their latest defeat, to revenge the 4-0 drubbing The Magpies gave us in November. The pitch was boggy as the winter weather had taken its toll across the non-league scene across the country. In all fairness this was not a game for the football purists but the exhausted Dartford players battled hard and were rewarded.

A goalless draw looked on the cards and how fitting it was when the Patron Saint of Lost Causes battled a lost cause in the Dorchester box. Danny Harris broke one tackle, rode another challenge and reached out a leg to slide the ball into the goal, 1-0 with just under seventeen minutes remaining. As the game reached a conclusion Jon Main spotted Lee Noble who looked like he went too wide, his shot was hit low and into the net for number two. Dartford avenged the defeat early in the season and had put the previous match to bed.

Dorchester Town 0 Dartford 2 – Highlights

February Finishes

It had been an incredible turnaround for Dartford, who was in the bottom three just a month and a half ago.  Six league wins, three draws and a defeat lifted them up to fourteenth position and seven points clear of relegation. Although they were fourteen matches to play over two more months it was the first time Dartford supporters could relax a little but there was still work to be done.

Braintree Town still led the table seven points ahead of in form Ebbsfleet United. The Fleet won four of their five February fixtures. Welling United, Farnborough and Chelmsford City maintained their playoff spots. Lewes moved off the foot of the table with three consecutive wins and Maidenhead United slipped towards danger after just two victories in twenty one matches. It was Woking who were the in form team with six consecutive wins without conceding, this was to stretch to seven on 1 March 2011.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 29 20 5 4 57 22 +35 65
2 Ebbsfleet United 29 17 7 5 55 36 +19 58
3 Farnborough 29 17 5 7 55 33 +22 56
4 Chelmsford City 29 16 6 7 58 33 +25 54
5 Welling United* 29 17 5 7 55 35 +20 51
6 Eastleigh 27 14 5 8 49 33 +16 47
7 Dover Athletic 28 14 5 9 60 40 +20 47
8 Woking 28 13 7 8 39 27 +12 46
9 Bromley 29 12 10 7 37 41 -4 46
10 Havant and W 24 9 6 9 34 33 +1 33
11 Staines Town 29 9 11 9 37 39 -2 38
12 Basingstoke Town 29 9 8 12 33 43 -10 35
13 Weston-super-Mare 31 10 7 14 41 47 -6 37
14 Dartford 28 8 9 11 35 40 -5 33
15 Bishop’s Stortford 30 9 4 17 34 60 -26 31
16 Hampton and Richmond 26 5 11 10 31 38 -7 26
17 Dorchester Town 28 6 9 13 28 38 -10 27
18 Thurrock 28 6 9 13 37 56 -19 27
19 Maidenhead United 27 6 7 14 28 46 -18 25
20 Boreham Wood 29 6 8 15 37 53 -16 26
21 Lewes 31 6 6 19 25 49 -24 24
22 St Albans City 29 4 10 15 25 48 -23 22

*Welling United deducted five points

Stuart Maidment

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins, videos courtesy of Ray Cherry.

 

Season Review Part Seven– A look back on 2010/2011

7 – December to mid-January – Up for the Cup, not for the League

Giant Killers

Like the previous month December opened with another cup game for The Darts against higher league opposition. Away to the future Conference League Champions in the first round of the F.A Trophy, Tony Burman’s side had a huge task to beat Crawley Town. League form was mixed but the cup exploits in previous months gave fans some hope.

Crawley Town were on the up, with financial backing to boot. In the summer, controversial manager Steve Evans had signed players with football league potential. He brought in prolific goal scorer Matt Tubbs from Salisbury City, Sergio Torres from League One’s Peterborough United and the reliable Richard Brodie from York City, for fees that would not look out of place in the higher realms of the football league, Crawley Town were criticised for their spending and were labelled the ‘Manchester City of non-league football’.

Dartford, a club rescued by its supporters in the early nineties, a club within their budget were up against Crawley Town who had been saved by one man with financial clout, a club chasing a dream getting ever closer to reality. Coupled with the managers past, Crawley Town were not everyone’s cup of tea.

Evans underestimated The Darts and made eight changes to the team who had just knocked out Swindon Town in the F.A Cup. With a depleted squad Burman stuck with his strongest eleven and after just nine minutes his side were in complete control. Three minutes had passed when Charlie Sheringham turned and volleyed Dartford in front, great start. Then unbelievably Ryan Hayes put in one of his in swinging corners which hit the far post and landed in the net, dream start 2-0 after just nine minutes.

Billy Burgess and Paul Sawyer

As expected The Red Devils came back into the game, Andrew Young made some good saves before Chris Flood hit the post. Flood caused problems again when his shot was parried by Young; Richard Brodie was waiting and pulled a goal back. Dartford’s post was struck for a second time but they dug deep as their goal led a charmed life. From out of nowhere Charlie Sheringham unleashed a 25 yard strike, a superb goal, 3-1.

With nine minutes to go Dartford were clinging onto victory and when Craig McAllister scored from the spot Crawley Town went all out attack. It took nine minutes for Dartford to build a 2-0 lead at the start of the match, it took nine minutes at the end to lose a two goal lead. In the final minutes Dean Howell scored a well taken free kick from the edge of the box. It wasn’t finished there because moments later The Red Devils ‘won it’ when Richard Brodie tapped home Steve Masterton’s cross. The Assistant Referee’s flag was raised, we almost threw the game away. Like the Port Vale draw it was hard to decide whether a draw was pleasing or not, so close, oh so close.

Tom is the Champion

Losing a 3-1 lead against Crawley Town in the first game was a massive blow. For some the giantkilling chance had gone but home advantage and another 90 minutes gave us hope again. Steve Evans included prolific goalscorer Matt Tubbs and experienced midfielder Sergio Torres in a much stronger line up, had the Sussex side learnt their lesson? Tony Burman replaced Danny Harris with Elliot Bradbrook for the replay in front of 605 supporters. Dartford did not want to repeat their last replay against higher league opposition that was for sure.

The cup tie was just five minutes old when Matt Tubbs went down in the box, the Red Devils claimed penalty, Evans made his feelings known, Mr Hopkins ordered play to continue. Again, the Dartford goal led a charmed life as Andrew Young made comfortable saves and the defence blocked numerous shots. Carl Rook was substituted before half time for Tom Champion, it was all Crawley Town in the first half but remained goalless at the break.

As the game went on Crawley became more urgent in their play, they did not let up using their pace and ability which saw them promoted to the football league at the end of the season. Lee Burns, Dartford’s top scorer last season was struggling to score this term. Crawley Town broke away and when the ball was centred Burns stuck out a foot, half volleyed the ball sped goal bound. Young was wrong footed, Burns looked on in horror, if this goes in then what an own goal. Young adjusted his body shape and from underneath the cross bar palmed the ball over, an incredible test of reflexes, Burns smiled in relief.

Tom Champion strikes a giant killing goal

Dartford were minutes from extra time when Ryan Hayes delivered a free kick which was cut out by the first man, luckily the ball went out for a corner. Hayes crossed with his left foot, the ball swung in to the six yard box. Michel Kuipers got through nine or ten players crowded in his area and palmed the ball away. Kuipers charged forward with his desperate Crawley defenders. The ball bounced once to the feet of Tom Champion standing eight yards out, Champion perfectly positioned volleyed the ball right footed, the crowd erupted with joy, the ball smashed the back of the net, Dartford had won it in the dying minutes of the match, giant killers.

Dartford 1 Crawley Town 0 – F.A Trophy First Round Replay Highlights

Derby Day Defeat

It had been a whole month without league football, rain, heavy snow, the harsh winter all limited the whole football world to a small amount of fixtures. Frustration and boredom settled in on Saturday afternoons nothing could replace football. What better way to return to action than the second derby between Dartford and Ebbsfleet United. The festive spirit was in full flow; fans of both sides passing on season greetings, pints flowing but when kick off signalled three o’clock, the action started and both sets of supporters made plenty of noise. No segregation added to the atmosphere and banter, non-league football, the festive spirit, against your rivals, there is nothing near as good.

Joe Bruce is dismissed

The derby started off frantically and on ten minutes The Fleet won a free kick when Michael West was blocked. The Darts were still setting up and so Derek Duncan took the opportunity to curl the free kick beyond Andrew Young and put The Fleet ahead. It was not long before Dartford was on level terms when four minutes later Ryan Hayes dangerous free kick was nodded in by Elliot Bradbrook. Ebbsfleet missed two more chances and reliable striker Calum Willock somehow missed an open goal from yards out. Willock was to make amends on the half hour mark when he went through on goal, Joe Bruce was caught the wrong side of Willock, legs tangled, Willock went down, Bruce was sent off, penalty. Willock dusted himself off and put The Fleet 2-1 in front at the break.

With a numerical disadvantage Dartford struggled to create chances. Ebbsfleet were denied three more times. James White entered the field of play on 66 minutes in place of Ryan Hayes to sure things up. White let Ebbsfleet know he arrived and his late tackle on Tom Phipp was rewarded with a caution after just 30 seconds on the field. Then moments later disaster struck, already down a man White’s rash tackle on Duncan left The Darts down to nine men, game over, no chance. Despite the uphill struggle Charlie Sheringham almost equalised, snatching an unlikely draw, he was denied by Preston Edwards and The Fleet triumphed in front of a bumper crowd of 2435.

Ebbsfleet United 2 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Winless at Welling

New Year, new start, new found optimism. Dartford faced a second Kent derby in four days against Welling United who were challenging at the top of the table. Managed by ex Dart and crowd favourite Jamie Day, The Wings were in financial trouble off the field but performing admirable on the field.

Loanee George Purcell brought the game to life when he turned ex Dart Jamie Coyle and unleashed a worldy from 25 yards, the cross bar rattled. The first quarter of the match was going to plan, Lee Burns deflected header went over and The Darts started brightly. But this was as good as it got for Tony Burman’s side.  For once Andrew Young looked shaky, a number of chances later and Welling went in front via Lee Clarke.

Carl Rook scores from the spot

The second half was a continuation of the first in that The Wings dominated. Young saved from Jamie Day’s free kick and from the resulting corner Lee Cumbers made it two, punishing some poor defending. Dartford fans were given hope with eight minutes to play. Adam Burchell went down under minimal contact and a controversial penalty was awarded, Carl Rook pulled one back but it was too late. The performance fell well short and Dartford fans were concerned.

The New Year, new start, new found optimism was on the verge of being lost, two defeats in a row against local rivals put Dartford in a tricky position.

Three in a Row

A third difficult match was to follow, home to Chelmsford City. The Essex side were in the playoffs pushing for promotion. The performance was better but in honesty it was not difficult to improve the efforts at Park View Road just days ago.

In the first half an awful injury to Tom Champion changed the mood on the terraces. An accidental clash of heads left Champion transported to East Grinstead hospital; he needed 30 stitches and serious patching up. Seven minutes into the second half Dartford took the lead when Carl Rook headed yet another one of Ryan Hayes’ in swinging corners.

Rook puts The Darts ahead

Chelmsford City manager Glenn Pennyfather had attacking options on the bench and he was not afraid to use the options available. Billy Bricknell was already on as a first half substitute and was joined by Rob Edmans and Stephen Reed early in the second half. The tactical move was crucial; Bricknell levelled the game on 58 minutes and the turnaround was completed five minutes later. A speculative header found its way to Edmans feet who tapped in for 2-1. The Clarets were in control and from the moment they lead they never looked like losing. Three defeats in a row, welcome to 2011.

Dartford 1 Chelmsford City 2 – Highlights

Doom and Gloom

The Darts played Thurrock for the third time this season knowing that the Essex club were on an atrocious run with just two wins from nineteen league games. In fact, they had just conceded thirteen goals in two games losing 6-1 to Chelmsford City and 7-2 at home to Dover Athletic. The Fleet also departed company with manager Greg Lincoln who was replaced with Grant Gordon. Gordon made a few loan signings in an attempt to close the gap on their opposition. With home advantage surely The Darts could end this traumatic run.

The answer was no, things got worse, this month was not going to plan, it was a complete disaster and fans were expressing their worries. An ex Dartford player won the game for Thurrock on 68 minutes. To rub salt into Dartford’s wound, Thurrock had kept their first clean sheet of the season after 20 attempts.

Relegation concerns were rife among the supporters because they cared so much about the club. The team was being questioned, everyone needed to pull together. Tony Burman reacted by releasing Michael Shinn and Ollie Berquez. He also recalled Lee Noble before the Thurrock match.

Dartford 0 Thurrock 1 – Highlights

Cup Distraction

Four consecutive defeats and out of the relegation zone on goal difference, a  trip to The Robert Parker Stadium to take on Ashford Town (Middlesex) in the F.A Trophy Second Round was welcomed. The fixture allowed the team to temporarily forget about their league form. Supporters hoped that a victory would breed confidence and the league season would be turned around.

The numbers in Tony Burman’s squad were dwindling, Elliot Bradbrook, Joe Bruce and James White were suspended. Burman temporarily brought in Jack Clark from Cray Wanderers who impressed Dartford supporters and Adam Burchell made a rare start.

George Purcell's shot finds the back of the net

Twice Dartford rattled the Ashford Town cross bar, first by Charlie Sheringham on three minutes and then Lee Burns half way through the first half. Ashford claimed a penalty but this was turned down, other than that The Darts defence coped easily. In the second half, Ryan Hayes replaced Burchell and before the hour passed to Billy Burgess, he set up George Purcell who placed his shot passed the goalkeeper. At last victory, Dartford made it into the last 16 of the F.A Trophy and faced a long journey to the North East to face Conference National side Gateshead.

Ashford Town (Middlesex) 0 Dartford 1 – F.A Trophy Second Round Highlights

This is a Low

Tony Burman made a coup before the cup tie against Ashford Town (Middlesex). Former Tonbridge Angels and AFC Wimbledon goal getter Jon Main signed on loan but due to the arrangement he was unavailable for the F.A Trophy match. His record was phenomenal, for The Angels he had scored 52 goals in 57 games. Whilst at AFC Wimbledon he broke the Conference South goal scoring record for a season netting 33 times. Last season he was AFC Wimbledon’s second highest scorer with 15 goals and still missed the last two months through injury. Tony Burman had brought in a reliable striker but there was a catch, could Main get fit again and back to his best?

Carl Rook was sacrificed to hand Jon Main his debut in a Darts shirt. Dartford tested Staines Town goalkeeper Louis Wells early on when Charlie Sheringham’s shot was stopped. Purcell fired wide and the travelling fans were encouraged when Purcell and Lee Noble was denied by Wells. Danny Gordon attempted an audacious 40 yard volley for The Swans which flew off target. Dartford was foiled again when Paul Goodacre’s headers crashed against the woodwork. Going into half time the three pronged attack of George Purcell, Jon Main and Charlie Sheringham looked lively enough.

James White rescues a point

In the second half and against the run of play, The Swans opened the scoring when Danny Gordon pounced on some hesitant Dartford defending. A fifth consecutive defeat looked to be on the cards and so Burman introduced Carl Rook. Jon Main who quietly impressed all afternoon, headed the ball out wide to Tom Bonner. The full back crossed for the waiting substitute Rook who back heeled the ball in towards the path of James White, the ball bobbled over the line, White had equalised with six minutes on the clock.

Dartford 1 Staines Town 1 – Highlights

 

A New Year Begins

Braintree Town’s tough defence kept them top of the table by three points after winning three consecutive matches. This run was to continue throughout January as the Essex side won all six matches in January 2011. Bromley had slipped down to eighth after their tremendous start to the season. Chelmsford City picked up form and moved up to second and Eastleigh increased their winning streak to four. Ebbsfleet lost their 12 match unbeaten run against the league leaders but remained in contention at the top.

At the bottom of the table Lewes and Boreham Wood propped up the rest, Thurrock climbed out of the relegation zone. Despite rescuing a point against Staines Town, The Darts hit a season’s low, winless in seven league matches, taking a measly two points from twenty one. Dartford FC slumped into the dreaded bottom three. Supporters, players and management were unhappy at the way the season was panning out, could everyone turn the season around?

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 19 13 3 3 36 14 +22 42
2 Chelmsford City 19 12 3 4 39 22 +17 39
3 Ebbsfleet United 19 11 5 3 31 19 +12 38
4 Farnborough 21 11 5 5 39 24 +15 38
5 Welling United* 21 13 3 5 45 26 +19 37
6 Eastleigh 19 10 4 5 36 22 +14 34
7 Dover Athletic 20 10 5 5 46 30 +16 35
8 Bromley 23 10 8 5 32 35 -3 38
9 Havant and W 18 6 6 6 25 23 +2 24
10 Woking 21 7 7 7 25 25 0 28
11 Bishop’s Stortford 23 9 3 11 27 40 -13 30
12 Basingstoke Town 19 6 6 7 18 21 -3 24
13 Weston-super-Mare 25 8 7 10 35 40 -5 31
14 Staines Town 21 6 8 7 28 28 0 26
15 Maidenhead United 20 6 6 8 21 30 -9 24
16 Hampton and Richmond 19 4 9 6 21 26 -5 21
17 Dorchester Town 19 5 5 9 23 26 -3 20
18 St Albans City 19 3 8 8 20 32 -12 17
19 Thurrock 21 4 6 11 26 45 -19 18
20 Dartford 20 3 7 10 24 33 -9 16
21 Boreham Wood 20 3 5 12 25 41 -16 14
22 Lewes 22 3 3 16 17 37 -20 12


*Welling United deducted five points

 

Stuart Maidment

Photos courtesy of Dave Adkins and Carol White-Griffiths, videos courtesy of Ray Cherry.