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Dartford v Staines Town

Dartford go into Tuesday night’s match against Staines Town full of confidence after a second successive win on the weekend.

The Darts could make it five wins from five at Princes Park and keep pressure on the two sides ahead of them in the league table. Tony Burman’s side managed a 2-1 victory on Saturday against Farnborough with goals from Charlie Sheringham and a first of the season for Lee Burns. A win against The Swans will be Dartford’s first ever triumph against them after two draws at home and three defeats away.

Lee Burns nets his first of the season

Jon Wallis looks doubtful after pulling his hamstring on the weekend. Paul Goodacre missed the fixture at Farnborough with a knee injury he picked up on Thursday.

Last season Dartford took on Staines Town at a very difficult time. Having lost five games in six The Darts had dropped into the bottom three. Staines visited Princes Park and took the lead through centre back Danny Gordon. As time was running out James White equalised with six minutes remaining to rescue a point. It was the start of a seven match unbeaten run which turned Dartford’s season.

The Swans are winless on their travels picking up just two points from twelve. The Middlesex club have enjoyed good results recently holding Chelmsford City to a draw and defeating Bromley emphatically 4-1 on Saturday. Mark Nwokeji was amongst the scorers last weekend having just been signed from Havant and Waterlooville. It is Nwokeji’s second spell with Staines, in two years with The Swans he scored 68 goals in 130 games including 37 in a season.

Manager Steve Cordery, signed David Wheeler and Adam Everitt from relegated clubs Lewes and St Alban’s City in the summer, James Tyrell came in from Havant and Waterlooville and former Hendon Town striker Belal Aiteouakrim.

Did you know…

Staines Town have scored a single goal in each away game this season

Charlie Sheringham may have scored ten goals in nine matches this season but at the end of Dartford’s last campaign he netted the same amount in the last eight fixtures. Still 20 goals in 17 games isn’t too bad!

 

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 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.