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Dartford v Thurrock

Dartford complete their trilogy of games against sides in the bottom four on Saturday when they host Thurrock.

The Darts will go into this weekends fixture on the back of four straight victories in the Conference South which has seen the club rise to second spot. With two games in hand Dartford will be determined to reduce the eleven point deficit on league leaders Woking. In between the league matches Dartford also won a cup tie and over the last five competitive games have scored an impressive 16 goals.

Thurrock on the other hand have a deficit of their own to make up. The Fleet prop up the rest of the league table and are seven points from safety. The Essex club have failed to win in their last nine league fixtures but have drawn their last three.

Former Dart Adam Burchell is denied a goal in last seasons encounter

Last season The Darts met Thurrock as favourites when the played at Princes Park. The Fleet were in the bottom three, had just lost 6-1, 7-2 and departed company with their manager Greg Lincoln. This season the story is similar with Dartford in a higher position than twelve months ago and Thurrock at the bottom without a permanent manager. Grant Gordon is part of the management team and he helped mastermind Thurrock’s 1-0 win last season, with the winning goal coming from former Dart loanee Matt Bodkin.

Thurrock started the season managed by former Dartford striker Robbie Garvey but he left the managers post last month and Lee Goodwin has taken charge until the end of the season. Throughout December The Fleet have signed numerous free agents and loan players in an attempt to avoid relegation, a feat they achieved last season due to the demise of Rushden and Diamonds.

The Fleet have still struggled to pick up points since the change in management and lack goals, managing to net just twice in 540 minutes of league football. However, manager Lee Goodwin believes his side are a ‘whisker away’ from a win and his side just need that extra ‘spark’.

Earlier in the season, Dartford comfortably beat Thurrock 3-0 at Ship Lane. Jacob Erskine opened the scoring with his first for the club on 51 minutes, James Rogers netted five minutes later and Jack Pallen wrapped up the win four minutes from time.

Team News

Connor Essam scored his first Dartford goal on Tuesday night and his loan spell has been extended. Tom Champion returns from his two match ban to increase Tony Burman’s options. Former Dart James White will be available to select for the visitors.

Statistics (league only)

Dartford (2nd) v Thurrock (22nd)

Current Form

Last five Dartford matches at home Last five Thurrock matches away
Won 1-0  v Welling United Drew 1-1 v Sutton United
Drew 1-1 v Dorchester Town Lost 0-3 v Dorchester Town
Lost 2-3 v Woking Lost 0-1 v Chelmsford City
Won 3-1 v Dover Athletic Lost 2-3 v Eastleigh
Drew 1-1 v Weston Super-Mare Won 2-0 v Hampton and Richmond

Attendances

Dartford average home attendance: 1313 (2nd)

Highest home attendance: 2559 v Welling United/ Lowest: 924 v Dorchester Town

Thurrock average away attendance: 520 (21st)

Highest away attendance: 1064 v Chelmsford City / Lowest: 162 v Boreham Wood

Did you know…

If Dartford win on Saturday it will be their fifth successive league win, the seventh game without a league defeat and their best run of the season

The Darts have scored in their last 20 league games. The next best team to score consecutively is Truro City with 13 and their run ended on Boxing Day

A clean sheet by Dartford will be the first back to back clean sheets at Princes Park in league this season

Thurrock has the worst goal difference in the Conference South (-32) and have scored the least goals (22)

The Fleet have scored the fewest amount of goals in the first half of league games, just 7 goals

Thurrock v Dartford

It was back to Conference South action on the weekend and after two succesive league defeats Dartford are keen to get back to winning ways on Tuesday night.

The Darts face a second away trip in a row against former landlords and this time they travel to Ship Lane to take on Thurrock. Last season the two sides met twice in Essex, once in the league and the other fixture in the F.A Trophy.

Bradbrook equalises in last seasons meeting

In September, Elliot Bradbrook rescued a point twelve minutes from time after Fleet’s Max Lette-Jallow gave the hosts the lead. Two months later the two clubs were paired up in the cup and a Carl Rook double made sure Dartford progressed to the first round where they met Crawley Town.

Life without top scorer Charlie Sheringham started with a 2-1 reverse against newly promoted Truro City. The Cornish side left The Darts shell shocked when they raced into a two goal lead after just six minutes. Andy Watkins capitalised on some poor defending before Paul Goodacre turned the ball into his own net. The referee got injured and the match was held up leading to ten minutes added time in the first half. In the second half, a sending off for the visitors and a consolation goal by Tom Bonner wasn’t enough as Dartford’s 100% home record ended in defeat.

Tony Burman spoke to PURE DFC and could draw a positive from the match he said: “I’m pleased with the second half and the way they have put the effort in”. Although the manager could see an improvement in the second forty five he knew it would be difficult to overturn the two goal deficit, he commented: “You concede two goals and the damage is done. We needed to get to 2-1 maybe before half time and we didn’t so we are still sort of chasing”, Burman added: “They didn’t have a shot in the second half, then they went down to ten men. But we cannot concede two goals in the first ten minutes and concede goals the way we have”.

Jacob Erskine: Welcome to The Darts

New signing Jacob Erskine replaced Adam Green to make his first appearance in a Dartford shirt. The former Hampton and Richmond striker managed to get some minutes under his belt as he looks to settle in to Princes Park. Erskine is familiar to the Dartford faithful after he netted Hampton and Richmond’s goal at Princes Park earlier in the season. Jacob scored three league goals for the side currently at the foot of the Conference South.

Burman took the opportunity to sign the striker after he was released a couple of weeks ago, he said: “He trained with us on Thursday and I had a chat with Jacob. I knew we were a little bit short with Jonesy and Jon Wallis probably not being quite ready for this game so I asked him whether he would sign to help us out”, he added: “I want to have a little look at him because he is a decent player”.

Thurrock survived relegation last season after a reprieve following the demise of Rushden and Diamonds. The Essex club has continued to struggle under the reign of former Dartford striker Robbie Garvey. The Fleet have failed to win a home match in the league all season picking up just two points.

After six games, one point, three goals scored and sixteen conceded Thurrock were bottom of the Conference South at the end of August. However fortunes have improved after two wins and two draws in their last seven fixtures. The Fleet were defeated on the weekend at The Crabble when Dover Athletic won 3-1.

At Ship Lane, Thurrock have fired as many blanks than goals in the league and picked up just two draws against Tonbridge Angels and Truro City. It took The Fleet 192 minutes to score their first goal at home this season and since then they have netted twice more.

James White against his new club

James White and Joe Bruce could play against Dartford for the first time since being released in the summer by Burman. Bruce made 48 league and cup appearances for The Darts whilst White played 112 times scoring seven goals in the three years with The Darts.

The Darts will have fond memories of playing at Ship Lane when they moved from Erith and Belvedere to Thurrock in 1998. Then their landlords were known as Purfleet and had only been founded thirteen years earlier.

Dartford’s final campaign at Ship Lane was in the 1999/2000 Southern League season when they achieved their highest position of eighth in the three years playing in Essex.

With the loss of Sheringham to AFC Bournemouth and injuries to Matt Jones and Jon Wallis, Burman is determined to get as many players in contention for Tuesday’s match and could possibly strengthen from elsewhere. Thurrock could give starts to new signings Bertie Brayley and Drewe Broughton.

Current Form (league only)

Last five Thurrock matches at home Last five Dartford matches away
Drew 1-1 v Truro City Lost 1-3 v Boreham Wood
Lost 1-4 v Eastbourne Borough Won 2-1 v Farnborough
Drew 0-0 v Tonbridge Angels Lost 2-3 v Basingstoke Town
Lost 1-4 v Welling United Drew 0-0 v Chelmsford City
Lost 0-3 v Weston Super-Mare Drew 2-2 v Dover Athletic

League Stats – Thurrock (21st) versus Dartford (4th)

Thurrock average home attendance: 307

Highest home attendance: 443 v Dover Athletic/ Lowest: 156 v Weston Super-Mare

Dartford average away attendance: 760

Highest away attendance: 1455 v Dover Athletic / Lowest: 441 v Boreham Wood

Minutes Thurrock Goals For Thurrock Goals Against Dartford Goals For Dartford Goals Against
0-15 2 1 7 4
16-30 1 6 4 4
31-45+ 1 11 4 1
46-60 2 5 2 2
61-75 1 4 5 3
76-90+ 4 4 5 2

*attendances and minutes of goals taken from www.bluesqsouth.com and www.bbc.co.uk

Did you know…

Thurrock had the worst home league defence in the Conference South last season conceding 40 goals. It took The Fleet 19 games to register a clean sheet at Ship Lane.

The Fleet have conceded the most goals in the fifteen minutes before half time, more than any other club in the division

Only Thurrock and Chelmsford City have failed to claim a home win this season

 

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.

 

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

6 – The Wonder of You

The Birth of Flagzilla

It had been just over two decades since Dartford’s last appearance in the F.A Cup First Round. For the first time ever Princes Park would host a Football League side in a competitive match. A sell-out crowd was expected and four days before the big day a sell-out was announced. The unlucky Dartford supporters who were unable to buy tickets did get a second chance when Port Vale returned some of their allocation.

Walking towards Princes Park, Vale fans displayed their away shirts looking for decent public houses. Dartford supporters were already there lubricating their vocal chords, the build-up was friendly; the charm of the F.A Cup had entered the town. The Darts were under no pressure, had nothing to lose but dreamed of what might happen. The Port Vale following, aware of a possible cup upset, was still confident enough to pull through. After all Micky Adam’s side were flying high in League Two in second position.

As three o’clock approached the atmosphere was cranked up a notch. F.A Cup fever had reached its peak and what better way to celebrate than unleashing Dartford’s new signing. Paid by the fans, its black, its white and its pure dynamite…Flagzilla made its debut.

Flagzilla warms up the action at against Port Vale

Dartford started with intent and in the opening minutes left Port Vale shell shocked. In the commentary box Gary Clark and Paul Philpot described the action: “Burns across field to Hayes, Hayes left footed looking for Danny Harris, Harris, Danny Harris is through, Danny Harris, ohhhhhhhhhh off the line”. The crowd gasped, The Darts were incredibly denied, what a start, the crowd were lifted, as if the match wasn’t enough in the first place!

After a Hayes free kick flashed wide, The Darts grew in confidence, the performance was steady and with the Princes Park crowd behind Tony Burman’s men the nerves had disappeared. Half way through the first half a controversial moment arrived, Carl Rook laid the ball off but Vale midfielder Gary Roberts miss controlled the ball. Michael Shinn stood his ground to win the ball, Roberts lunged two footed and Shinn was fouled. Tony Burman and Paul Sawyer were incensed at the side of the pitch; nearly every player got involved as a brawl broke out, Shinn made no fuss, surely a red card and advantage Dartford. The referee called the Captains over and spoke to Roberts and Shinn. Yellow card, Roberts was lucky to stay on the pitch.

The Darts looked more like the Football League side and almost went in front when Lee Burns fired wide. Then Carl Rook worked tirelessly to hold up the ball, Hayes’ trickery created a crossing opportunity and when it found the feet of Rook he scuffed the shot into Stuart Tomlinson’s hands.

Bradbrook nets a shock opener

Rook and Hayes battled on down the left and when Hayes persistence paid off he was brought down on the edge of the box near the goal line.  “So it’s a free kick about a yard outside the penalty area and three yards from the touchline. Shinn and Hayes now stand over the ball, I think it’s going to be Hayes, it is. Delivers it in, a cross, YEEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH. CAPTAIN ELLIOT BRADBROOK, GOAL TO DARTFORD, GOAL!” Princes Park erupted, The Darts were in front.

At half time Dartford fans could not quite believe what was happening, forty five minutes away from glory. If you thought about it too hard then nerves would kick in, the only cure was to sing a long, get behind the boys and hope time would tick along quickly to four forty five. Port Vale feared the worst, Micky Adams made a triple substitution. The second half kicked off…

The Vale played with more urgency but Dartford stayed strong and continued to create chances. Paul Goodacre headed straight at Tomlinson, Hayes sent a free kick over, the clock ticked away. The Darts defence were resolute, Harris was the Patron Saint of Lost Causes troubling Port Vale with his pace, Hayes troubled The Vale with his trickery and Rook worked hard to keep possession up top on his own. Charlie Sheringham then entered the equation as Tony Burman swapped him with the tired Rook. Six minutes remained.

McCombe saves Vale

A hopeful through ball was played forward from The Vale midfield, Hayes swiped at the ball to cut it out about 30 yards from goal, and the slice on the ball spun it towards Andrew Young’s touchline. Out came Young who caught the ball, unfortunately he was unable to save the corner. Tommy Fraser went over to take the corner kick; right footed he swung the ball out towards the middle of the six yard box. Players were tugging at each other, jostling for position when the ball broke loose to John McCombe who bundled the ball towards goal, heartbroken, silence. Port Vale escaped Princes Park with a draw.

The full time whistle blew and the Dartford faithful proudly clapped every player off the park. Time passed and everyone had time to reflect on an exhausting day, no one knew whether to be proud or gutted, in the end we settled for both…six minutes, just six more minutes.

Dartford 1 Port Vale 1 – F.A Cup First Round Highlights

Away Day Blues are Dover

Searching for the first away victory in the league Dartford were on a high after their F.A Cup heroics. Over recent years Dover Athletic had got the better of The Darts and had just come off the back of an F.A Cup giant killing themselves. The Whites had famously defeated Gillingham to make national headlines. A Tuesday night at The Crabble turned out to be satisfactory night for Tony Burman and his men. Both sides were tired and Dover looked the better side creating better chances. Dartford dug deep and was certainly up for it.

Ryan Hayes opened the scoring  after just eleven minutes, Hayes sent in one of his corners which goalkeeper Ross Flitney let slip, fortunate or poor goalkeeping it did not matter, 1-0. Andrew Young was kept very busy and again put in another outstanding performance. Eight minutes into the second half Michael Shinn brought down the ‘unstoppable’ Adam Birchall. Birchall scorer of eleven goals in Dover’s opening twelve league matches picked himself up to take the penalty, Young saved. Dover pushed on, continued to create chances and spurn them. Then on 82 minutes The Darts launched a counter attack, Elliot Bradbrook crossed towards Ollie Berquez who nodded in to win the game for sure. Only the travelling faithful witnessed a terrific win for The Darts, the away press were allowed no cameras.

First Defeat at Home

Dorchester Town were next up at Princes Park, confidence was high in the Dartford dressing room after the past week. The problem was that the players had one eye on the F.A Cup replay in three days’ time. With the match level at half time, The Magpies exploded into action in the second half. Ryan Moss scored in the sixty fourth minute when he followed up from Andrew Young’s fine save.  A break away from Dorchester two minutes later resulted in a second goal, this time taken by Mark Jermyn from six yards. Dartford tried to find a way back but was caught out for a third time when experienced midfielder Nick Crittenden finished off a counter attack in the eighty seventh minute. To rub salt into the wound Moss completed a brace in the final minute, Dartford were well and truly beaten.

Dartford 0 Dorchester Town 4 – Highlights

An Evening in Burslem

Two coach loads travelled up to Burslem on a Tuesday night not expecting victory but still hoping for a giant killing. Even with the dodgy air conditioning this did not deter the Dartford faithful from a memorable occasion. Micky Adams learnt from the first match and played a stronger side. The winners would take on Accrington Stanley or Morecambe at home in round two. The coaches arrived and fans from both sides mingled in the bar, bottles of Titanic Ale went down well until seven forty five arrived. The Darts travelling contingent of just over three hundred entered Vale Park which looked huge compared to the non-league surroundings we had got used to in recent years. Dartford flags were draped over the spare seats and nonstop singing throughout the ninety minutes made sure this was an evening to be proud.

A tribute to the travelling support

Dartford supporters gather at Vale Park in the F.A Cup First Round Replay

The wide pitch was used to full affect by Port Vale, playing with width, using their wingers and overlapping full backs, Dartford were stretched. Football League experience paid off and from the outset The Vale controlled the game.

The boys gave it their all but it was a step too far. The support was fantastic, 314 fans travelled but it sounded like we took 500. Andrew Young was kept busy and had a super game but he was unable to keep out Marc Richards’ penalty on seven minutes.  Eight minutes later the lead was doubled when Richards netted his second. Sean Rigg scored number three on 56 minutes and Justin Richards scored the goal of the night with fifteen minutes left.

Dartford fans could be excused for thinking they had lost 4-0, after all we did score five imaginary goals. Altogether now, “let’s pretend, let’s pretend, let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” cue cheering and goal celebrations. After the third imaginary goal the Dartford supporters really didn’t let the defeat spoil their party. “Let’s pretend, let’s pretend, let’s pretend we’ve scored a goal” cue cheering and goal celebrations, “four nil and you ****** it up, four nil and you ****** it up”. What a comeback, oh no wait a minute why not make it five, we never did have our match with Accrington Stanley.

Dartford players applaud the support, the fans applaud back

Dartford players and staff applauded the crowd, appreciating the tremendous support. The support applauded back appreciating the tremendous effort put in by the players and staff. It was a night to be a proud Dartford fan, the fans belted out Elvis Pressley’s Wonder of You, scarfs displayed above heads, the evening closed.

Port Vale 4 Dartford 0 – F.A Cup First Round Replay Highlights (1st Half)

Port Vale 4 Dartford 0 – F.A Cup First Round Replay Highlights (2nd Half)

Now for the Trophy

One cup run ended, another one began. The F.A Trophy represented Dartford’s only realistic, albeit slim chance to reach Wembley. Not since Peter Taylor was in charge at Watling Street had The Darts came close to a repeating their run to the final in 1974. Of course, this was a long way off but you never know.

Dartford returned to Ship Lane to take on Thurrock who held The Darts in their league match back in September. Thurrock had not won any of their opening fourteen league matches and was propping up the Conference South table, in their match before meeting Dartford they recorded their first win against Staines Town.

Rook scores twice

Carl Rook headed in an eighteenth minute goal to give The Darts some breathing space. Before the opener, there was little to choose between the two sides.  Thurrock looked for a way into the tie but could not break down the Dartford defence. With eight minutes left Rook doubled his tally from six yards out to secure a place in the First Round. Next up…Crawley Town.

After the F.A Trophy tie Tony Burman confirmed Lee Noble had been given a chance to prove his worth at Concord Rangers and Ollie Berquez also went out on loan to Billericay Town.

Thurrock 0 Dartford 2 – F.A Trophy 3rd Qualifying Round Highlights

Debutant arrives

Tony Burman was in the loan market again and on 23 November 2010 announced the arrival of George Purcell from York City. Purcell was to make his first start against Woking, three times F.A trophy winners.

The Darts were off to a tremendous start when Ryan Hayes opened the scoring with a deft lob on seven minutes for Dartford. Hayes ran to the away end, back facing the audience and celebrated with a jig, a great finish from the winger. Woking looked strong up front and had the experience of former football league stirker Elvis Hammond who equalised mid-way through the first half. Woking passed the ball well and when Hammond went through his scuffed effort wrong footed Andrew Young and trickled into the Dartford net. The Cards then went into the break with a lead courtesy of Craig Faulconbridge’s header in first half stoppage time, the cross was pin point and the header was well placed beyond Young.

In the second half it did not take long for parity to be restored. Only five minutes had been played when loanee and debutant George Purcell finished in style. With a looped ball forward Purcell chased onto the ball waited for the bounce then almost karate kick like lobbed the ball over the goalkeeper, an exquisite finish, top goal indeed. Purcell was lively all afternoon and was foiled twice by Andrew Little in goal and blasted two opportunities over the crossbar. The game ended 2-2 to leave Dartford in eighteenth place, three points above the bottom three.

Woking 2 Dartford 2 – Highlights

November Completed

Cup games and wintery conditions made the league campaign slightly unsettled during November. Bromley and Braintree Town shared top spot. Ebbsfleet United continued where they left off in October and were now unbeaten in ten matches. Havant and Waterlooville finished the month on four consecutive wins. Braintree Town and Staines Town played out an astonishing 4-4 draw, Welling thrashed St Albans City 6-0 and Thurrock lifted themselves out of the bottom three by winning two in a row.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 16 10 3 3 29 11 +18 33
2 Bromley 16 9 6 1 26 17 +9 33
3 Welling United* 17 10 3 4 35 22 +13 27
4 Chelmsford City 14 8 3 3 27 18 +9 27
5 Dover Athletic 14 8 2 4 29 19 +10 26
6 Ebbsfleet United 14 7 5 2 22 12 +10 26
7 Farnborough 16 8 4 4 28 19 +9 28
8 Havant and W 13 6 4 3 20 11 +9 22
9 Eastleigh 15 6 4 5 24 18 +6 22
10 Bishop’s Stortford 17 7 2 8 19 30 -11 23
11 Staines Town 16 5 6 5 23 21 +2 21
12 Weston-super-Mare 17 6 4 7 20 27 -7 22
13 Woking 16 5 5 6 16 20 -4 20
14 Maidenhead United 15 5 3 7 15 25 -10 18
15 Dorchester Town 16 5 4 7 19 20 -1 19
16 Hampton and Richmond 16 4 7 5 19 23 -4 19
17 Basingstoke Town 14 4 3 7 12 17 -5 15
18 Dartford 15 3 6 6 20 25 -5 15
19 Thurrock 16 2 6 8 20 30 -10 12
20 Lewes 17 3 3 11 15 24 -9 12
21 St Albans City 16 1 7 8 15 31 -16 10
22 Boreham Wood 14 1 4 9 16 29 -13 7

*Welling United deducted five points

 

Stuart Maidment

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

 

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

4 – Finding Our Feet?

White-wash

Dartford started the second month of the season in sixteenth place and faced mid table Weston Super Mare at home.  The Seagulls had only managed to score and concede just once away from home, the crowd expected a tough match with few goals, how wrong they were. Dartford shaded the first half with nothing much to report until the stroke of half time. James White was being pushed and pulled in the box and the referee gave a penalty. Weston players were bemused, nine times out of ten a foul wouldn’t have been given unless it was outside the box. Charlie Sheringham tucked away the penalty to give Dartford the lead before the break.

James White's superb curling shot finds the back of the net

Weston came out quickly in the second half and a defensive lapse down the right provided The Seagulls with a chance to level. Marcus Duharty side footed the ball after it was cut back, all square. A sloppy goal to give away but that didn’t deter The Darts creating a couple of chances. James White was everywhere in the middle of the park and twenty minutes later his persistence paid off. Sheringham’s pass was just out of reach for White but he managed to bundle his way through to earn possession, Weston players claimed hand ball but this was unable to put White off his tracks. Cutting onto his left foot he curled a shot from 20 yards into the far corner, a terrific strike, 2-1. Four frantic minutes later left the Dartford faithful in dreamland. Ryan Hayes caused trouble all afternoon and his free kick on the right was turned in by Weston’s Martin Slocombe. Hayes then provided a delightful pin point cross for Sheringham to nod home at the back stick, 4-1 Dartford. With Ryno’s deliveries and White’s midfield domination that afternoon it certainly was a great day at the office.

Dartford 4 Weston Super-Mare 1 – Highlights

Elliot Bradbrook fires in the equaliser in Dartford's return to Ship Lane

Back to an Old Stomping Ground

A short trip across the River Thames to Ship Lane provided many fans with fond memories of The Darts playing outside of Kent. Years without a home after the demise in 1992, years of sharing grounds but the club survived no matter what. Between 1998 and 2001 The Darts shared home with Thurrock (then known as Purfleet). The Essex club had yet to record a victory in their opening seven fixtures, in fact it took a further eight games to earn their first win. On this occasion the two sides shared the spoils. Max Lette Jallow was allowed to waltz into the Dartford area and put The Fleet ahead on 65 minutes. Although the performance was gritty, dogged and sometimes desperate Dartford battled on.  A free kick was whipped in low and Eliot Bradbrook managed to take the ball under his control, a swivel, a shot, a goal from six yards. The skipper rescued a point for Dartford twelve minutes from time.

Thurrock 1 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Captain Bradbrook Saves the Day, Again

Captain Bradbrook scores a dramatic leveller

Bromley visited Princes Park top of the Conference South, an incredible run of seven straight victories (only matched by Woking later in the season) had ended the week before at St Albans City in a draw. Still unbeaten and with Dartford undefeated in three an impressive crowd of 1834 turned up for an entertaining afternoon.

Nic McDonnell put Bromley ahead in the first half when a Tony Finn shot looped over Andrew Young for McDonnell to bundle the ball over the line. However, the drama was about to unfold.  Jerome Sobers brought down Elliot Bradbrook in the box, the referee pulled out a card, the colour red. Ryan Hayes took the penalty, Wes Foderingham’s hand made contact with the ball but not enough to keep out the shot, the scores were level on 74 minutes.

With just two minutes on the clock Harrison Dunk dribbled the ball towards the Dartford goal, his unchallenged run ended in a low 18 yard strike into the Dartford net, disaster. With time running out The Darts pushed for an equaliser, Hayes put in a deep cross to the far post, Foderingham misjudged and Bradbrook nodded home from two yards out to rescue a point, again.

Dartford 2 Bromley 2 – Highlights

The Road To Wembley Begins

For some teams the journey to the hallowed Wembley turf began on 14 August 2011. On that day Dartford were making their debut in the Conference South. Every season for non leaguers, a trip to Wembley in the F.A Cup will never happen, so it’s the dream of a third round tie against the big guns which non leaguers realistically dream about. Dartford set out on their journey on 25 September 2010 in the Second Qualifying Round.

Lowestoft Town stood in Dartford’s way of progression as they visited Princes Park. The Isthmian Premier side were a tough prospect and definitely on the up. The previous season they cruised to the Isthmian North title with a 15 point margin, scoring a whopping 115. They had won three trophies in five years and reached the F.A Vase Final in 2008. In their first season at Isthmian Premier level they had won 5 of their first 7 matches.

The F.A Cup always has something special in store for a number of clubs; Dartford fans hoped it would be their turn. The match kicked off at the traditional time with supporters in good voice. The Trawlerboys brought a respectable following to add to the atmosphere inside Princes Park.

 

The Trawlerboys arrived at Princes Park in good spirits

Ryan Hayes had the first chance of the afternoon but his wild effort was blasted over. Andrew Young was called into action making an excellent save to keep Dartford fans on edge. The two sides traded opportunities but neither could convert their chances, half time arrived without a goal. The second half came alive when The Darts won a corner on 51 minutes. Michael Shinn’s delivery was scrambled towards Carl Rook who instinctively reacted to nod the ball home, a true poacher’s goal. Dartford stamped their authority on the game. Six minutes later a long throw found Danny Harris on the six yard box. Harris delicately took the ball down on his right foot, one touch out of his feet, a turn and low snap shot and the lead was doubled.

Rookamania: Rook celebrates

Lowestoft continued to play decent football and Joe Francis forced Young into tipping his shot onto the outside of post. The Trawlerboys were galvanised and continued to fight back, Dartford fans were not too comfortable. Dale Cockerill hit a terrific strike from 30 yards but Young equalled his effort with a superb save. On the rocks the game turned into a battle despite a two goal cushion, just ten minutes remained. Lee McGlone took the ball round Young, the post saved Dartford for a moment until Cockerill stuck in the rebound. Hearts were really in mouths now. Lowestoft pushed forward in search of a comeback their fans felt they deserved. Dartford was saved by the full time whistle, who would be waiting in the next round?

Dartford 2 Lowestoft Town 1 – Highlights

When September Ends

Bromley’s unbeaten run stretched to nine which included winning their opening seven matches. Welling United suffered a five point deduction and a £5000 suspended fine due to financial irregularities, leaving them eight points adrift of the leaders. Thurrock and Boreham Wood remained winless. Braintree’s Sean Marks managed to score in every fixture throughout September and topped the goalscoring chart with seven. The match of the month was at The Crabble, where a nine goal thriller ended Dover Athletic 6 Farnborough 3.

Dartford was unbeaten in September and moved up two positions in the league standings. Progression to the F.A Cup Third Qualifying Round was also a plus, it seemed as though The Darts were beginning to adjust to Conference South football.

 

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Bromley 9 7 2 0 17 8 +9 23
2 Braintree Town 9 6 2 1 16 4 +12 20
3 Dover Athletic 9 6 2 1 18 8 +10 20
4 Chelmsford City 9 6 1 2 18 10 +8 19
5 Welling United* 9 6 2 1 18 10 +8 15
6 Ebbsfleet United 9 4 3 2 13 9 +4 15
7 Eastleigh 9 4 2 3 14 10 +4 14
8 Hampton and Richmond 9 3 4 2 11 9 +2 13
9 Woking 9 4 1 4 7 10 -3 13
10 Maidenhead United 9 4 1 4 11 15 -4 13
11 Bishop’s Stortford 9 4 0 5 10 17 -7 12
12 Staines Town 9 2 5 2 10 10 0 11
13 Farnborough 9 3 2 4 14 16 -2 11
14 Dartford 9 2 4 3 14 12 +2 10
15 Havant and W 9 2 4 3 10 10 0 10
16 St Albans City 9 1 6 2 8 9 -1 9
17 Basingstoke Town 9 2 3 4 6 10 -4 9
18 Weston-super-Mare 9 2 3 4 8 13 -5 9
19 Thurrock 9 0 5 4 12 19 -7 5
20 Dorchester Town 9 1 2 6 8 16 -8 5
21 Lewes 9 1 1 7 6 14 -8 4
22 Boreham Wood 9 0 3 6 9 19 -10 3

*Welling United deducted five points