March Review

Dartford marched on to another Kent Senior Cup final and have so far won every league game at home this year but will they topple Woking as the final month of the season approaches.

Tom Champion nods his second league goal of the season

The Darts started the month at Longmead having defeated their fellow Kent club at home and after extra time in the Kent Senior Cup Quarter Final. In a very scrappy match Tom Champion headed in a goal from an eighteenth minute corner. Tony Burman described the 1-0 win as “a massive result” and recognised the importance of grinding out results, he told PURE DFC: “It wasn’t the most pleasant game on the eye, it was an awful game of football but having said that we battled away” he added: “If you keep clean sheets then you win games and we’ve done that, I thought the players were superb”.

In a month which involved two games a week the players returned to Princes Park with opponents Farnborough waiting. The Hampshire side were in form having won a season’s best six in a row. Dartford themselves had won eight of their last nine so a tight encounter was expected. However, The Darts swept aside Farnborough in a convincing 3-0 triumph. Jacob Erskine put in a man of the match display with well taken goals in the 18th and 52nd minutes. Substitute Tony Garrod compounded Farnborough’s misery with a goal against his former club two minutes from time.

Maidenhead United were next up at York Road in the first of two games against The Magpies. Unfortunately two dropped points meant league leaders Woking increased a six point lead to eight. Alex Wall broke the Dartford defence with a fortunate deflection and became the first player to score past Louis Wells in 227 minutes of football. Fifteen minutes later Danny Harris managed to stoop low to complete an excellent diving headers and tie the match. Maidenhead’s Reece Tison-Lascaris was dismissed on the stroke of half time for an altercation with Wells but Dartford couldn’t take advantage of the extra man.

Luke Wilkinson powers in a header for his first ever Dartford goal

In the space of three days Dartford were to go on the rampage at Princes Park but only after a scare against struggling Havant and Waterlooville. The Hawks went in front early on when Sam Pearce neatly finished a move that started from a corner in the eighth minute. To make matters worse the away side won a penalty with quarter of an hour played. Luckily Steve Ramsey failed to take his chance and blasted the spot kick over.

Once again The Darts showed character and fitness and were back on level terms with a flowing move that started with Jon Wallis in midfield. Wallis kept possession releasing Harris who found Jacob Erskine. The striker put in a low cross and Lee Noble made sure.

It wasn’t until the final ten minutes of the league encounter that Dartford could think about the three points. Ryan Hayes made an impression having come off the subs bench, his toe poked cross was flicked towards goal by fellow substitute Tony Garrod but Harris got the final touch from close range. With three minutes remaining the game was settled by defender Luke Wilkinson who headed home a Hayes corner for his first goal in a Darts shirt and secure a 3-1 win against Havant and Waterlooville.

Noble celebrates his delightful goal against Sutton United

Keeping in touch at the top was about to become challenging with the visit of fourth place Sutton United. For the majority of the 1022 fans that turned up they were about to witness one of the best nights at Princes Park. Noble opened the Dartford goal scoring for a successive league match when he tackled Paul Telfer and expertly chipped Sutton’s goalkeeper. Four minutes later Adam Green scored his third league spot kick of the season to double the lead. Harry Beautyman pulled a goal back for the play off contenders and so The Darts had a 2-1 advantage at the break.

The second half was breathtaking for Dartford fans as the players stunned The U’s with four unanswered goals. Harris scored his 14th league goal of the season with another diving header just before the hour. Luke Wilkinson powered in a header for his secong goal in as many games. Top scorer Elliot Bradbrook got back on the score sheet with an effort from 25 yards and to cap it all off Jacob Erskine made it 6-1 five minutes from time. Burman was impressed by his players work rate and told PURE DFC after the game: “I’m pleased, we have been a bit renowned for being slow starters. I thought it was an excellent game first half but again we’ve shown our fitness in the second half”.

A trip to Dorset was next on the agenda with a journey to Dorchester Town and it was a weekend that conjured up an interesting set of results. Whilst The Darts come home with nothing due to Ryan Dovell’s winner in the fifty fourth minute, Woking and Chelmsford City were beaten, and Sutton United drew with Welling United. Dartford may have missed an opportunity to close the gap at the top but at least they had not lost ground.

An anticipated cup tie was a welcome break from Conference South football and for some first team players a much needed rest. For the Kent Senior Cup semi final tie against League One’s Charlton Athletic, Tony Burman selected Deren Ibrahim, Paul Goodacre, Ryan Hayes, Tony Garrod and Jack Pallen who have had limited chances to complete 90 minutes recently. The Addicks included a mixture of first team, reserve and academy players but most notably Andy Hughes, Bradley Pritchard, Cedric Evina and Jason Euell started.

The Darts hope to repeat last season's Kent Senior Cup win

A healthy crowd of 1062 watched Jack Pallen slide in the opening goal just after half hour. The lead did not last long though when Evina centred for young striker Adebayo Azeez to equalise. Lee Noble scored his third goal of the month and put The Darts ahead for the second time with a long range shot, six minutes into the second half. With four minutes remaining progression to a second final in a row was clinched by Elliot Bradbrook’s close range effort. The win was well deserved and The Darts will face Isthmian Division One South side Hythe Town in the final.

To end a pleasing March Dartford secured their eighth league win in a row at home. In similar fashion to the previous meeting a fortnight ago between Dartford and Maidenhead United the two sides battled on the pitch. It wasn’t a pleasant game and only came to life when three goals occurred in the space of nine second half minutes. Excellent play between James Rogers and Adam Green set up Erskine to curl in the first. Lee Noble’s free kick was missed by Maidenhead’s goal keeper and Wilkinson pounced for his third in a Dartford shirt. Paul Semakula halved the deficit for The Magpies when he was left unchallenged. The match was soured by the two harsh red cards for each side. Harris was dismissed for two cautions and Maidenhead substitute Jermaine Hinds left the field without touching the ball.

It has been an incredibly tough month for Dartford trying to keep pace with Woking at the top. The title is still on with only six matches to go but an eight point turnaround will be difficult. Over the last month the squad has been stretched with the injuries of Paul Goodacre, Elliot Bradbrook, Jon Wallis, Richard Graham, Matt Jones, Jacob Erskine and Deren Ibrahim. Although Bradbrook returned mid way through the month and Erskine only missed the semi final against Charlton Athletic, Tony Burman recognised the task that lies ahead and signed Tony Stokes from Concord Rangers and Sam Higgins from East Thurrock United. The two strikers have been signed on dual registration but have yet to feature.

Race for the prize

The top six remained unchanged from the beginning of the month. Woking continue to lead by eight points and have five fixtures remaining. Next up for The Cards is Basingstoke Town who have won their last four matches and could be a surprise entrant into the playoffs. Woking face Chelmsford City on the final day who may need a win to stave off Basingstoke Town. Woking regained their form in March winning five of their last six games, scoring 19 times. Giuseppe Sole managed to net in all six of those matches notching an impressive nine.

Date Woking Dartford
3 April 2012 Eastbourne Borough (a)
6 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (a)
7 April 2012 Chelmsford City (h)
9 April 2012 Tonbridge Angels (h) Bromley (a)
14 April 2012 Maidenhead United (a) Sutton United (a)
21 April 2012 Truro City (h) Boreham Wood (h)
28 April 2012 Chelmsford City (a) Truro City (a)

Playoff run in

Welling United’s defeat at Woking has left Jamie Day’s team settling for the playoffs as The Wings dropped thirteen points behind the league leaders. However, Welling will have an eye on the runners up spot as this will mean home advantage should they reach the play off final.

Despite Sutton United’s trouncing at Princes Park the Surrey club have a nine point cushion on sixth place. The U’s remain tough to beat having tasted defeat just twice in nineteen games and regardless of how they finish the season have had an impressive debut in the Conference South.

Out of the teams currently in the playoff Chelmsford City look the most vulnerable. The Clarets lost four out of seven in March to teams close to them. They have now failed to score in their previous two matches despite the signing of Eastleigh’s Jamie Slabber. Challenging the Essex side are Dover Athletic who themselves have started to destruct, The Whites have failed to capitalise on Chelmsford City’s poor form with three straight defeats without scoring. This leaves Basingstoke Town an outside bet who play three of the bottom four in April and are very much in form.

Date Sutton United Chelmsford City Dover Athletic Basingstoke Town
6 April 2012 Woking (h)
7 April 2012 Bromley (h) Dartford (a) Tonbridge Angels (a)
9 April 2012 Dover Athletic (a) Eastbourne Borough (h) Sutton United (h)
14 April 2012 Dartford (h) Salisbury City (h) Havant & Waterlooville (a) Thurrock (a)
16 April 2012 Havant & Waterlooville (a)
21 April 2012 Salisbury City (a) Eastleigh (a) Maidenhead United (h) Eastbourne Borough (h)
24 April 2012 Hampton & Richmond (a)
28 April 2012 Farnborough (a) Woking (h) Weston Super-Mare (a) Welling United (a)

Relegation battle

Mid table has chopped and changed subtly with few teams making an impression which leaves the relegation battle which is hotting up. Thurrock at last managed their very first home win when they beat Dorchester town 2-0. The Fleet managed to secure victory at Ship Lane for the first time in 18 attempts. However the Essex club are on the verge of relegation after a woeful season and cannot drop a single point in April.

At the start of March Eastbourne Borough were involved in the battle but three wins on the spin and an unbeaten run of five has seen them pull six points clear. Which leaves four points covering 17th to 21st with two of the five clubs heading to the Isthmian or Southern League.

Bromley have been flirting with the bottom three since November but have only spent three weeks in the dreaded drop zone. In March they lost just twice, went three games without a goal and picked up four draws. The Ravens face two of the top six over Easter (Sutton United and Dartford) but also have relegation bound Thurrock to play on the penultimate weekend.

Maidenhead United are becoming notorious for their barren spells. Last season they went 17 matches without a win over a three month period. This season it was only 12 games that put The Magpies into the position they are in now. March started of with a shock 2-0 win away to Woking but since then they have scored just twice, both against Dartford, picking up two more points. The Berkshire club are two points from safety with a crucial scrap at Staines Town next.

Hampton and Richmond have been in the bottom three virtually all season but The Beavers have suddenly found belief. It is not as if the Middlesex club had been getting severely beaten all season as nine of their fifteen defeats have been by a solitary goal. Unbeaten in six, until Monday night The Beavers overcame Truro City in a seven goal thriller, Weston Super-Mare and Dover Athletic whilst picking up points against Dover Athletic at The Crabble, Maidenhead United and Sutton United. With away fixtures at Farnborough and Eastbourne Borough follwed by three home games, Hampton and Richmond end their season away to Thurrock.

Staines Town are separated by just two goals from safety but have failed to get out of the bottom five since the second week of the season. The Swans could drag Maidenhead United further into the mix on Saturday and take on Havant and Waterlooville on what could be dramatic final day.

Havant and Waterlooville played their last match of March under manager Shaun Gale for the final time. The sacking of The Hawks boss came after a tremendous slump which has seen the Hampshire side enter the drop zone for the first time all season. Havant and Waterlooville are leaking goals picking up one win in thirteen but are only a point behind Hampton and Richmond.

Date Bromley Maidenhead Utd Hampton & Richmond Staines Town Havant & Waterlooville
7 April 2012 Sutton United (a) Staines Town (a) Farnborough (a) Maidenhead Utd (h) Truro City (a)
9 April 2012 Dartford (h) Farnborough (a) Boreham Wood (a)
10 April 2012 Salisbury City (h)
14 April 2012 Truro City (a) Woking (h) Eastbourne Boro (a) Dorchester Town (a) Dover Athletic (h)
16 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (h)
17 April 2012 Salisbury City (h)
21 April 2012 Thurrock (h) Dover Athletic (a) Welling United (h) Weston Super-Mare (h) Farnborough (a)
24 April 2012 Basingstoke Town (h)
28 April 2012 Dorchester Town (a) Eastleigh (h) Thurrock (a) Havant & Waterlooville (a) Staines Town (h)


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