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

5 – The Start of a Long Winter / The Run Continues

Dartford start October with a defeat

Woeful at The Wood

Tony Burman’s men visited newly promoted Boreham Wood in the first fixture of October. The Wood went up via the playoffs, 25 points behind The Darts, to reach the highest level in the clubs history. Dartford’s opponents had failed to record a single win in the first two months. The Darts were confident of a result and for getting their first away win of the season.  After a goalless first half the floodgates opened in the second. Unfortunately, it was the home side that scored three unanswered goals. Tom Bonner scored an unlucky own goal on 46 minutes when trying to cut out a cross. Mario Noto netted a brace, on 70 minutes he scored from the penalty spot and on 84 minutes Noto made it three nil. Lee Noble came on as a substitute and managed to net a consolation at the end, a terrible result, a lethargic performance, this did not bode well for the cup games up next.

Boreham Wood 3 Dartford 1 – Highlights

Penalty Drama –Part One

F.A Cup day arrived again at Canvey Island’s Brockwell Stadium. The Darts had been a bit of a bogey side for The Gulls in recent years. In Essex the two sides shared 13 goals over the last three seasons with Dartford winning on every occasion, 1-0, 3-2 and 5-2. On a blustery afternoon near the Thames Estuary, Canvey took the lead on just eight minutes through Danny Heale’s unchallenged header. The Darts had a goal ruled out, hit the bar and missed a number of chances. James Russell, Canvey’s keeper was in fine form and so Dartford could not find the breakthrough in the first half and went in a goal down.

Dartford take the lead in the F.A Cup

Andrew Young kept The Darts in the game on 64 minutes with a good stop and six minutes later Danny Harris was upended in the box. Up stepped Ryan Hayes from the penalty spot, all level. Hayes started to cause problems and just seven minutes passed when he looped the ball forward for Elliot Bradbrook to nod Dartford in front. It looked over but Canvey pushed for the equaliser, injury time arrived, one minute, two minutes, three minutes, how much longer? Young rushed out to punch the ball clear, Jason Hallett went down, penalty. Four minutes into injury time and Robbie King scored. Dartford blew it in the last moments, the game ended 2-2 and a replay was needed.
Canvey Island 2 Dartford 2 – Highlights

Penalty Drama –The Sequel

Princes Park was not a happy ground for Canvey Island. If you thought their record against Dartford on their own patch was bad then think again. In 2007, Dartford won 6-1, the following season ended 4-0 to The Darts and last season 2-1.  Before the F.A Cup match at Brockwell Stadium Dartford had won all six fixtures against Canvey Island scoring 21 times. The draw, just days ago, was a great result for The Gulls.

If the first match was exciting then the replay was enough to make any supporter self-combust, surely a four goal thriller couldn’t be bettered, oh yes it could. It took 17 minutes for Canvey to take a shock lead; the Isthmian Premier League side were in front with an unmarked Frank Everett header. Canvey players jumped towards a small overjoyed bunch of Canvey supporters who surged forward to celebrate. Four minutes later Dartford’s penalty claim was turned down for handball but they continued to press. The ball was sent back into the box and headed back across goal by Ryan Hayes for the on rushing Danny Harris to square the tie. Dartford took the lead when Joe Bruce’s hoof forward sent Carl Rook in on goal, Rook was bundled over in the box, another penalty given. Hayes who netted in the first match was given the responsibility to put The Darts ahead. Hayes fired to the keepers right, it was kept out, Hayes followed up, kept compose, took it round the goalkeeper and Rook did the rest, phew.

Another Rookamania moment as Carl Rook scores

In the second half Hayes continued to tease Canvey’s left back and on 64 minutes he cut outside his opponent and floated a pin point cross, Paul Goodacre was there, another header, another goal, 3-1 and Dartford were in control. The Princes Park hoodoo looked to continue for Canvey but they didn’t know when to give in. James White lost possession in the middle of the park trying to dribble out from defence. The Gulls won possession and the ball was played out to Alex Rhodes about 40 yards from goal. He strode forward and unleashed a pile driver from 30 yards into the Dartford goal, we had reached the halfway point of the second half and it was 3-2. Robbie King hit the crossbar, Dartford supporters were looking nervous, if only they knew what was to come.

Dartford’s defence became hesitant as Canvey pushed and pushed and pushed. A long looping diagonal ball found Alex Rhodes who whizzed past Tom Bonner. One on one with Andrew Young this was the moment, Rhodes slotted home, Canvey went ballistic as they came back from the brink. Still fifteen minutes to go and the scores were level again at 3-3. Both sides traded blows and came close to nicking victory but extra time was required.

Both sides had given it their all and the extra 30 minutes of play was very cagey. Jason Hallett crashed a volley off Young’s crossbar and toe poked wide. The momentum was swinging towards The Gulls but neither side could find the winner. The full time whistle blew and players slumped to the ground.

And so for the climax…after 210 minutes of football and ten goals the players legs were tired, the fans hearts were racing. A penalty shoot out was to follow, to watch or not to watch, no one could take anymore. In front of the home fans the shoot out began. Goal after goal no one would give. Charlie Sheringham, Robbie King, Elliot Bradbrook, Craig Davidson, James White, Ashley Dumas, Ryan Hayes, Alex Rhodes, Danny Harris, Danny Heale all successful, 5-5, sudden death.

Up stepped Joe Bruce, side footed towards the top right corner, James Russell guessed wrong, the crossbar rattled, game over? Bruce walked back head in hands not knowing where to look, just hoping for a miracle, feelings mutual with the Dartford faithful. Matt Game, for a place in the next round versus Andrew Young, to save the cup run. Game went left, Young guessed and the cup run continued. Cries from the bench, “get in Youngy, get in”. Young and Russell passed each other tapped hands as if they were in a goalkeeper’s pact, knowing they have little chance against the outfield players. Supporters of both sides were wondering ‘please no more’…

Andrew Young guesses correctly and Dartford progress to the F.A Cup 4th Qualifying Round

Adam Birchell was next, Russell tipped the ball onto the post, hearts stopped, and the ball crept in for 6-5, hearts restarted. Ex Dart, Hussain Isa levelled the scores, Tom Bonner netted, Steve Ward converted, Adam Gross scored, Chris Moore equalised, 8-8. The night went on and on and on.

Paul Goodacre was next knowing just the goalkeepers were to follow. He struck the ball left footed, Russell went the wrong way and Dartford was in front again. Goodacre trotted back to his team-mates fist in the air, a sense of relief, job done.  Jason Hallett, the last outfield player remaining to keep Canvey’s dream alive, side footed left, Young dived the right way at full stretch, the ball flew past him…and wide of the post. Dartford won it, players raced towards the crowd, emotions were let out, adrenalin pumped, nobody behind the Dartford goal could contain themselves, what a night.

Dartford 3 Canvey Island 3 – Highlights Penalty Shoot Out – Dartford 9 Canvey Island 8

Richard Graham scores

Defeated at Eastleigh

After an exhilarating week Dartford travelled down to Hampshire to face Eastleigh. The Darts sported an all red kit on what was to end up in more league disappointment. A dreadful display at the Silverlake Stadium ended in a comfortable win for Eastleigh. The Spitfires scored three, The Darts fired a blank. Richard Graham, who recently agreed to join The Darts opened the scoring with two minutes left of the first half when his eighteen yard effort found its way through a crowded box into the corner. A poor cross was deverted into Paul Goodacre’s own net on 63 minutes via his heel . Andrew Young had to run out of his goal to head clear in the last minute but Anthony Riviere capitalised by stroking the ball into the unguarded net from 30 yards. An awful result left the travelling fans bemused and the players being questioned.

Eastleigh 3 Dartford 0 – Highlights

First Round Beckons?

It was always going to be difficult to match last rounds F.A Cup drama but the anticipation and expectancy were taken to the East of England. Dartford had drawn Leiston for an opportunity to reach the F.A Cup First Round for the first time since 1989. Leiston were clear underdogs playing in the Eastern Counties Premier League three levels below The Darts.

Five days before the big match Tony Burman arranged a friendly behind closed doors. A Charlie Sheringham hat trick along with goals from Adam Birchell and Ollie Berquez earned The Darts a 5-0 victory against Thamesmead Town. However, the result could not be repeated at Victory Road as Leiston held Dartford to a goalless draw in a very poor match.

Charlie Sheringham spurns Dartford's best chance in a goalless draw

Sunday arrived and the eyes of the Dartford supporters were glued to their television sets and ears were stuck to their radios. For the first time in 21 years, Dartford were in the famous velvet bag, ball number 74. “Please a home tie”, “please pick out Charlton Athletic”, “no I want us to get Gillingham”, “Hillsborough would be a good place to visit”, for a generation of fans, for the newer supporters this was a first. For the older generation during the Watling Street days it had been too long.

“Number  74”, that’s us, bum to the edge of the seat, television volume turned up, legs twitching, head screaming for a big tie. “Will play number 34”, who tell us? “Port Vale”. C’mon a league club at home, bring it on. Oh wait a minute we have the small matter of replay to get through first.

26 October 2010, a chance to host a football league club at Princes Park in a competitive match beckoned. Fans were confident but still nervous considering recent performances. The sheer scale of the match, the potential ‘banana skin’, we mustn’t blow it, this is our best chance in years, defeat would be disastrous.

Tom Bonner scored what turned out to be the winner

Before the replay Adam Gross was released from the club, John Whitehouse replaced Andrew Young in goal. The wet weather was unable to stop the game going ahead, will it be Dartford or Leiston? Three minutes into the game and a long volley forward by Elliot Bradbrook looked easy to deal with. Leiston’s central defender miss controlled the ball as Danny Harris’ pace increased the pressure. Harris shoulder barged his way to possession and slotted home clear on goal, super start. The darts controlled the opening quarter of the match. Carl Rook spotted Ryan Hayes unmarked on the left, Hayes cut inside and his effort was parried, Rook followed up, cue Rookamania, the lead was doubled on 25 minutes. Straight from kick off, four passes later and Leiston carved out a chance of their own, Andrew Young was rounded but saved by the post, Stuart Broadley followed up, 2-1.

Dartford remained in control but felt another goal was needed, the majority of 1074 supporters feared another Canvey night. On the hour a Michael Shinn free kick found Tom Bonner who rose above everyone to increase the lead to 3-1. More opportunities arrived for The Darts but the score stayed the same, the final whistle edged closer, Port Vale awaited. A minute remaining and surely the job was done, Leiston attacked and managed to get the ball into the box, Leon Ottley-Gooch got the better of the Dartford defenders and nodded Leiston a lifeline, it was too late. For the first time in 21 years Dartford F.C made it to the F.A Cup First Round.

Dartford 3 Leiston 2 (Replay) – Highlights

Bonner rescues The Darts

Four days later The Darts were shot back down to earth. All of the excitement and escapism of the cup was followed up by a league fixture away to Lewes at the wonderful Dripping Pan.  The Rooks had lost eight consecutive games before holding Bromley, they had managed just four points out of 33. Tim O’Shea was appointed the new manager after the eighth successive defeat.

Dartford was searching for their first away win. Ryan Hayes created his own chance with a skilful run but his shot was curled wide. Paul Olima then put Lewes in front when a corner was not dealt with by Dartford, a sloppy goal to concede, more away day disappointment.

A feisty draw at The Dripping Pan

Dartford never settled and was left frustrated, the game became feisty. Lee Burns was hauled over off the ball on the halfway line and a second melee of the afternoon began a minute from time, Jamie Crellin was sent off, James White booked. The clocked ticked as 4.45pm arrived, John Whitehouse took the free kick and punted the ball into the Lewes box. The Lewes keeper attempted to punch clear 12 yards out but his own defender got their first, Tom Bonner stretched out and prodded the ball towards goal, 1-1, Dartford players ran in all directions knowing they escaped the Dripping Pan with a draw.

Lewes 1 Dartford 1 – Highlights

October Leaves

A mixed month for the Dartford faithful, poor league performances were overshadowed by a roller coaster of a cup run. The Darts finished October in eighteenth place without a league win in October. Lewes hit rock bottom, Thurrock were still to record a win. Bromley suffered their first defeat of the campaign to Basingstoke Town after drawing three in a row. Braintree Town took the initiative at the top having kept an impressive ten clean sheets in thirteen fixtures. Farnborough were getting to grips with the league with a 100% record in October, Kezie Ibe netting in each game. Havant and Waterlooville won both their matches including a 5-1 victory against Bishop’s Stortford whose slump continued.

Pos Team P W D L F A GD Pts
1 Braintree Town 13 9 2 2 22 5 +17 29
2 Bromley 13 8 4 1 22 15 +7 28
3 Chelmsford City 12 8 1 3 24 15 +9 25
4 Welling United* 13 9 2 2 27 14 +13 24
5 Dover Athletic 12 7 2 3 26 15 +11 23
6 Ebbsfleet United 12 6 4 2 17 11 +6 22
7 Eastleigh 12 6 2 4 20 11 +9 20
8 Farnborough 12 6 2 4 22 17 +5 20
9 Havant and W 11 4 4 3 16 11 +5 16
10 Woking 12 5 1 6 9 13 -4 16
11 Hampton and Richmond 13 4 5 4 15 17 -2 17
12 Basingstoke Town 12 4 3 5 12 14 -2 15
13 Weston-super-Mare 13 4 4 5 14 20 -6 16
14 Maidenhead United 11 4 1 6 11 20 -9 13
15 Staines Town 12 3 5 4 12 13 -1 14
16 Dorchester Town 13 4 3 6 14 18 -4 15
17 Bishop’s Stortford 13 5 0 8 17 30 -13 15
18 Dartford 12 2 5 5 16 19 -3 11
19 St Albans City 12 1 6 5 13 19 -6 9
20 Thurrock 12 0 6 6 14 23 -9 6
21 Boreham Wood 12 1 3 8 12 24 -12 6
22 Lewes 13 1 3 9 8 19 -11 6

*Welling United deducted five points

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