Season Review Part One & Two – A look back on 2010/2011

1- The Ups and Downs of 2010

On 10 April 2010 The Darts were on the verge of securing a place in the Conference South. Faced against second place Kingstonian at Kingsmeadow, Tony Burman’s men emphatically won 6-2 to earn their second promotion in just three years.

Fast forward to 24 April 2010 and a jolly at Bognor Regis saw 868 fans watch Dartford close a triumphant season with a 2-0 victory and Jamie Coyle net the 100th league goal of the season. The Darts cruised to the title by amassing 93 points, 18 clear of runners up Sutton United.

Fans celebrated in the bar (and for the rest of the weekend) and managed to catch the full time scores as the final day of the non league season came to an end. The finale was worth it, with one eye on their beer and one on the television the anticipation of who would be joining the Darts from the Conference Premier grew. Unbeknown to buoyant Dartford supporters Gateshead United looked safe after leading AFC Wimbledon from the fourth minute. Main rivals Ebbsfleet United were ahead 4-3 against Tamworth with just nine minutes to go. Dartford’s main rivals were heading for safety until Eastbourne Borough was awarded a penalty against Oxford United six minutes from time; Simon Weatherstone converted the spot kick.

Isthmian Premier League Winners 2009/2010

Back in the bar the results came in…Eastbourne Borough 1 Oxford United 0, Gateshead United 1 AFC Wimbledon 0, Tamworth 3 Ebbsfleet United 4…a quick glance at the final table confirmed Ebbsfleet United’s relegation, the bar erupted, celebrations continued because Dartford will be playing Ebbsfleet United for the first time in 18 years. The Darts were back where they belonged.

The Conference South welcomed Farnborough who took the Southern League title with an impressive 93 points and 100 goals as they edged Nuneaton Town by five points. Boreham Wood finished fourth in the Isthmian Premier League but earned promotion to the Conference South for the first time in their 62 year history. A playoff final win against Kingstonian ensured the Hertfordshire side will finish in their highest ever league position in the 2010/2011 season.

Leaving the Conference South for greater heights was Newport County AFC, led by Dean Holdsworth the Welsh side won the title by a massive 28 points. Bath City finished fourth and won the playoff final against Woking securing a place at the top level of non league football for the first time since 1997. Weymouth was relegated after finishing bottom, Worcester City moved across to the Conference North and Weston Super Mare were reprieved.

2- 113 Days of Summer – 2010

Fixture list
After a glorious promotion season August could not come soon enough. Forced to watch England’s dismal World Cup campaign in South Africa only two thoughts could enter the mind of a Dartford fan. Firstly, when does the fixture list come out? Secondly, how will the squad be shaping up come pre season?

The excitement of waiting for fixtures cannot be explained to the non football supporter. When the list is published each fan looks for something different. However, there is a commonality and a set of unwritten rules each fan tends to use to assess and cast their eye on the up and coming season.

2010/2011 Fixture List

1. Who do we play first?
2. When do we play our local rivals?
3. Who do we play over the festive season?
4. When do we travel to the best away ground?
5. Who do we play last?
6. Do the big fixtures avoid the important family commitments or holiday I cannot get out of?

For your information Dartford were due to open their Conference South account at Princes Park against Havant and Waterlooville, take on Ebbsfleet United in the first two weeks of the season and again over the festive period, travel to Woking in November, then close the season at Maidenhead United.

Comings and Goings
In preparation for the new season Tony Burman braved difficult decisions bound to split supporter opinion. In May he announced news that would divide views and come as a shock to the Dartford faithful. Isthmian League winning captain and a defensive rock throughout 2009/2010, Adam Flanagan was released along with crowd favourite Robbie Haworth, jaws dropped in astonishment. Jay May’s second spell with the club ended as did combative defensive midfielder Danny Dafter, experienced forward Alan Tait and midfielder Ryan Johnson.

Over the summer months announcements were made one by one, ‘Goodacre becomes a Dart’, ‘Tony pleased to announce new signing’, ‘Berquez signs in!’, ‘Brucie bonus for Darts’ for Burman had captured four new players. Paul Goodacre, Tom Champion and Joe Bruce joined from Braintree Town and Ollie Berquez from Chelmsford City.Then on 17 June 2010 the biggest announcement of all was made. Charlie Sheringham, son of the legendary Teddy

New Signings: Ollie Berquez and Joe Bruce also signed on the dotted line

Sheringham had signed on the dotted line. The 22 year old had plied his trade at a number of league clubs but dropped down to non league. A successful spell at Welling United was followed by a period at Bishop’s Stortford, supporters of these clubs were torn between whether Sheringham reached his potential or not, Dartford fans would have to wait and see.

Pre Season Friendlies
No matter who was in or who was out ‘in T.B we trust’. A mix of enthusiasm, hope, nervousness and anticipation was to build up over the ensuing weeks as players showcased themselves to the playing staff and fans in games against Dagenham and Redbridge, Gillingham, Southend United, Millwall and Leyton Orient.

During July and the first week of August, Dartford played eight friendly matches winning four, drawing two and losing two. Victories came against Dagenham and Redbridge (3-1), Southend United (2-0), Bognor Regis Town (5-0) and Tonbridge Angels (1-0). The Darts earned a respectable draw against Leyton Orient (2-2) and were held in a goalless draw versus Aveley. Only Gillingham (2-1) and Millwall (2-0) defeated Dartford, a promising pre season indeed. Tony Burman added to the squad with the addition of Tom Bonner after a successful trial. The 22 year old centre back scored two goals in pre season had previously come through the ranks of Northampton Town.

Pre Season at Princes Park

The only competitive match was a chance for more silverware in the Isthmian League Charity Shield. Princes Park hosted the League Champions against Leatherhead United, the League Cup winners. Leatherhead United scored the only goal of the game to lift the shield, Dartford were denied.

As always Burman had the chance to assess his squad during these games and the supporters judged and talked about the clubs ambitions, the new players and made predictions. Optimistic Dartfordian’s claimed that a second successive promotion was on the cards, the realist was content with mid table or just plain survival with anything else as a bonus. The one thing we all agreed on was relegation is a definite no go.

Burman was in the realist camp but edging towards the optimist, “We’re new to this league, we’re going to come up here and enjoy ourselves and if I thought for one minute everyone wanted to avoid relegation, I’d be absolutely gutted. “We’re going to have a real good go and see what happens – and let’s enjoy ourselves”[1]

[1] on Sunday, 18 July 2010 – ‘Burman Unhappy With Player Restrictions For Ryman Charity Clash’


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