Dartford have the opportunity to reach the F.A Cup first round this weekend when they visit Isthmian North side AFC Sudbury.
Dartford play two steps above their opponents, but have history with their hosts. Dartford had a tremendous tussle with AFC Sudbury for the Isthmian Division One North title back in 2007/2008 and a memorable controversial moment in their last visit to Brundon Lane. John Guest headed the Darts in front when the defender got on the end of Steve Norman’s free-kick. The Suds had prolific striker Jamie Rowe in their ranks and his brace gave the Suffolk side the advantage. Then came the goal that should never have counted, Brendon Cass tried forcing the ball over the line to no avail but the officials thought otherwise. A 2-2 draw thanks to the ‘ghost goal’ ensured there was enough distance between the two sides for the Darts to enter the final stretch of the title race.
The Darts took four points from AFC Sudbury that season after winning 1-0 at Princes Park earlier in the campaign, Adam Flanagan scoring the winner. In the end the title race went to Dartford’s penultimate match of the season and eventually Tony Burman’s side finished nine points clear to take the Isthmian Division One North title, the Suds lost their playoff semi-final against Canvey Island.
Dartford last reached the first round of the F.A Cup four years ago, but manager Steve King knows his team will need to be on their game against lower league opposition, he spoke to Dartford FC TV and explained: “It’s going to be tough for a different reason, obviously we’re favourites being two levels above, but they have got this far for a reason, so they have ability in their team. We will do no less preparation as we would if it was anybody else”, he added: “If we don’t hit good standards we will get turned over. It is my job to make us as professional as we can and to realise we have to give everything to get through to the next round, but what an opportunity”.
King has led the Darts through two rounds so far beating Hythe Town 5-1 to claim his first F.A Cup victory as Dartford boss. Ade Azeez netted a perfect hat-trick, Danny Leonard scored his first for the club and there was also an own goal. In the third qualifying round, the Darts faced a tough draw against rivals Maidstone United at the Gallagher Stadium, as the two highest ranked teams in the competition went head to head. Noor Husin’s free-kick, Leonard’s second F.A Cup goal and another by Azeez claimed a satisfying 3-0 victory.
Building up to the final qualifier Dartford were in National South action last weekend and found things frustrating against Hungerford Town in the first half. After the interval, Azeez broke the deadlock for his eleventh goal in just ten games in all competitions. Another win and clean sheet was deserved according to King, but he felt the score should have been better if his side took their chances in front of goal. The performances of the team have helped King to the National South’s Manager of the Month award whilst Azeez claimed Player of the Month.
AFC Sudbury began their F.A Cup journey in the preliminary round almost two months ago with an away tie against Cockfosters, an Essex Senior League side who Dartford will face in the next round of the London Senior Cup. Daniel Gilchrist opened the scoring on just five minutes, but AFC Sudbury’s lead was cancelled out when Charncey Dash equalised, the advantage was restored two minutes later as George Keys netted what turned out to be the winner.
AFC Sudbury were made to work hard in the next round and needed a last-minute winner to scrape through against Potton United. The United Counties Premier Division South side almost held out for a replay until Tyrese Osbourne scored the crucial goal from a rebound. In the second qualifying round the Suds did need a replay in an all Isthmian League North tie. After a 0-0 draw at home to Stowmarket Town they finished the job with another 1-0 victory, this time Romario Dunne scored the goal to keep the cup run going.
In the previous round the Suds played higher league opposition and yet again came out triumphant in another 1-0 victory. Up against Isthmian Premier League side, Cheshunt, Luke Hipkin scored the first-half goal to take them within one game of the F.A Cup first round.
Last weekend AFC Sudbury won another cup tie beating 2019 F.A Vase finalists, Cray Valley Paper Mills. Both teams play at the same level with the Millers in the Isthmian South East division. With no replay, the F.A Trophy second qualifier ended 0-0 and went to penalties, Alfie Stronge’s save was the last act to send the Suffolk side onwards.
In the Isthmian North, AFC Sudbury have made an excellent start and if they win their game in hand, they could go joint top on points. The Suffolk side have won six of their opening eight, drawing one and losing the other. At home, the Suds have recorded four points from nine and on the road, they have a perfect record with three straight victories without conceding.
Since that title race with the Darts thirteen years ago, AFC Sudbury managed promotion by winning the Isthmian Division One North in 2016, but they came straight back down finishing second from bottom. This season is their fifth campaign back in the Isthmian North having finished twelfth and eighth before the two curtailed seasons.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 1 / AFC Sudbury wins: 0 / Draws: 1
|AFC Sudbury (LDWWWD)|
|Hungerford Town||H||1-0||Cray Valley Paper Mills (FAT)||H||0-0|
|Maidstone United (FAC)||A||3-0||Cheshunt (FAC)||H||1-0|
|Athletic Newham (LSC)||H||5-2||Romford||A||2-0|
|Welling United||A||6-0||Stowmarket Town (FAC)||A||1-0|
|Hythe Town||H||5-1||Stowmarket Town (FAC)||H||0-0|
|Tonmbridge Angels||H||1-1||Dereham Town||H||1-3|
AFC Sudbury 2 – 2 Dartford (09/02/2008 – Isthmian Division One North)
Dartford 1 – 0 AFC Sudbury (22/09/2007 – Isthmian Division One North )
- Dartford have made it to the first round five times in the last twelve attempts
- The Darts are unbeaten in their last three F.A Cup away ties beating Maidstone United this term and Blackfield and Langley and Horsham in 2019
- Dartford last lost an away F.A Cup tie against lower league opposition in 2002 when they went out in a replay 1-0 at Carterton Town.
- AFC Sudbury have kept five consecutive clean sheets in all competitions and nine in their last ten.
- The Suds last made it to the first round of the F.A Cup in the 2000/2001 season, they defeated Southend Manor, Brook House, Heybridge Swifts, Leek Town, Belper Town before losing to Darlington
- The last time AFC Sudbury made it to this stage of the competition was back in 2007
On This Day
This will be Dartford’s seventh F.A Cup tie on 16 October and after losing 3-2 to Northfleet in 1895, the Darts are unbeaten in the previous five. On four occasions Dartford progressed to the next round beating Bromley 3-1 in 1912, Folkestone in 1926 and Ramsgate Athletic in 1948 (both games ending 2-0) and in 1982 the Darts knocked out Corinthian Casuals winning 2-1. Tonbridge were the only other side to halt Dartford’s progression in 1965 when the tie finished 0-0, but that was only temporary as the Darts won the replay 6-2.
Dartford’s last away victory on this day was a seven goal thriller against Margate, the Darts returned with all three Southern Premier League points in a 4-3 triumph. Eight years ago, Mohamed Eisa scored the only goal of the game as Dartford beat Charlton Athletic 1-0 in the Kent Senior Cup. Eisa has scored almost a century of Football League goals since after spells with Cheltenham Town, Bristol City, Peterborough United and currently at Milton Keynes Dons.