Dartford begin the New Year hosting rivals Ebbsfleet United in a National South top of the table clash.
The Darts could complete a league double over their rivals for the first time in 43 years to maintain top spot. Dowson’s side lead their Kent rivals by three points having played three games more. Whilst Ebbsfleet United will be looking to avenge the 4-1 Boxing Day defeat and avoid a fourth consecutive league loss.
On Monday, the festive feel good factor reached another level when Dartford claimed a first North Kent derby league victory at Stonebridge Road since 1979. The Darts made just one change to the side that beat fellow promotion contenders Havant and Waterlooville in their previous outing, Dan Wilks returning in goal for the Darts for the first time since August.
It took just 45 seconds for Luke Allen to net from a Samir Carruthers cross. Former Fleet winger, Luke Coulson made it two on five minutes and six minutes later Maxwell Statham added a third. Dartford were pinching themselves when Alex Wall scored before the break, his eighth in all competitions and there was still time for the hosts to pull a goal back through Craig Tanner. Early in the second half Sam Odaudu was carried off with an injury and replaced by Jack Smith, the midfielder’s first appearance since the F.A Trophy defeat in mid-November. With no goals in the second forty five, the Darts recorded their biggest away league victory at the Fleet since New Years Day 1992 and condemned their rivals to a third straight loss in the National South.
Back from World Cup commentaries, Martin Tyler took the time to speak to Pure DFC after the game, he said: “We came with a plan and it was done more than we could ever hope for really. The way the chances were taken, we stifled their play, the front three defended very well and allowed the midfield to engage as well. Of course you can’t sustain that for really long periods so the fourth goal was a bonus”. Victory provided the Darts with plenty of festive cheer, Tyler praised the teams efforts saying he is “delighted for the supporters, thrilled for the players and obviously it was a very special post Christmas present for Dowse”. Ebbsfleet United may be going through a sticky patch in terms of results, but the Dartford coach is urging supporters to help make a difference once more, he added: “I hope that will encourage people to come out and support us on New Year’s Day. We’ve got huge respect with what Ebbsfleet United do. I think the quality of their individuals perhaps didn’t quite work as a quality of a team, but we know if they click into gear on another day it could go the opposite way”.
The sixth New Years Day meeting between the two sides takes on extra significance this season with the Darts and the Fleet eyeing up promotion back to the National League. In the league, Dartford have lost just once in the last ten home games against Ebbsfleet United stretching back to the early eighties. In that time the Darts have won seven and drawn twice, the only loss came seven years ago. Last season Dartford put in an excellent performance to win 1-0 at Princes Park, Jake Robinson scoring the winner. The striker got on the end of Kai Innocent’s cross to ensure the home side earned bragging rights.
Last time the local rivals met on New Years Day was five years ago when Fleet won 1-0 on their own patch. Bradley Bubb scored the winning goal to avenge the Boxing Day defeat at Princes Park. Four years earlier at Stonebridge Road an entertaining 2-2 draw was played out with Dartford taking a two goal lead thanks to Jon Wallis and Harry Crawford. Nathan Elder pulled a goal back and his last minute equaliser made sure the points were shared. The Darts last beat Ebbsfleet United on New Years Day when their opponents were known as Gravesend and Northfleet and it was a resounding victory. This season will mark 30 years since Dartford won 5-0 at Watling Street with all the goals coming in the second half.
Two of Dartford’s experienced players know what the North Kent derby means having played on both sides of the divide. Captain, Tom Bonner has made over 400 appearances in a Dartford shirt, the defender left the Darts for Cambridge United before moving to Ebbsfleet United in 2015, then re-joined Dartford a year later. Charlie Sheringham has scored 59 times for the Darts over four spells, the striker’s spell at Stonebridge Road yielded 11 in 49 games between 2014 and 2017.
On the other side, Darren McQueen formed an excellent understanding with Elliott Romain at Dartford. Currently at Ebbsfleet United the duo have had a limited number of starting appearances this term. Mainly used as a substitute, McQueen has scored four this season, when he was with the Darts he top scored with 20 goals in the 2019/2020 campaign. Romain is currently out on loan with Hemel Hempstead Town.
Alan Dowson’s first season in charge began with consecutive victories, but four 2-1 defeats in the next five matches tested his squad. After a 3-1 Kent derby victory over Dover Athletic, the Darts crashed out of the F.A Cup at the first hurdle to lower league opposition, a theme that was repeated in the F.A Trophy two months later. However, between those cup losses, Dowson managed to guide Dartford on an outstanding run taking 31 points from a possible 33. Midfielder, Samir Carruthers has impressed in the centre of the pitch and with nine goals in all competitions has been one of the stand out players this term. Since mid-November, Dartford have shown their inconsistencies and like many other teams an unbeaten run will be a top of the New Year’s resolution list.
Ebbsfleet United came into this campaign as favourites and their early season form backed the bookies up. After nine league games the Fleet boasted a 100% record and it wasn’t until the 17th match that they tasted a league defeat. Going into that loss Ebbsfleet United had taken 42 points from a possible 48. In that time they also negotiated their way through four rounds of the F.A Cup to reach the second round where they were narrowly beaten by League One side Fleetwood Town.
Perhaps the cup run has been a distraction because leading up to their fixture with the Cod Army they lost their first league game and went out of the F.A Trophy to Eastbourne Borough, who also beat Fleet just over a fortnight ago. However, they did demonstrate their quality away at Worthing at the beginning of December with a resounding 6-0 win. However, Kutrieb’s side have felt the pressure from the chasing pack losing to lowly Cheshunt before the Boxing Day derby defeat on their own soil.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 68 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 56 / Draws: 32
Current League Form
|Havant & Waterlooville||A||3-1||Cheshunt||A||0-1|
|Bath City||H||0-0||Eastbourne Borough||H||0-2|
|Concord Rangers||H||3-1||Slough Town||H||2-0|
|Oxford City||A||1-1||Tonbridge Angels||H||1-2|
Last Six Meetings
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 4 Dartford (26/12/2022 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Ebbsfleet United (01/02/2022 – National South)
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Dartford (02/01/2022 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 0 Ebbsfleet United (02/01/2021 – National South)
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Dartford (01/01/2017 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Ebbsfleet United (26/12/2016 – National South)
- The away team has failed to win in 20 of the last 22 league games between the two sides (home wins 13, draws 7, away wins 2)
- In the league, Dartford have kept two clean sheets in a row at home against Ebbsfleet United, a third will make it the first time since 1989-1992
- The Darts were the last team to claim back to back league wins in this fixture back in 1991 and 1992
- Dartford have won 12, drawn 8 and lost 14 on New Years Day (at home W10, D3, L5)
On This Day
Dartford’s last three games on New Years Day all ended in victory at Princes Park against Welling United. A couple of years ago, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong opened the scoring and future Fleet strikers Elliott Romain and Darren McQueen netted the other three between them, Romain claiming the brace. In 2019, Ronnie Vint’s winner four minutes from time clinched a 1-0 triumph over the Wings and the year before that the Darts won 4-1, Ryan Hayes, Andy Pugh and two from Alfie Pavey sealing a comfortable afternoon. At home, the Darts have won three of the last four on 1 January drawing the other 0-0 with Margate in the Southern League South back in 1999. The last home defeat on this day was against Alma Swanley in 1996 when the Darts lost 3-2 in the Kent League.