Dartford end the year at home to local rivals Welling United in the National South this weekend.
Just four days since their Boxing Day clash both sides are looking to pick up vital points in the league. Dartford’s inconsistent campaign can go a variety of ways in a tight division. Optimistic in chasing a playoff place, the Darts are hoping to move up the table. Welling United have the same ambitions, but victory for them will help them in their current relegation battle.
The Darts edged the Boxing Day clash thanks to Richard Chin’s third goal of the season. Alan Dowson made two changes to the side that collapsed against St Albans City in their last home game. In came Paul Rooney and Luke Allen to replace Jordan Wynter and Harvey Bradbury. At Park View Road, in a poor first half there wasn’t much between the two sides, the hosts just about the better team. However, Dartford approached the second-half with much more energy and were rewarded just before the hour. George Alexander was put through on goal, but his effort was saved. Chin kept pace and he stroked home the rebound into an empty net.
The first away clean sheet since August helped Dartford to three important points. Victory moved them up five places into thirteenth. Meanwhile, Welling United remain in the relegation zone eight points from safety.
Ahead of Dartford’s final game of 2023, Dowson has re-signed midfielder Jack Smith. The 22 year-old returns after a spell with National North side King’s Lynn Town. He made 35 appearances whilst on loan with the Darts last season scoring four goals.
In Kent derbies Dowson had excelled, winning nine of his first ten in league. Welling United were the only team to stop the Darts with a draw, until defeat at Tonbridge Angels a fortnight ago. The unbeaten Kent derby run in the National South ended emphatically when Dartford were handsomely beaten by the Angels. However, Dartford do have an excellent record in league competition against the Wings.
Yet it was Danny Bloor’s side who won last time out at Princes Park when they met in September. For a second season in a row the Darts exited the F.A Cup at the first hurdle. Antony Papadopoulos was Welling United’s hat-trick hero as the Wings came to Princes Park and won 3-2. Dartford twice took the lead through Lewis Manor. However, Papadopoulos had the answer to send Dowson’s side out of the competition.
Dartford last hosted Welling United in the National South just over a year ago when they were on a crest of a wave. During Dowson’s best spell since his appointment, they won 5-1. Racing into a three-goal lead before the break Pierre Fonkeu, Davide Rodari and former Wing, Maxwell Statham scored the goals to put Dartford well in command. Former Dart, Ade Azeez pulled a goal back for the visitors, but the advantage was later stretched when Jack Smith and Luke Coulson wrapped up a fine display.
The reverse fixture saw the Darts twice go a goal down to come away with a point. George Alexander, now on loan at Dartford scored for the Wings to open the scoring. It took a while for the away team to get going and they were level through another former Wing, Charlie Sheringham. The hosts went back ahead after Ade Azeez smashed a shot in off the underside of the crossbar against his old side, but Malachi Napa confidently finished to level the match at 2-2.
Former players facing their old side is common in this fixture and this term it’s no different. As well as Sheringham, Statham and Alexander, Harvey Bradbury also had a spell at Park View Road. The striker spent some of the 2020/2021 campaign with Welling United scoring twice in eight appearances. Lining up against Dartford could be goalkeeper Charles-Cook and full back Rob Howard. Both spent a short amount of time with the Darts, Charles Cook made nine appearances and Howard seven.
Welling United had a terrible start to their campaign with an opening day thrashing at newly promoted Truro City. The Wings went on to lose their first four matches before getting their first victories. Incredibly Welling United went on a ten-match winless streak involving seven draws. An entertaining 4-3 win at home to Slough Town ended that run before a 4-1 reverse to Braintree Town. Bloor’s side shocked league leaders Yeovil Town with a 4-1 home triumph a month ago, but they are still in need of points as they approach the New Year. One point in their last five outings and no goals in the last three has put the Wings under more pressure.
|Welling United (WLDLLL)
|St Albans City
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 26 / Welling United wins: 11 / Draws: 12
Welling United 0 – 1 Dartford (26/12/2023 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 3 Welling United (15/09/2023 – F.A Cup)
Welling United 2 – 2 Dartford (04/02/2023 – National South)
Dartford 5 – 1 Welling United (01/11/2022 – National South)
Welling United 2 – 2 Dartford (26/04/2022 – Kent Senior Cup)*
Dartford 4 – 2 Welling United (05/02/2022 – National South)
* – Welling United won 5-3 on penalties
- Dartford are unbeaten in nine league games against Welling United (W7, D2)
- At home, the Darts have taken 22 out of the last 24 points available versus the Wings (W7, D1) and have only ever lost one league match to Welling United in December 2013 (W10, D2)
- Dartford have lost just one in the last 17 league matches against Welling United (W11, D5)
On This Day
It’s been 15 years since Dartford played on 30 December. The Darts ended 2008 with a win at Ramsgate, Jamie Day scoring the only goal in the Isthmian Premier League contest. At Princes Park, two years earlier Ryan Hayes scored twice in a 4-2 victory over Whyteleafe. Ryan Briggs and Brendon Cass also netted in the Isthmian Division One South fixture. In 1989, Dartford also defeated Crawley Town 2-0 in the Southern Premier League at Watling Street. Another win to close 2023 will make it four in a row on this day.