Dartford kick start their National South campaign at Bath City this weekend with Alan Dowson taking charge of his first competitive game for the club.
The Darts will be hoping to recreate the last time they visited Twerton Park on the opening day when they came home with a 2-1 victory four years ago. Last season Dartford completed a league double over the Romans and knocked their opponents out of the F.A Trophy on penalties, meaning the Kent side have lost just one of their last 13 outings against Bath City.
Dowson is confident his players will be ready when it matters on Saturday after his side’s final pre-season fixture. The Darts lost to Canvey Island, but despite defeat the new boss believes the current squad is the strongest he has worked with for a while and is glad his players’ poor performance is out of their system. Midfielder, Luke Allen completed a full match and new signing, Alex Wall managed some game time to help the striker get fit after injury.
Wall will start his third spell at Dartford, in his first he scored six goals in 11 appearances, but his second failed to materialise after he was moved on before the season began. Charlie Sheringham, back for a fourth time missed the Canvey Island defeat after re-joining the Darts. Injured in the draw at Chatham Town, the striker has previously scored 54 goals in 119 appearances for Dartford.
Latest signing Pierre Fonkeu arrives from Hemel Hempstead Town, the forward scored in the pre-season draw against Boreham Wood whilst on trial with the Darts. The 25-year-old will be one of several players integrating into the squad, which includes Davide Rodari, Maxwell Statham and Luke Coulson. Fonkeu linked up with Samir Carruthers last term for a small period in February and March, the pair can form a partnership again now Carruthers has made a permanent switch to Princes Park.
Prior the final warm-up game, Dowson spoke to Dartford FC TV and is pleased with how the squad is shaping up, he said: “The lads have been brilliant in training, they have been excellent to work with, they’ve worked very hard. We’re trying to get the standards as high as we possibly can on the training ground which leads to on the pitch”. The 52-year-old is also highlighting the pathway for the academy by adding Cameron Brodie, Sam Odaudu and Marvin Herschel to the squad.
As the new era begins, Dowson is looking forward to the opener against Bath City, he commented: “It’ll be fantastic getting everybody ready for the first game of the season, everybody is excited, I’m excited as well and I’m looking forward to a good season hopefully”.
A trio of now departed players found the back of the net the last time Dartford visited Twerton Park in the National South just under a year ago. Ade Azeez, now with local rivals Welling United opened the scoring and Jake Robinson, now at newly promoted Worthing doubled the lead. Bath City’s Alex Fletcher pulled a goal back, but George Porter, now at Dulwich Hamlet made it 3-1. The return fixture at Princes Park in February finished 2-0 to the Darts with goals coming from Kalvin Kalala, who joins Porter and Josh Hill at Hamlet and Marcus Dinanga, who is back with his parent club Altrincham. Other players moving on this summer include Jack Jeeb to promoted Dorking Wanderers, Danny Leonard returning to Sheppey United, Jernade Meade joining Hemel Hempstead Town and Olumide Durojaiye switching to Hereford, whilst Tyrique Hyde links back up with Azeez at Welling United.
Bath City manager, Jerry Gill is also pleased with how preparations have turned out for the new campaign, he spoke to Bath City Radio last weekend and said: “We look ready, the one thing I wanted was to have peace of mind that we’re fit. We’re strong, the shape looks good and we’re ready to go”. The Romans have had a good pre-season winning their last two warm-up games against Bristol City’s under 23 side then Yate Town, but Gill acknowledges that results only really matter when the league begins.
Summer signings provide extra depth to the squad that was perhaps missing last term, when the Romans recorded their lowest finish for seven years. Gill has delved into the Football League by bringing in seven players from higher divisions including Chris Lines from Stevenage and Scott Wilson from Dagenham and Redbridge. Both Zac Ball and Tommy Blackwell arrive from Bristol City, Joe Wright from Millwall, Luke Spokes from Grimsby Town and Jordan Dyer from Exeter City. Providing plenty of experience of National South football, Kieran Parselle made the switch from Chippenham Town and teams up again with Danny Greenslade, whilst Rex Mannings and Dan Hayfield join from lower league sides Frome Town and Tiverton Town respectively.
The Bath City boss is relishing the opportunity to take on the Darts on the opening day with a home crowd in support, he commented: “Dartford will be one of the favourites in the league. Dowse has built a strong squad down there, knows the National League South inside out, so he knows what players to bring in and his recruited well, so it’ll be a tough challenge. You have to play these teams at any point, we’re really excited we’re playing at home”.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 26 / Bath City wins: 46 / Draws: 20
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 2 – 0 Bath City (19/02/2022 – National South)
Bath City 0 – 0 Dartford (27/11/2021 – F.A Trophy)*
Bath City 1 – 3 Dartford (04/09/2021 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Bath City (17/10/2020 – National South)
Bath City 3 – 0 Dartford (30/11/2019 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Bath City (09/02/2019 – National South)
* – Dartford won 5-3 on penalties
- Dartford have lost just once in their last 13 games against Bath City (W10, D2)
- In those 13 matches, the Darts have kept eight clean sheets and only once have the Romans scored more than one goal
- At Twerton Park, Dartford have only been defeated once in their last eight visits (W4, D3)