Dartford could be the first team to win at Cressing Road this season in a difficult fixture against Braintree Town on the weekend.
The Darts have not beaten the Iron away in ten and half years, but will be hoping to end that run and record consecutive victories to maintain some pressure at the top of the table. Recent dropped points left Dartford under pressure to keep hold of second spot in their last outing. So last weekend’s victory against Chippenham Town was much needed, especially when their opponents needed the points just as much at the other end of the table. Braintree Town finished last weekend in the playoff places and on Tuesday night extended their unbeaten league run at home to sixteen.
If the festive season put Dartford in the title race, the three subsequent matches has seen top spot seem further away. After beating Havant and Waterlooville, the Darts double over rivals Ebbsfleet United, then the win at Cheshunt all put Alan Dowson’s men within a shot of winning the league. However, consecutive defeats at home to Hemel Hempstead Town, away at Worthing and a draw on the road at Welling United has seen the Darts fall further behind. So, the 2-0 triumph over Chippenham Town was welcomed by Dowson, he told Dartford FC TV after the match: “Before the game, what I’ve sensed in the last couple of weeks is we’ve been on a bit of an indifferent run. So, I knew we needed three points and I also thought we needed a clean sheet just to give us belief, we got both”, he added: “When we played football in their half, we done it very well. We defended better, but it wasn’t about the performance it was about the result”.
Dowson made two changes for the Chippenham Town game to the line-up that started the 2-2 draw with Welling United. Luke Allen made an impact by scoring his third of the campaign replacing Jamar Loza. Goalkeeper, Ben Dudzinski came in for Dan Wilks and celebrated his debut with a clean sheet, Dartford’s first since the 4-0 win over Ebbsfleet United on New Year’s Day. Connor Essam also had cause to celebrate reaching his 100th appearance. The defender has started 95 times for the Darts and made five substitute appearances over three spells for the club. Midfielder, Jack Smith netted his second in a week with an early strike against the Bluebirds, his fourth of the season came in the second minute after yet another assist from Luke Coulson. The winger was also on hand to set up Luke Allen to double the advantage securing all three points.
Charlie Sheringham, who netted in the reverse fixture back in November will be out after picking up a rib injury against Chippenham Town. Tommy Block is waiting for his debut since joining from Hampton and Richmond Borough, Sam Odaudu has been side-lined since Boxing Day and Alex Wall serves his last of a three-match ban for his red card at Worthing. That may give a chance for Pierre Fonkeu to lead the line who has scored nine goals in 21 starts and 14 substitute appearances this term in all competitions. Defensively, the Darts have gone back in to the loan market and brought in Isaac Ogunbere from AFC Wimbledon on a months loan. The right back made his Dons debut in August and has played nine times for the League Two side. The 20-year-old has previously had loan spells with Leatherhead and Potters Bar Town.
Dartford had often struggled against Braintree Town in the past, but this season they won 4-1 at Princes Park with an outstanding second-half display. Sheringham netted from the spot five minutes after the break and the game could have turned after Tom Bonner was sent off for a second caution. However, Dartford stretched their lead when Luke Coulson scored a goal of the season contender. Braintree Town pulled a goal back with just over ten minutes to play, the header from Kyran Clements testing Dartford’s resolve. Dowson introduced Samir Carruthers and Keiran Murtagh and the pair combined for a third in the last minute, Carruthers finishing off a fine move. Then there was time for Carruthers to score the second penalty of the afternoon.
The last visit to Cressing Road saw Dartford fight back from two goals down to nick a draw. A stunning free kick from Jack Jebb with the last kick of the game drew the Darts level as the game finished 2-2. Earlier, Gabriel Piorkowski scored from a fine long-distance effort and Gio Crichlow doubled the lead. Jake Robinson’s spot kick gave Dartford hope before Jebb’s late equaliser. The Iron won the reverse fixture in May with Harry Lodovika scoring the only goal.
Braintree Town headed back into the playoff places on the weekend with a 1-0 win in an Essex derby against Concord Rangers. The Iron could have gone ahead earlier when former Dartford striker Alfie Pavey won a penalty, however Lamar Reynolds’ attempt was saved. Reynolds made amends by being the provider for the decisive goal scored by Aaron Blair. Transfer listed by Dover Athletic’s new boss, Pavey signed for Braintree Town at the beginning of this month. He has made a promising start with his new club. On debut the 27-year-old was involved in both goals against Chippenham Town as the Iron won 2-1 in Wiltshire. In the Essex Senior Cup, he helped the Iron overturn a two-goal deficit and reach the semi-final by scoring one in the 3-2 victory over Colchester United. Then on Tuesday night, Pavey scored and assisted in a 3-2 victory over Dulwich Hamlet. The ex-Dart had three spells at Princes Park, two of which were on loan. But it was the 2017/2018 campaign that stood out with 27 goals in 46 appearances.
Angelo Harrop’s side are now only one of four teams in the top six divisions to be unbeaten at home in all competitions. In the league they have won nine and drawn seven on their own patch and have not lost in their last six outings home and away. In fact, the Iron have been difficult to beat, only tasting defeat three times in the National South since their visit to Princes Park back in November, although they have drawn almost half of those matches.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 4 / Braintree Town wins: 8 / Draws: 5
Current League Form
|Chippenham Town||H||2-0||Dulwich Hamlet||H||3-2|
|Welling United||A||2-2||Concord Rangers||H||1-0|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-3||Cheshunt||H||1-1|
|Ebbsfleet United||H||4-0||Bath City||H||2-1|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 4 – 1 Braintree Town (05/11/2022 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Braintree Town (02/05/2022 – National South)
Braintree Town 2 – 2 Dartford (28/12/2021 – National South)
Braintree Town 2 – 1 Dartford (09/01/2021 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Braintree Town (24/08/2019 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Braintree Town (06/05/2018 – National South Playoff)
- Dartford’s win over Braintree Town in November was their biggest victory against the Essex club
- The Darts have gone 13 games without a clean sheet versus the Iron and have yet to keep consecutive league cleans sheets this season
- Dartford are five without victory at Cressing Road, last winning ten years ago (D2, L3)
On This Day
Alex Wall scored twice on this day in 2014 as Dartford claimed their only win on in their last six on 18 February. Struggling in the National League, the Darts surprisingly thrashed Woking 5-1 after coming from behind. Scott Rendell gave the Cards an early lead in the fourth minute, but Wall equalised almost immediately. The striker add a second on the stroke of half-time. Then it was Max Cornhill’s turn to grab a brace before right at the end Lee Noble added extra gloss to the scoreline. Exactly two years earlier Woking beat the Darts 1-0 at the Kingfield Stadium. In 1995, Dartford were involved in an eight goal thriller beating Furness 5-3 in the Kent League.