Category: Playoff Preview

Dartford v St Albans City

Dartford are two wins away from a return to the National League as they begin their playoff campaign against St Albans City at Princes Park on Sunday.

The two sides met just a fortnight ago and it was Dartford who claimed maximum points to secure second place and home advantage in the playoffs. This time the stakes are higher with a place in the final up for grabs and a shot at promotion.

Last time at Princes Park, the Darts got off to a quick start against the Saints going in front after just three minutes. Richard Chin had an excellent afternoon and the loanee set up Samir Carruthers for his tenth goal of the season. It took until the 72nd minute for St Albans City to equalise with Shaun Jeffers acrobatically striking the ball beyond Ben Dudzinski for yet another goal against the Darts, his third in as many appearances. Luke Coulson and Fonkeu may have started from the substitute’s bench, but the pair made an impact five minutes after St Albans City equalised. Coulson’s free-kick was saved by Dylan Berry and Fonkeu pounced to net the winner, his tenth league goal of the campaign.

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Match Highlights – Dartford v St Albans City (22/04/2023) – Dartford FC TV

The reverse fixture back in October ended with honours even. Jack Smith scored his first goal in a Dartford shirt and although it was an easy tap in, the Darts worked the ball forwards swiftly after gaining possession on the halfway line. St Albans City equalised after catching Dartford out with a quick throw in and when the ball fell to Jeffers, he took an air shot before drilling his second attempt beyond Joe Young.

Hosting the playoff semi-final could benefit Dartford who picked up 50 points at Princes Park this season, the second best in the division. However, the Kent side have lost their last three playoff matches at Princes Park. One of those defeats was against Chelmsford City in 2017, who the Saints defeated on Tuesday night. Manager, David Noble made one change to the side that beat Farnborough 2-0 last weekend bringing in Chay Cooper for Kyran Wiltshire. Once again the prolific Jeffers, who has scored 28 times in the National South this season was named on the bench. After ninety minutes neither side could break the deadlock forcing the tie to go into extra time. Finally it was Jeffers once again who prodded the ball into the Chelmsford City net to decide the tie in the 95th minute. The striker has now scored in each of his last three appearances after coming on as a substitute.

Both sides have experience of making it to playoff finals and Dartford will want to draw on the positive outcome back in 2012 when they beat local rivals Welling United, Lee Noble’s early strike sent Tony Burman’s side up to the National League. Whilst under Steve King, the Darts reached the final two years ago and lost on penalties. St Albans City have won the playoffs three times as far back as when the non-league pyramid was restructured in 2004. That year they were involved in two epic playoff encounters to earn entry into the new National South league, a 4-3 victory against Heybridge Swifts followed by a 5-4 triumph over Bedford Town. Two years later they won promotion to the National League with a win versus Histon and in 2014, the Saints made their way back to the National South by defeating Chesham United.

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Match Highlights – St Albans City v Dartford (22/10/2022) – Dartford FC TV

Since the turn of the year Dartford have been inconsistent and will need to win back to back matches for the first time since the festive period if they want to go up. On the final day of the season, Alan Dowson decided to rest nine players with only Richard Chin and Jernade Meade retaining their place in the starting eleven. That gave minutes to Charlie Sheringham who made his return from a long term injury just over two weeks ago. The striker, who had a successful spell with Chelmsford City, has scored seven times this season and is behind fellow forward Alex Wall, midfielder Samir Carruthers and Pierre Fonkeu all of which have hit double figures in all competitions. Dowse can also look towards Harvey Bradbury as an option, his short time at Dartford has yielded five goals in nine appearances. At the back Tom Bonner and Connor Essam have forged a strong partnership and it looks as though Ben Dudzinski is the preferred choice in goal. The trio were rested last weekend and with Dan Wilks in between the sticks, academy graduate George Whitefield and Emmanuel Adebowale making their National South debuts for the club, the Darts kept a clean sheet in a 0-0 draw with Hampton and Richmond Borough.

St Albans City finished their campaign strongly with a home win against Farnborough. That made sure David Noble’s side finished the season in sixth spot. Difficult to beat in the first couple of months of the season, St Albans City were too inconsistent and by the end of October they were in twelfth. However, the Hertfordshire side saw out the rest of 2022 with seven wins from nine, including a 6-0 away trouncing of Hampton and Richmond Borough and moved into fifth. A mediocre start to the New Year and a difficult February meant the Saints dipped below the dotted line, but they would rise again. The Saints have tasted defeat just twice in their last eleven outings winning seven of those.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 12 / St Albans City wins: 6 / Draws: 6

Current Form

    St Albans City
Hampton & Richmond A 0-0 Chelmsford City* A 1-0^
St Albans City H 2-1 Farnborough H 2-0
Concord Rangers A 2-3 Dartford A 1-2
Tonbridge Angels A 1-0 Welling United H 3-0
Taunton Town H 0-1 Concord Rangers A 2-1
Dover Athletic H 2-1 Braintree Town A 0-2
* Playoff eliminator round / ^ After extra time

Last Six Meetings

Dartford 2 – 1 St Albans City (22/04/2023 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 1 Dartford (22/10/2022 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 1 St Albans City (23/04/2022 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 3 Dartford (14/08/2021 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 St Albans City (17/11/2020 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 2 Dartford (07/03/2020 – National South)


  • Dartford have not recorded consecutive win, draws or losses in their last 17 games
  • The Darts have the best defence at home conceding the fewest in the division (19)
  • Dartford scored in 87% of their games (40 out of 46), the second best in the National South
  • Dartford finished with the third best defence in the league (50)
  • St Albans City picked up the second most points away from home in the division (40)
  • Against fellow playoff contenders St Albans City have the worst record (W2, D2, L6)

On This Day

A year ago, Dartford cruised to a 7-2 final day win down on the Sussex coast. The Darts brushed aside Eastbourne Borough in a dazzling display, and it all started when Dan Roberts opened the scoring. The Sports levelled through Charley Kendall, but with half an hour played Marcus Dinanga put Dartford in front, then six minutes later Kory Roberts extended the advantage. In the second-half Dartford netted three goals in a five-minute spell, Dinanga scored his second and Kalvin Kalala grabbed a quickfire brace. A seventh was added by Jordan Greenidge before Chris Whelpdale managed a consolation goal for the hosts. Six years ago, Dartford lost 2-1 against Chelmsford City in the playoff semi-final second leg. Louie Theophanous and Chris Dickson put Chelmsford City in command and there was only enough time for Duane Ofori-Acheampong to claim a consolation for the Darts.

National South Playoff Preview

The National South playoffs begin this week with the eliminator round taking place on Tuesday and Wednesday night. We take a look at the six sides who made the end of season finale and the potential opponents Dartford could face.

2nd – Dartford – 83 points
W25 D8 L13 F82 A50 GD+32

Securing second place for the Darts may be crucial because they hit the 50-point mark at Princes Park, the second-best home tally in the division and best out of the playoff teams. A strong period from September to November and a festive double over the champions set Alan Dowson’s side up for a title push. All that fell away in the second half of the season as inconsistency left Dartford battling for home advantage. In the end they secured a runners up spot with a game to spare by beating St Albans City, who they could face in the semi-final. A fifth playoff campaign in seven years, the Darts have previously lost to Chelmsford City in 2017 and Braintree Town a year later. Their last two attempts ended in penalty shoot-out defeats against Weymouth in the final and Chippenham Town 12 months ago. This squad will hope to take inspiration from the team that won the National South playoffs back in 2012, whilst Dowson has experience of winning promotion via the playoffs as boss of Woking six years later.

Record vs playoff contenders (W2 D4 L4) Home Away
Oxford City 0-0 1-1
Worthing 1-2 0-3
Chelmsford City 1-2 0-1
St Albans City 2-1 1-1
Braintree Town 4-1 1-1

Playoff route
Sunday 7 May (12:30) – home vs Chelmsford City or St Albans City
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – home vs Oxford City, Worthing or Braintree Town

3rd – Oxford City – 83 points
W21 D15 L10 F83 A56 GD+27

Whatever division Oxford City end up in next season they have managed to put long unbeaten runs together in 2022/2023. The Hoops have only lost three times in 2023 and come into the playoffs as one of the form teams. Within those undefeated streaks Oxford City have drawn the second most in the National South. On the road they have a defence difficult to breach, but lack goals at the other end. At home they have only lost three times which will provide them with a semi-final advantage. Ross Jenkins’s side make the playoffs for a second year in a row and will hope to repeat the final they won to get into the National South in 2012, rather than the semi-final loss last season. Against the teams who made the playoffs, Oxford City are unbeaten at home and on their travels results have been extremely close. Promotion will take them to the National League for the first time, but failure could see them remain in the South or move across to the North.

Record vs playoff contenders (W4 D4 L2) Home Away
Dartford 1-1 0-0
Worthing 3-0 0-1
Chelmsford City 3-1 0-1
St Albans City 2-1 1-0
Braintree Town 2-2 0-0

Playoff route
Sunday 7 May (15:30) – home vs Worthing or Braintree Town
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – away vs Dartford or home vs Chelmsford City or St Albans City

4th – Worthing – 78 points
W22 D12 L12 F92 A72 GD +20

The Isthmian Premier League champions could make it back-to-back promotions after an outstanding first season in the National South. They could follow in the footsteps of fellow south coast teams such as Weymouth and Havant and Waterlooville, who also made the move from step three to step one in consecutive campaigns. In Ollie Pearce they have a goalscorer and the second best attack in the division totalling 92 league goals, however at the back they have also conceded an astounding 72, the same as bottom club Hungerford Town. Approaching the playoffs in good form, the Rebels beat Concord Rangers 7-0 to start April and won six of their last seven games. The Sussex club have been consistent in that their home and away form is nearly identical and with the number of goals scored in each net they could be providing the playoffs with plenty of entertainment.

Record vs playoff contenders (W5 D0 L5) Home Away
Dartford 3-0 2-1
Oxford City 1-0 0-3
Chelmsford City 1-3 2-4
St Albans City 4-5 1-0
Braintree Town 2-1 1-2

Playoff route
Wednesday 3 May (19:45) – home vs Braintree Town
Sunday 7 May (15:30) – away vs Oxford City
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – away vs Dartford or home vs Chelmsford City or St Albans City

5th – Chelmsford City – 78 points
W23 D9 L14 F67 A49 GD +18

Robbie Simpson has done an excellent job to turn Chelmsford City’s fortunes around. A year ago, they finished down in 19th avoiding relegation to the Isthmian Premier League. This time, the Essex club were tussling for second place and if it wasn’t for a sticky winter period, they may well have accrued enough points. The Clarets finished strongly with only Oxford City and Taunton Town beating them in their final nine games. At home, Chelmsford City have managed to perform when it comes to fixtures against those around them dropping just two points when up against fellow contenders. The Clarets are taking part in their seventh playoff campaign at this level since 2009 and only once have they reached the final, when they beat Dartford on the way. 

Record vs playoff contenders (W6 D2 L2) Home Away
Dartford 1-0 2-1
Oxford City 1-0 1-3
Worthing 4-2 3-1
St Albans City 1-1 0-3
Braintree Town 2-0 2-2

Playoff route
Tuesday 2 May (19:45) – home vs St Albans City
Sunday 7 May (12:30) – away vs Dartford
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – away vs Oxford City or Worthing or home vs Braintree Town

6th – St Albans City – 75 points
W22 D9 L15 F71 A51 GD +20

Three times playoff winners, St Albans City won in 2004 to enter the National South when the non-league pyramid was restructured. Two years later they triumphed against Histon to reach the National League where they stayed for a season only. After another relegation they returned to the National South in 2014 when they beat Chesham United in the final. This season they head into the mini-competition with the best away record out of the contenders and a top striker in Shaun Jeffers. Just two defeats in their final ten outings, one of which against Dartford, who they could play in the semi-final, saw the Hertfordshire club finish just as strong as Worthing and Chelmsford City. On the other hand the Saints have the worst record against fellow playoff sides, but they won’t be put off by being on the road.

Record vs playoff contenders (W2 D2 L6) Home Away
Dartford 1-1 1-2
Oxford City 0-1 1-2
Worthing 0-1 5-4
Chelmsford City 3-0 1-1
Braintree Town 0-2 0-1

Playoff route
Tuesday 2 May (19:45) – away vs Chelmsford City
Sunday 7 May (12:30) – away vs Dartford
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – away vs Oxford City or Worthing or home vs Braintree Town

7th – Braintree Town – 74 points
W20 D14 L12 F66 A55 GD +11

Slipping down to seventh on the final day of the season meant the Iron lost any chance of home advantage at all. This could be a deciding factor to a successful playoff campaign as Braintree Town only lost two at Cressing Road all season, going 19 unbeaten in the league before their first home reverse. Form really picked up at the turn of the year when the Essex club went undefeated in the National South for three months over 13 matches. They finished by losing half of their last eight games, but did manage to beat champions Ebbsfleet United. Braintree Town made their playoff debut in 2016 when they played for a place in the Football League, however they lost to Grimsby Town in the semi-final. Their last appearance was triumphant in 2018 winning on penalties against Hemel Hempstead Town, beating Dartford with a Billy Crook goal then they defeated Hampton and Richmond Borough on spot kicks to return to the National League.

Record vs playoff contenders (W3 D4 L3) Home Away
Dartford 1-1 1-4
Oxford City 0-0 2-2
Worthing 2-1 1-2
Chelmsford City 2-2 0-2
St Albans City 1-0 2-0

Playoff route
Wednesday 3 May (19:45) – away vs Worthing
Sunday 7 May (15:30) – away vs Oxford City
Sunday 14 May (12:30) – away vs Dartford, Chelmsford City or St Albans City