Dartford are guaranteed to remain top of the National South even after they visit Cheshunt on the weekend.
The Darts had a wonderful festive season completing a double over their local rivals and title contenders Ebbsfleet United for the first time since 1979. Victory on Boxing Day and New Year’s Day propelled Dartford to the summit. Cheshunt also fared well picking up four points against Concord Rangers to leave the Ambers unbeaten in five.
Earlier in the season, Dartford began their home campaign with a 2-1 win over newly promoted Cheshunt. The Hertfordshire side won promotion via the Isthmian Premier League playoffs and after winning on debut, in the National South, travelled to Princes Park for their first away match at this level. Maxwell Statham made his first appearance for the Darts, but it was Pierre Fonkeu’s brace that made all the difference. In the first half, the striker curled a shot from the edge of the box into the Cheshunt net and benefited from Luke Coulson’s and Samir Carruthers excellent interplay in the second half. Former Dartford graduate Dajon Golding scored a late consolation for the visitors.
Alan Dowson’s side have had an outstanding time of late with three consecutive victories over a pair of title challengers. After a 0-0 draw at home to Bath City in which Dartford were outplayed, the Darts were in third place trailing league leaders Ebbsfleet United by three points and 14 goals. Next up came a tricky away match at second place Havant and Waterlooville. Alex Wall’s double either side of an own goal moved the Darts ahead of the Hawks and into second after a 3-1 win.
Extra significance surrounded the double header with rivals Ebbsfleet United and Dartford passed with flying colours. Without a league victory against the Fleet at Stonebridge Road for 43 years, the Darts were three up inside 11 minutes on Boxing Day going on to win 4-1. Wall continued his good form in front of goal to wrap up the scoring, but it was Luke Allen, Coulson and Statham who put Dowson’s men in charge.
The return fixture at Princes Park on New Year’s day was even better and yet again Wall netted, his fourth in his last three appearances. A spell of Ebbsfleet United pressure, which included a stunning goal line clearance from Statham, subsided after Malachi Napa scored with a precise shot, his first goal for the Darts. Charlie Sheringham was introduced against one of his former teams and grabbed his 60th career goal for the Darts. To cap off a brilliant display defender Connor Essam chipped in with a fourth heading in at the far post. Since the Bath City stalemate, Dartford are now six points clear of the Fleet and seen a goal difference swing of 19 on their rivals. Three consecutive victories means the Darts have lost just once in their last seven since exiting the F.A Trophy, opening up a five point lead over second place Havant and Waterlooville.
Part of Dowson’s management team, Steve Haughney expressed his delight at another win, he told Dartford FC TV: “Obviously I’m pleased with the past week, two fantastic performances and six points, but in the bigger scheme of things we’re top of the league, but it’s not May yet”. Work ethic is key to Dartford’s recent success and leading up to the trip to Cheshunt, “the plan is to work hard, which we do week in, week out on the training field. Whether it’s Cheshunt, whether it’s Ebbsfleet United, whether it’s Havant and Waterlooville we’ll approach the game in the same way”. Haughney recognises that there is a long way until the end of the campaign and the Darts will need to remain focused if they want to maintain a title challenge, he added: “Over the next couple of weeks we’ve got games on paper that we should win, but they are banana skins. We won’t get ahead of ourselves and hopefully we’re in the mix come May time”.
It has taken some time for Cheshunt to settle into the National South and although they are in the relegation zone, their current form has given them a chance to stay in the division. Over the last eight league outings the Ambers have picked up the same number of points as the Darts and now only goal difference seperates them from safety.
Craig Edwards led his side to a historic opening day win at home to Hampton and Richmond Borough, but went on a sequence of ten straight defeats. That poor run was ended with a 1-0 away victory at Hemel Hempstead Town and although the Ambers went on to record two more wins they were still losing regularly until December arrived. Out of the last 15 points on offer, Cheshunt have notched up 11 with three straight triumphs sandwiched between two draws. In fact, the Hertfordshire club helped Dartford when they beat Ebbsfleet United at Theobalds Lane thanks to an early Reece Beckles-Richards penalty.
Approaching their festive double header against Concord Rangers with confidence, the Ambers claimed the Boxing Day spoils by overcoming Concord Rangers 4-2 despite going a goal behind. Like there season, Cheshunt were slow to get out the blocks and found themselves a goal down midway through the first half. Six minutes after falling behind Beckles-Richards equalised from the spot and before the interval Raul Da Silva had the hosts ahead. Cheshunt extended their advantage in the second half through Billy Cracknell and Lewis Hobbs, and in the final minute the Ambers conceded a second.
The return fixture on New Year’s Day finished all square with former Dart, Ricky Modeste rescuing a point for Concord Rangers in the final minute. However it was another ex Dartford player that gave Cheshunt the lead in the first half when Rowan Liburd opened the scoring. The striker only made three appearances for the Darts in December 2019 whilst on loan from Hereford.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 1 / Cheshunt wins: 0 / Draws: 0
Current League Form
|Ebbsfleet United||H||4-0||Concord Rangers||A||1-1|
|Ebbsfleet United||A||4-1||Concord Rangers||H||4-2|
|Havant & Waterlooville||A||3-1||Ebbsfleet United||H||1-0|
|Bath City||H||0-0||Dover Athletic||H||2-0|
|Concord Rangers||H||3-1||Oxford City||H||1-2|
Dartford 2 – 1 Cheshunt (13/08/2022 – National South)
- Dartford’s eight goals over the festive period mean they are now the National South’s top scorers with 54 goals
- The Darts also boast the best goal difference with +29, five ahead of closest rivals Ebbsfleet United
- Only Havant and Waterlooville (27) have taken more points away from home than the Darts (23)
On This Day
Six different goalscorers found the back of the net on this day in 2017 including Tom Bonner, who opened the scoring in a 6-1 win over East Thurrock United. Alex Brown, Andy Pugh, Tom Murphy, Ryan Hayes and Elliot Bradbrook completed the rout. Dartford have won eight of their last nine games on the 7 January, a 0-0 draw with Arlesey Town in 2006 the only dropped points. This season the Darts are in a title battle and one of the challengers is Havant and Waterlooville. The two sides met in 2012 with Bradbrook and Danny Harris both scoring a brace in a 4-1 victory in the campaign Dartford were promoted to the National League. Other notable results include a Southern Premier League victory over Grantham in 1978 which finished 4-0, a 5-0 Kent Floodlit Cup first round triumph against Ashford Town in 1971 and a 4-1 win versus Merthyr Tydfil in the Southern League First division back in 1967.