The F.A Trophy returns this weekend as the Darts look to move beyond the third round for the first time since their run to the semi-final eight years ago.

Standing in Dartford’s way are former landlords Cray Wanderers, who caused a shock in the previous round by beating Ebbsfleet United on penalties. The Wands are currently at the wrong end of the Isthmian Premier League, but have made trophy history already setting their best ever run in the competition.

This fixture is steeped in history dating back to the year the Darts were formed in 1888. The two sides formed a close bond in the early nineties when Cray Wanderers offered Dartford a home, playing their part in keeping the Darts alive. The Wands now know what it’s like to be homeless currently playing their fixtures at Bromley’s Hayes Lane and hope to be moving to a new stadium.

The last three meetings between Dartford and Cray Wanderers have all been cup ties, the Wands knocked the Darts out of the Kent Senior Cup in 2017, whilst Dartford beat their opponents in the same competition the season before. In 2011, Ryan Hayes and Danny Harris helped the Darts win the F.A Cup third qualifying round tie 2-1. Dartford have dominated this fixture with Cray Wanderers winning just six of the last 43 meetings, but that will count for nothing come Saturday.

Dartford enter this weekend’s fixture after a tough 4-0 defeat against rivals Maidstone United. Rubbing salt into the Darts wound, Jack Barham took home the match ball with a hat-trick against his former club. The loss ended a seven match unbeaten run in all competitions toppling Steve King’s side off the top of the National South table, but they are level on points with leaders Oxford City. The Dartford boss spoke to Dartford FC TV after the derby defeat, he commented: “We’ve got to get over it and take our medicine, when you lose it’s how you react and it’s how we react next week that is important. There are a lot of tough games to come and we will be ready for the challenges”.

Watch post match interviews and highlights at Dartford FC TV

King tweaked the starting line up opting for wingers rather than the narrow formation he played against Billericay Town. Luke Wanadio and Danny Leonard started instead of Ronnie Vint and Tyrique Hyde and George Porter was in for the injured Jake Robinson. Some good news saw the return of Jack Jebb who featured as a substitute and made his first appearance for almost a month. Luke Allen remains a long term injury and Jordan Wynter has also been sidelined.

Dartford have only managed to progress through two rounds in any one season over the last five campaigns. In fact, the Darts have to go back to 2017 for their last victory in the competition in normal time when they beat Brentwood Town.

Cray Wanderers have already made it through three rounds and in the last they caused an upset at Danny Kedwell’s former club. The Wands boss guided his side to a penalty shoot-out victory over Ebbsfleet United. In that trophy triumph Cray Wanderers had two Dartford connections and a recent signing makes it three. Dartford midfielder, Cameron Brodie is currently on a season long loan with the Wands and has featured in most of their fixtures this season. The young prospect has made 13 appearances for the Darts since coming through the academy system. It was just seven months ago when striker Chris Dickson lifted the F.A Trophy at Wembley with seventh tier side Hornchurch, the striker was on dual registration with Dartford scoring three goals in eight appearances including a brace on his debut. Former goalkeeper, Bailey Vose signed for the Wands just last week after leaving Billericay Town, the shot stopper played 32 times for the Darts over two loan spells.

Kedwell’s side are currently fourth from bottom in the Isthmian Premier League, three points clear of last place. On the weekend they were beaten 1-0 at home against Bishop’s Stortford but grabbed an important victory three days earlier beating Horsham 3-1. Former West Ham United prospect and an experienced football league winger, Kyel Reid opened the scoring, Dickson made it 2-0 and Jamie Yila netted the third. The Wands also have experience with players who have been around the higher divisions of non-league in Dean Beckwith, Jai Reason, their top scorer Anthony Cook and 38-year-old Andy Drury.

The Wands previous best run in the trophy was to the second round and on both occasions they went out to St Albans City in 2005 and again last season. They have made it through three rounds before in 2015 and 2018 going out at the third qualifying round stage.

F.A Trophy story so far…

Third Qualifying Round
Cray Wanderers 4-1 Kings Langley
The scoreline suggests the Wands breezed through, but in truth two late goals secured their passage into round one. Anthony Cook won and scored a penalty for Cray Wandreres to open the scoring only for Alfie Williams to level. The Wands got off to a great start in the second half with a goal from Dean Beckwith, then two goals in the final minute secured the win. Former Dart, Chris Dickson and Daniel Ucheci made sure of a 4-1 victory.

First Round
Cray Wanderers 2-1 Bedfont Sports
Three more late goals made for an entertaining finish to this first round tie. Adam Coombes scored a decisive brace giving Cray Wanderers the lead then netting the winner. Bedfont Sports earlier equalised through Joe Jackson with all three goals coming in the final eleven minutes.

Second Round
Bath City 0-0 Dartford (Dartford won 5-3 on penalties)
A tight affair at Twerton Park ended with no goals scored after normal time and so the tie went straight to penalties. The Darts scored all five of their spot kicks and after two penalties each gained an advantage when Dan Wilks saved from Alex Fletcher. The Darts kept their heads and with Tyrique Hyde last to go for the visitors, the midfielder slotted home.

Cray Wanderers 2-2 Ebbsfleet United (Cray Wanderers won 5-3 on penalties)
Up against his former side, manager Danny Kedwell caused a cup upset beating higher league opposition. Cray Wanderers went two up when Jamie Yila scored twice in three first half minutes. Ebbsfleet United hit back with two goals in the final fifteen minutes, first Rakish Bingham then Will Wood’s last minute equaliser forced the tie into penalties. After Michael West missed for the Fleet, Chris Dickson stepped up and scored the winning spot kick.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 34 / Cray Wanderers wins: 21 / Draws: 11

Current Form (all competitions)

Dartford
(LWDWWW)
    Cray Wanderers
(LWLDWD)
   
Maidstone United A 0-4 Bishop’s Stortford H 0-1
Billericay Town H 1-0 Horsham H 3-1
Bath City (FAT)* A 0-0 Worthing A 0-2
Whitstable Town (KSC) H 6-1 Bowers & Pitsea A 1-1
Hemel Hempstead Town A 3-2 Ebbsfleet United (FAT)** H 2-2
Cockfosters (LSC) H 9-0 Folkestone Invicta H 2-2

(KSC – Kent Senior Cup / LSC – London Senior Cup / FAT – F.A Trophy)
* Dartford won 5-3 on penalties
** Cray Wanderers won 5-3 on penalties

Previous Six Meetings

Cray Wanderers 4 – 2 Dartford (20/09/2017 – Kent Senior Cup)
Cray Wanderers 1 – 2 Dartford (05/10/2016 – Kent Senior Cup)
Cray Wanderers 1 – 2 Dartford (30/11/2019 – F.A Cup)
Cray Wanderers 1 – 2 Dartford (09/02/2019 – Isthmian Premier)
Dartford 1 – 1 Cray Wanderers (04/08/2018 – Isthmian Premier)
Dartford 0 – 0 Cray Wanderers (21/04/2018 – Isthmian Division One South)

Stats

  • The two sides have met 21 times in cup football with Dartford winning 12 to Cray Wanderers’ six, there have been three draws.
  • After scoring in each of their opening twelve games in all competitions, Dartford have failed to score in six of the last eleven
  • The Darts have scored twice in each of their last four visits to Cray Wanderers winning three and losing one.

On This Day

The Darts met Cray Wanderers on this day back in 1993. The Kent League First Division fixture ended with Dartford winning 1-0, their last victory on the 18 December. In fact, Dartford have not scored on this day for 25 years. To be fair that spans just two matches, the last of which took place in 2004 when the Darts drew 0-0 with Leighton Town in the Southern League Division One East. Five years before that goalless draw, Dartford lost 1-0 at home to Bashley in the Southern League South. The last away fixture and last Dartford goal on this day came in 1996, however it was St Leonards who won the Southern League South match 3-1. The only F.A Trophy tie the Darts have been involved in on the 18 December ended in triumph back in 1976. Dartford beat Ashford Town 2-1 in the third qualifying round.