Dartford prepare for the National South playoffs in their last home league game of the season against Braintree Town this Bank Holiday.
The Darts secured a place in the playoffs after their Good Friday victory. Since then they have been jockeying for a league position to get as much home advantage as possible for the end of season finale. Braintree Town managed to turn their fortunes around this season after looking like they were in serious relegation trouble.
A convincing win on Saturday at Slough Town will give Steve King’s side plenty of confidence ahead of this Bank Holiday fixture. Two changes were made to the last league outing which the Darts won 3-1 against St Albans City. After his goal in the Kent Senior Cup semi-final, Jordan Greenidge started as well as Olumide Durojaiye. In form striker, Marcus Dinanga took barely any time at all to open the scoring and the advantage doubled when Keiran Murtagh flicked in Jack Jebb’s corner. Murtagh waited until his 39th appearance for his first goals for the club last weekend, now he has three in his last two. However, the midfielder’s afternoon was cut short when he went off injured. By half-time the Darts were three up through Dinanga, his 11th goal in only 13 appearances. Kalvin Kalala got in on the act with his second league goal for the Darts. Greenidge justified his selection in the starting line up with Dartford’s fifth, since arriving from Weymouth the striker has scored five in seven games. To wrap things up, Durojaiye scored his first goal for the Darts, to make it 6-0.
Back in December, Dartford visited Cressing Road to take on Braintree Town who were second from bottom. The Darts who were joint top at the time came away with a point but only just. Perhaps that gave Braintree Town the belief they needed to improve results over the next three months. Kalvin Kalala made his Dartford debut and his new side had to wait until the last kick of the game to snatch a point. A stunning stoppage time free-kick from Jack Jebb completed a two goal comeback after a Jake Robinson penalty halved the deficit. The visitors went two goals up through Gabriel Piorkowski and Gio Crichlow.
Over the years Dartford have found victories rare against Braintree Town with only three in 15 attempts. In fact the Essex side went eight unbeaten against the Darts, until the last time they visited Princes Park in August 2019. On that day, a late Norman Wabo goal was decisive in a 2-1 win for the Darts. Former Dartford academy player, Femi Akinwande put the Iron in front before Luke Wanadio missed a penalty. However, the hosts recovered with goals from former Braintree Town midfielder Luke Allen and Wabo’s winner. Tony Burman was in charge in the only other home win against the Essex side back in 2011, Elliot Bradbrook netting the only goal of the game.
The 2-2 draw at the end of last year was the start of four draws in five for the Darts, a period that saw them lose ground at the top. Although King’s side made up ground with five straight victories, away defeats at Hungerford Town and Chippenham Town dented their title aspirations. The Darts were hanging in the title race until a pair of draws early last month and since Good Friday’s win over Billericay Town they have also reached a second Kent Senior Cup final in a row.
During that same period Braintree Town tightened up at the back going through a spell of eight clean sheets in eleven games. Between mid January through to mid March, the Iron only lost twice picking up six wins and five draws including a victory over Ebbsfleet United, their only victory against a top six side this season. That’s not to say they have fared badly against the teams at the top because they have drawn five against those teams.
In April, the Iron could have easily been dragged back in to the relegation battle after three straight defeats without scoring. However four points in their last two outings, a draw with Oxford City followed by Saturday’s 3-1 victory over Hemel Hempstead Town guarantee National South football next season.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 3 / Braintree Town wins: 7 / Draws: 5
Current League Form
|Slough Town||A||6-0||Hemel Hempstead Town||H||3-1|
|St Albans City||H||3-1||Oxford City||A||1-1|
|Maidstone United||H||0-1||Concord Rangers||H||0-1|
|Billericay Town||A||2-0||Havant and Waterlooville||A||0-4|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-1||Hampton and Richmond||H||0-1|
Previous Meetings (last six)
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 1 – 1 Braintree Town (23/12/2017 – National South)
Braintree Town 2 – 2 Dartford (08/08/2017 – National South)
- Dartford are yet to lose to a team in the bottom six (W8, D3)
- The Darts have lost just once at home in the league this season (W10, D8, L1). The last time they lost one at home in the league was in the 1995/96 Kent League First Division campaign (W16, D2, L1)
- Dartford have scored in their last three games against Braintree Town. The Darts have never scored in four consecutive matches against the Iron.
On This Day
Dartford are unbeaten in their last ten games on this day recording eight victories in that time, including a Kent Senior Cup final win and a National South semi-final playoff victory. The Darts won promotion to the National League ten years ago and the 1-0 playoff semi-final win at Basingstoke Town helped set them on their way. Lee Noble scored an important winner in the first leg, but not quite as important as the winner he scored 11 days later in the final. A year before saw Dartford lift the county cup for the first time in 23 years by beating Bromley 4-1 in the final. Elliot Bradbrook, Ryan Hayes, Danny Harris and an own goal ensured the Darts picked up some silverware. Heartbreakingly, it was 26 years ago that Dartford lost the Kent League First Division title on goal difference in tense and dramatic circumstances. Needing to beat league leaders Furness on the final day of the season, the Darts only managed a 1-1 draw after Sean Bristow equalised.