Dartford start their National South playoff campaign with home advantage against Chippenham Town on Thursday night.
The Darts signed off the regular season in style to bag a home tie in the eliminator round. A resounding 7-2 win on Saturday against an Eastbourne Borough side, who have also made the playoffs will give Steve King’s team confidence in their push for promotion to the National League. Finishing fourth means Dartford are up against Chippenham Town, who sneaked into the playoffs on the final day of the season.
Dartford ended the campaign strongly on the road scoring an incredible 13 goals in their final two away matches. The Darts beat Slough Town 6-0 and followed that up with a handsome win at Eastbourne Borough. Yet in between those victories they lost only their second match at home versus Braintree Town, a second defeat at Princes Park in three games after going an impressive 17 unbeaten on their own patch.
King made another six changes for the final game of the season in a campaign which has seen the Darts use 45 players in all competitions. Dan Roberts retuned to the starting eleven for the first time since November and first league appearance since he came on as a substitute against Ebbsfleet United in February, the forward has been on loan at Carshalton Athletic. Jordan Wynter also returned from injury, whilst Samir Carruthers, Kalvin Kalala, Kristian Campbell and Marcus Dinanga were also selected. Three of those managed to get on the scoresheet justifying King’s rotation policy on the weekend. Dan Roberts opened the scoring as early as the fourth minute, whilst Dinanga and Kalala both netted a brace. Kory Roberts and Jordan Greenidge also found the back of the Eastbourne Borough net on a fantastic afternoon for the Darts.
Dinanga approaches the playoffs in red hot form, the striker only joined Dartford in February on loan from Altrincham. In that time the 24-year-old has scored 13 goals in 15 appearances and ended up as Dartford’s top goalscorer in the league. Greenidge is another loanee after arriving from Weymouth, he has taken his opportunities when presented with them scoring six in eight appearances including three in his last two outings. King can also call upon Ade Azeez and Jake Robinson, the pair have scored 33 between them in all competitions since joining in the summer. Defensively, the Darts have managed 18 clean sheets and, in the league, boasted the second-best defensive record. Captain, Tom Bonner has marshalled the back line and since Conor Essam’s injury in March has struck up a good partnership with on loan defender Kory Roberts. Meanwhile, player of the season Dan Wilks has been out injured, but goalkeeper Reice Charles-Cook has been more than an adequate replacement in the final four games.
King, who has lost playoff finals with Dartford, Welling United and Whitehawk now has the dilemma of whether to stick with the players involved in the last two away wins or use his squad with the thought of a potential semi-final on Sunday. Although planning too far ahead would be foolish with Chippenham Town on the horizon. The Bluebirds have taken four points off the Darts this term.
Chippenham Town sneaked into the playoffs after some good form. The Bluebirds beat Havant and Waterlooville on the final day to take the last spot from their opponents. The Wiltshire club will be a tough prospect for the Darts having taken four points off them this term
The sides played out an entertaining 3-3 draw at Princes Park during the last meeting at Dartford’s home in November. The Darts came from behind to lead at the break, then twice gave up their advantage. Dan Griffiths put the visitors in front, but his goal was cancelled out by Ade Azeez. The now departed Noor Husin put Dartford in front before the interval and in the second-half Ricky Aguiar equalised again for the visitors. Azeez looked like he’d won the match for the Darts with thirteen to go, but in the final minute Luke Russe rescued a point for the Wiltshire club.
In the return fixture Dartford needed victory to keep the pressure on at the top and keep their title aspirations alive. Having just beaten league leaders Dorking Wanderers a win for Steve King’s side would have put his side in with a really good shout for top spot. However, the Darts were stunned in a 4-2 defeat which saw Keiran Murtagh sent off. The midfielder is likely to miss the playoffs after picking up an injury at Slough Town.
Jordan Greenidge scored to give Dartford a seven minute lead, his first league strike for the club. Four minutes after Kieran Murtagh was cautioned, the hosts equalised through Jordan Young, then before the interval Murtagh received a second yellow card and was sent off. Chippenham Town made the man advantage count in the second period. First, Young put the Bluebirds ahead, then Alefe Santos D’Abadia stretched the hosts lead. Ade Azeez gave Dartford hope, however Chippenham Town secured maximum points with a fourth scored by Joe Hanks.
Chippenham Town finished 15 points behind the Darts and made it into the playoffs in a pressure game at Havant and Waterlooville. The Bluebirds needed to win at Westleigh Park to fly past the Hawks and into the final playoff place. Heading into the clash, Gary Horgan’s side were four unbeaten with three wins and a draw. The interim manager has only been in charge for five weeks taking over from Mike Cook. Although Horgan lost his first match in charge against runners up Dorking Wanderers, he has improved Chippenham Town’s form at the right time taking the club from eleventh to seventh.
The unbeaten run was extended on the final day with the decisive 2-0 triumph over Havant and Waterlooville. A Jordan Young double was enough to not only secure a top seven finish but also record the club’s highest ever finish in the National South. Young finished top scorer in the league for the Bluebirds with nine goals. Since defeat at Dorking Wanderers, the Wiltshire club kept back-to-back clean sheets in victories over playoff contenders Oxford City and mid-table side Dulwich Hamlet. The Bluebirds took a crucial point against Ebbsfleet United, the side waiting for the winner of this eliminator tie and were disappointed not to have won after squandering the lead twice. A last-minute winner from Noah Coppin against Hungerford Town in their penultimate match set up the final day drama in Hampshire.
The Bluebirds have not only found form at the perfect moment they also have a respectable record against the teams that have made the playoffs. They have lost the fewest against their competitors and have beaten Dorking Wanderers, Dartford and Oxford City. However, those victories came at Hardenhuish Park and on their travels they have yet to beat a side finishing between second and sixth picking up four draws out of five.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 4 / Chippenham Town wins: 2 / Draws: 3
Current League Form
|Eastbourne Borough||A||7-2||Havant and Waterlooville||A||2-0|
|Braintree Town||H||0-1||Hungerford Town||H||3-2|
|Slough Town||A||6-0||Ebbsfleet United||A||2-2|
|St Albans City||H||3-1||Dulwich Hamlet||H||2-0|
|Maidstone United||H||0-1||Oxford City||H||1-0|
|Billericay Town||A||2-0||Dorking Wanderers||A||0-3|
Chippenham Town 4 – 2 Dartford (12/03/2022 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 3 Chippenham Town (06/11/2021 – National South)
Chippenham Town 1 – 2 Dartford (27/10/2020 – National South)
Chippenham Town 1 – 5 Dartford (01/02/2020 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Chippenham Town (26/10/2019 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Chippenham Town (13/04/2019 – National South)
Chippenham Town 1 – 2 Dartford (13/10/2018 – National South)
Chippenham Town 2 – 2 Dartford (20/01/2018 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Chippenham Town (09/09/2017 – National South)
- The last four meetings between Dartford and Chippenham Town has seen 21 goals (5.25 goals per game)
- Dartford have lost two of their last three at home after going 17 unbeaten at Princes Park in the league
- The Darts are unbeaten at home against sides that have reached the playoffs (W3, D2)
- Chippenham Town have not won on the road against the other teams in the playoffs (D4, L1)
- Dartford have the joint best home defence conceding 18. Chippenham Town have the joint best away defence conceding just 20.
Won 21 Drawn 11 Lost 8 For 75 Against 42 Points 74 Goal Difference +33
(Home record W10, D8, L2, F32, A18, Pts 38, GD +14)
Won 16 Drawn 11 Lost 13 For 61 Against 50 Points 59 Goal Difference +11
(Away record W6, D8, L6, F22, A20, Pts 26, GD +2)