The Darts begin their defence of the Kent Senior Cup on Tuesday night when they host National League strugglers Dover Athletic.

Steve King led Dartford to the county cup title in November when his side thrashed Whitstable Town 6-1 in the belated 2019/2020 final. A Jake Robinson hat-trick as well as goals from Danny Leonard, George Porter and Tyrique Hyde sealed Dartford’s twelfth Kent Senior Cup title.

Returning to his former club, Dover Athletic manager Andy Hessenthaler needs to work a miracle to save the Whites from National League relegation. His side are bottom of the table on minus four points after beginning the campaign with a twelve point deficit. The ex Dartford midfielder made 215 appearances and scored 30 goals in the Watling Street days over a few spells between 1982 and 1990.

It’s been just over five years since Dartford knocked out Dover Athletic in the F.A Trophy first round. The Darts, a division below, earned a replay after the first match at Princes Park finished 1-1. Ronnie Vint scored the equaliser in both fixtures, first levelling after Ricky Miller’s strike. Then in the return game at the Crabble he equalised after Jim Stevenson put Dover Athletic ahead. The winner was scored by Luke Wanadio, currently on loan at Folkestone Invicta to send Dartford through. Victory erased memories of the 6-1 thrashing Dover Athletic dished out on the Darts almost a year earlier in the National League.

Highlights of the last meeting between Dartford and Dover Athletic at Princes Park – Dartford FC TV

Last week King had to move fast to cover yet another injury to a defensive player ahead of the big 3-2 victory against league leaders Dorking Wanderers. Having already signed full back Junior Tiensia on loan from Millwall, the youngster’s injury in the London Senior Cup defeat to Brentford B forced King into bringing in Jayden Sweeney on loan from Leyton Orient. Sweeney has turned out for Wealdstone this term and scored twice in five games, whilst at Orient the 20-year-old has made six appearances this season. The full back position should see the return of Jernade Meade in the coming weeks after his time out with injury, defender Josh Hill remains out for the long term and Luke Allen came off injured on Saturday.

King made four changes to the side that lost in the London Senior Cup. Sweeney made his debut for the injured Tiensia, Connor Essam returned to the starting eleven instead of Kory Roberts, Kalvin Kalala was picked ahead of Tyrqiue Hyde and Marcus Dinanga was back with Robinson on the bench. The Darts got off to an excellent start going two up inside the first quarter of the match, first George Porter then Dinanga, the striker’s third goal in his last four outings. Wanderers halved the deficit ten minutes into the second half before Porter double his league tally for the season. That goal turned out to be the winner as Dorking Wanderers got their second of the afternoon later on.

Dartford’s win takes them to within seven points of the league leaders with a game in hand and stretches their unbeaten home league run to an impressive fourteen, the longest unbeaten home streak from the start of a league campaign since 1987/1988 season, which ended at 16.

Recently Dover Athletic have had their fair share of injury problems and last week an unexpected illness struck captain Ryan Hanson who had to undergo emergency surgery, the midfielder will need around three weeks to recover. Ahead of the Barnet game on the weekend, Marshall Wratten, Myles Judd, and Noah Carney all returned to the squad. Player coach Reda Johnson was back in training, but Arjanit Krasniqi, Alex Green, Seth Twumasi and Travis Gregory were all missing through injury.

Dover Athletic’s woes continued on Saturday with a heavy 6-0 defeat against Barnet, one of Hessenthaler’s former clubs. That leaves the Whites a massive 21 points adrift at the bottom of the National League and still in search for their first away win this season. Dover Athletic have now lost five of their last six picking up a single point in the process since their solitary league victory against Eastleigh in January. Prior beating the Hampshire side, the Whites had picked up just one point in the previous 17 outings.

A week ago the Whites announced the loan extension of former Dartford striker Alfie Pavey. The Maidstone United player moved to the Crabble in late November and has scored five times for Dover Athletic during his spell. At Dartford, Pavey enjoyed a successful time narrowly missing out on the National South title in 2017/2018 but won the league’s Player of the Year after scoring 27 goals. The striker ended up having three spells with the club which included two periods on loan.

The winner of this Kent Senior Cup tie will play Margate, who beat Gillingham in the last round.

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 33 / Dover Athletic wins: 34 / Draws: 25

Current League Form (all competitions)

Dartford
(WLWLLW)
    Dover Athletic
(LLLDLL)
   
Dorking Wanderers H 3-2 Barnet A 0-6
Brentford B (LSC) H 0-2 Grimsby Town H 1-3
Hungerford Town A 1-2 Aldershot Town A 0-0
Bath City H 2-0 Torquay United H 1-3
Needham Market (FAT) A 0-1 Stockport County A 0-1
Havant and Waterlooville A 1-0 Southend United H 0-1

Previous Meetings (last six)

Dover Athletic 1 – 2 Dartford (13/12/2016 – F.A Trophy)
Dartford 1 – 1 Dover Athletic (10/12/2016 – F.A Trophy)
Dover Athletic 6 – 1 Dartford (17/01/2015 – National League)
Dartford 2 – 1 Dover Athletic (16/09/2014 – National League)
Dartford 0 – 3 Dover Athletic (04/03/2014 – Kent Senior Cup)
Dartford 3 – 1 Dover Athletic (03/12/2011 – National South)

Stats

  • In Kent Senior Cup ties Dartford and Dover Athletic are level in the head to head record. Both sides have won nine games with two draws.
  • The Darts are unbeaten in their last seven home Kent Senior Cup ties in normal time. Dartford have won six and drew the other, but went out on penalties in that game.
  • Dover Athletic are the last side to beat the Darts in normal time in the Kent Senior Cup at Princes Park. The Whites won 3-0 back in the 2014 last eight.
  • Jordan Wynter can make his 100th appearance for the Darts if selected. The versatile defender has made 90 starts and 9 substitute appearances scoring twice.

On This Day

Ricky Bennett scored a hat-trick on this day in 1997 to help Dartford to a 6-0 victory over Clevedon Town in the Southern League South. A brace from Glenn Payne and one for the club’s all time appearance maker Steve Robinson sealed a handsome victory. The Darts have an extraordinary record on 8 March winning 17 and drawing six of their 26 games. Currently they are 11 matches unbeaten on this day with the last two outings in the Kent Senior Cup. In 2016, the Darts beat Greenwich Borough 2-1 in the semi-final with goals from Ronnie Vint and George Sykes. Five years earlier Dartford defeated Whitstable Town 6-1, Danny Harris, Jon Main, two from Adam Burchell, Tom Bonner and Charlie Sheringham fired the Darts into the next round. In both season’s the Darts went on to lift the Kent Senior Cup. Another notable result on this day includes the 4-0 triumph against Newport Isle of Wight in 2003.