Dartford are in action this weekend when they welcome Farnborough to Princes Park in the National South.
Title ambitions are realistically out of reach for the Darts, so securing second place has become the main aim in the closing stages of the campaign. An away point on Tuesday night at Hungerford Town and draws between two of the chasing pack, Oxford City and Braintree Town, leave Alan Dowson’s side five points clear of third. Farnborough are close to the top seven with games in hand and are hoping to work their way into the end of season playoffs.
Princes Park last hosted this fixture almost eleven years to the day and on that occasion the Darts strolled to a 3-0 win. Jacob Erskine used his strength to shrug off a Boro defender in the first half and slot the ball beyond the visiting keeper for the opener. The striker completed his brace in the second-half when he latched onto Richard Graham’s through ball, rounded the goalkeeper and tucked the ball into an empty net. Substitute Tony Garrod was introduced late on, and his first involvement saw him add number three.
It was Farnborough who ended Dartford’s most successful spell this season when they won 3-1 in the reverse fixture back in November. The Darts had won ten of their previous eleven league outings before the trip to Cherrywood Road dropping just two points in that period. Boro exposed Dartford’s defence and after nineteen minutes were ahead when Hisham Kasimu got the better of Jordan Wynter then finished a one on one with Joe Young in goal. The lead was doubled when the Darts failed to clear the ball and Johnathon Page netted from close range. Kristian Campbell scored his only goal in the black and white shirt with a header to give the visitors a lifeline. The full back left Princes Park to join a clan of former Dartford players at Dulwich Hamlet this week after making 32 appearances for the Darts. However, Farnborough made sure of maximum points when Ollie Pendleberry scored a brilliant free-kick.
Since the loss in Hampshire, barring a four-match winning run over the festive period, the Darts have been inconsistent. Current form has contributed to losing ground on league leaders Ebbsfleet United who are now well clear at the top. Dartford remain in second place as others have been unable to take advantage, however the chasing pack seems to have increased with the insurgence of Braintree Town.
Dowson was looking for a reaction on Tuesday night to last weekend’s defeat at lowly Weymouth. For the trip to Hungerford Town, the Dartford boss made four changes to the starting eleven and handed Connor Essam his 100th start for the club. Samir Carruthers returned from suspension, Maxwell Statham recovered from a calf strain, Luke Allen was back in the side and Dan Wilks made his first league start in goal since Ben Dudzinski signed last month. Jernade Meade and Luke Coulson were named as substitutes whilst Jordan Wynter wasn’t included in the matchday squad through injury. Tommy Block, Sam Odaudu and Charlie Sheringham have also been on the injury list, but Dowson says they are not too far away from being fit again.
Harvey Bradbury will provide an extra option up front having been signed from Southern League Premier South side Dorchester Town on loan until the end of the season. The striker worked with Dowson during his time at Woking and enjoyed a decent spell in the National South at Oxford City, where he scored 15 goals in 38 appearances. The 24 year old has also spent time in this division with Welling United and on loan at Havant and Waterlooville, St Albans City and Hungerford Town
The Darts created very little in the first forty-five minutes but looked to be going in at the break goalless, until the hosts won a corner. Dylan Adjei-Hersey took full advantage and put the Crusaders in front with virtually the last kick of the half. Another set piece had Dartford level in the second-half when Carruthers whipped in a corner for Alex Wall to guide home. The Darts rode their luck and it looked like they fell behind when Joe Boachie had the ball in the net, but his effort was ruled out for offside. Wilks was later called into action tipping Ryan Jones’ shot onto the crossbar and George Smith missed an open goal. A point on the road means the Darts are now five without an away win in the National South.
Farnborough were in fantastic form approaching the last time the two sides met in November. Spencer Day’s team went six unbeaten after beating the Darts then went on to go a further seven without loss. Hemel Hempstead Town ended that run at the end of January, but Boro bounced back with three straight victories resulting in one loss in 17 matches in the National South. Those results have put the Hampshire club on the fringes of the playoff places and with three games in hand they can potentially make up the six points they are behind seventh place Chelmsford City. Closing out February, Farnborough lost two of their last four in that month but picked up an excellent 2-2 draw with Ebbsfleet United. Spencer Day’s side began March by ending Oxford City’s ten match unbeaten run with a 2-1 victory.
Farnborough named just three substitutes in their Tuesday night 0-0 draw against Welling United and made as many changes to their team. CJ Fearn, Ricky Holmes and Ronan Silva came in for Ollie Robinson, Reggie Young and Conor Lawless. Farnborough waited until nearly ten minutes from time for the best chance of the game after Jordan Norville-Williams won a penalty. Farnborough have made a habit of missing their spot kicks and added another to the list as the defender stepped up and saw his shot saved. In the first-half Kevin Lokko came closest when he hit the woodwork with an acrobatic effort.
Day explained after the game that it had been difficult week losing four key players and being left with only thirteen fully fit players in the squad. Mason Bloomfield, John Oyenuga and Reggie Young will be unavailable this weekend. Ollie Robinson missed the draw at Welling United through illness and is hopeful of a return.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 3 / Farnborough wins: 5 / Draws: 2
Current League Form
|Hungerford Town||A||1-1||Welling United||H||0-0|
|Oxford City||H||0-0||Ebbsfleet United||H||2-2|
|Slough Town||H||1-0||Braintree Town||H||0-1|
|Chippenham Town||H||2-0||Eastbourne Borough||A||0-2|
Last Six Meetings
Farnborough 3 – 1 Dartford (12/11/2022 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Farnborough (10/03/2012 – National South)
Farnborough 1 – 2 Dartford (17/09/2011 – National South)
Dartford 4 – 1 Farnborough (22/01/2011 – National South)
Farnborough 2 – 1 Dartford (21/08/2010 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 2 Farnborough Town (23/11/1998 – F.A Trophy)
- Dartford have picked up 32 points out of the last 39 available at home in the National South (W10, D2, L1)
- The Darts have kept three consecutibe home clean sheets in the league and five in their last six
- Dartford have won both matches against Farnborough at Princes Park having lost both previous home meetings before the stadium opened
On This Day
Ryan Hayes scored his 100th Dartford goal on this day five years ago netting in a 1-1 draw with Concord Rangers. Steve Robinson scored the winer in 1989 when the Darts beat Altrincham 1-0 in the F.A Trophy quarter final. Dartford went on to lose in a two legged semi-final against eventual runners up Macclesfield Town. Dartford’s last home game on this day ended in defeat when they were beaten 2-1 by Potters Bar Town in the Southern League Eastern Division back in 2006.