Title hopes remain just about alive for Dartford and they need to keep up the pressure on the weekend when they host Havant and Waterlooville.
Unbeaten at Princes Park in the league, the Darts claimed another home victory in mid-week stretching their run to fifteen. On the same night league leaders Dorking Wanderers lost meaning Steve King’s side are now seven points behind the top two with a game in hand. Havant and Waterlooville had promotion aspirations of their own at the start of the campaign, the Hampshire club are two points adrift of the playoffs in tenth after victory on Wednesday.
On Tuesday night, King was back in the dugout after having surgery and missing the previous game. The Dartford boss made four changes to the side that were beaten by Chippenham Town. Jordan Wynter hobbled off in the 4-2 loss against the Bluebirds so in came Kory Roberts. Whilst Tyrique Hyde made his first league start in over a month and Ade Azeez and Danny Leonard were selected for their first league outing since defeat at Hungerford Town. Dropping to the bench, Ody Alfa, Jordan Greenidge and Kieran Murtagh were joined by Jake Robinson and Marcus Dinanga, the latter pair missed the trip to Wiltshire on the weekend. Murtagh will be unavailable this weekend as he serves a one match ban for his red card against Chippenham Town.
Two first-half free-kicks gave Dartford the advantage when dead ball specialist Jack Jebb scored directly in the sixteenth minute. The midfielder was at it again from a set-piece when he put one in the box for Danny Leonard to finish, his tenth goal since joining the club in the summer. The Clarets pulled a goal back in the second-half when Tom Blackwell scored. However, the visitors had Eduino Vaz sent off after a foul on George Porter. The Darts held out to claim their ninth home league win of the campaign.
Victory once again showed the character within the squad to bounce back from defeat, but now it’s up to the Darts to show enough consistency to close the gap on Dorking Wanderers and Maidstone United, the latter they still have to play next month. King spoke to Dartford FC TV after the game and commented: “We’ve shown different sides to the team. Dorking we was unbelievable, then we go away to Chippenham and it was disappointing that we lost with four goals”. The Dartford boss accepts that his side need to pick up the points by any means possible, he said: “A win is a win, I think that is the important thing this time of year. If we can add some fantastic performances in between that’s brilliant, if we can’t then I don’t really care”.
In the reverse fixture Ody Alfa made his debut after arriving on loan from Queens Park Rangers, but it was Luke Allen’s strike on the stroke of half-time that secured a 1-0 win. Although Havant and Waterlooville rarely threatened in front of goal, Dartford’s solid defensive display helped them through to the final whistle with all three points. The triumph extended the Darts unbeaten run against the Hawks to six. The last meeting at Princes Park was behind closed doors in October 2020. Jack Barham scored twice on Halloween as Dartford recorded a 2-1 win. The striker netted a penalty then headed a Jack Jebb cross home. Josh Taylor pulled a goal back before Billy Clifford was sent off in this niggly affair.
There is every reason for Dartford to be cautious in this tight division. When they played at Westleigh Park last month the Hawks approached the fixture on a poor run. This time Paul Doswell’s side enter this weekend’s game in better form. A loss at Concord Rangers after the Dartford defeat was the last of a four-game streak without picking up a point, in fact the Hawks had picked up just three draws in a run of nine games. This time they come off the back of victories against Ebbsfleet United, a draw at Slough Town and back-to-back wins versus Chelmsford City and Dulwich Hamlet.
Last month’s signing, Manny Duku scored his first goal for the club in the 4-2 win over Ebbsfleet United and scored the winner against Dulwich Hamlet. Whilst former Dartford striker Alex Wall came off the bench to score in the 2-1 win over Chelmsford City. Wall made eleven appearances on loan at Dartford in 2014 scoring six times. Wall returned to Princes Park in the summer of 2018 but left before a ball was kicked.
On Wednesday night, Havant and Waterlooville saw that unbeaten run extended to five at home to Hungerford Town, who were a place above the Hawks at the start of the evening. Goalkeeper, Ross Worner returned to the side as did Jake McCarthy. The Hawks scored twice in each half to climb above the Crusaders in the National South.
Stefan Payne opened the scoring from the edge of the box and Duku notched another for the hosts as they looked comfortable at the interval. In the second-half Hungerford Town had goalkeeper Luke Cairney injured, resulting in defender Keith Emmerson going in goal. The Hawks made it count when captain Joe Oastler completed a brace to round of a pleasing night for Doswell’s side.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 7 / Havant and Waterlooville wins: 4 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Havant & Waterlooville
|Chelmsford City||H||2-1||Hungerford Town||H||4-0|
|Chippenham Town||A||2-4||Dulwich Hamlet||A||1-0|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||3-2||Chelmsford City||H||2-1|
|Hungerford Town||A||1-2||Slough Town||A||1-1|
|Bath City||H||2-0||Ebbsfleet United||H||4-2|
|Havant and Waterlooville||A||1-0||Concord Rangers||A||1-3|
Previous Meetings (last six)
Havant & Waterlooville 0 – 1 Dartford (09/02/2022 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Havant & Waterlooville (31/10/2020 – National South)
Havant & Waterlooville 1 – 2 Dartford (25/07/2020 – National South Playoff)
Dartford 1 – 1 Havant & Waterlooville (10/08/2019 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Havant & Waterlooville (13/01/2018 – National South)
Havant & Waterlooville 0 – 0 Dartford (12/08/2017 – National South)
- Dartford have lost just once in the last ten against Havant and Waterlooville, the Darts have won seven and drawn the other two.
- The Darts have yet to lose at Princes Park to the Hawks. Since 2010 Dartford have won four drawn two in this fixture.
- Havant and Waterlooville’s only away victories against Dartford came in a league game in 1999 and a F.A cup tie in 2000.
- Dartford are 15 home league games unbeaten, the best from the beginning of a season since the 16 set in 1988/89 Southern Premier League.
- The Darts current unbeaten home league run is also the best run since the 15 at the end of 1995/96 Kent League season and into the start of 1996/97 Southern League South campaign.
On This Day
Dartford played Havant and Waterlooville six years ago on this day and lost 2-0 at Westleigh Park. Veteran striker James Hayter scored to headers to clinch victory for the Hawks. The previous two outings on 19 March have also ended in defeat, 1-0 at home to Barrow in 2013 and two years earlier 2-0 away versus Staines Town. The Darts last victory on this day was back in 1994 when they beat Tunbridge Wells 1-0 away from home in the Kent League. The last home triumph on this day was 32 years ago against local rivals Welling United, the match finished 2-1 in the Kent Senior Cup quarter final replay.