Kent Senior Cup semi-finalists Dartford return to league action on the weekend when they host Hemel Hempstead Town in the National South.
The Darts continued their aim to retain the county cup on Tuesday night after beating Margate in the last eight. Comfortably in the playoff places, Dartford are hoping to make a strong finish to their campaign. Despite a slow start to their season, Hemel Hempstead Town are not too far away from a top seven place but could do with a maximum themselves at Princes Park.
Steve King made seven changes for the cup tie with Margate on Tuesday to give game time to those who have been patiently waiting for their chance. Kelvin Kalala, Che Krabbendem, Jordan Greenidge, Ody Alfa and Ade Azeez all started the quarter-final tie. The Darts also welcomed back Jernade Meade and Luke Allen from their injuries and it was Allen who made an immediate impact scoring after just six minutes, his fifth of the campaign in all competitions. The midfielder played the first half before being replaced by Tyrique Hyde at half-time. Meade had a bit longer on the pitch and came off for 16-year-old academy player Jayden Boulton who made his senior debut. The lead was short lived though as the hosts levelled six minutes later when James Bessey-Saldanha made it 1-1.
In the second-half, Kalala put Dartford back in front and Azeez added a third just past the hour mark. Ody Alfa got in on the act with his first goal for the Darts, whilst George Porter was another to return from injury with a substitute appearance. There was still time for Vance Bola to pull one back for Margate, but in the end it was a positive night for King’s men who made it through to the semi-final despite a makeshift defence.
Dartford’s 1-1 draw in their last league outing at Oxford City means winning the title will now be a stretch. The Darts will need to focus on finishing in the playoffs and preferably gaining home advantage. A 14-point cushion with seven matches remaining makes it very likely Dartford will end up in the top seven, but aiming for second will give them home ties in the semi-final and if they progress the final. To do that King’s side need to make up seven points on Dorking Wanderers, but the Darts do have a game in hand. A home playoff tie could be crucial seeing as the Darts are unbeaten at Princes Park in the league winning nine out of 16. They had previously won five in a row before the 1-1 draw with Havant and Waterlooville in their last home match.
Tyrique Hyde made the headlines last time Dartford faced Hemel Hempstead Town in November. The midfielder was recalled from his loan spell with the Tudors and on his return to Vauxhall Road made an impact. Claiming a first league win since early October, Dartford won 3-2. It was Hyde who opened the scoring before Alfie Cerulli equalised for the hosts. Ade Azeez netted a penalty, then Hyde gave the Darts a two-goal cushion. Hemel Hempstead Town grabbed a late consolation when Cerulli added his second of the afternoon. Samir Carruthers made a substitute appearance for the Tudors; the midfielder is currently on loan with the Darts.
Last season this fixture wasn’t played at Princes Park as Dartford only played Hemel Hempstead Town once at their place. Craig King was Dartford’s goalkeeper that day in a 3-1 victory which saw former Tudor, Connor Essam score. However, the defender is likely to be out for the rest of the season through injury. This time King will be trying to stop Dartford’s attack, the 24-year-old switched allegiances initially on loan, then his impressive performances earned him a permanent deal with Hemel Hempstead Town. King made 18 appearances for the Darts before Daniel Wilks displaced him as Dartford’s goalkeeper.
Hemel Hempstead Town last visited Princes Park in August 2019 and went home with a draw. A late goal from substitute Norman Wabo rescued the match for the Darts after falling behind. Sam Ashford chipped Mark Smith to give the Tudors an early lead. Dartford then squandered a great opportunity to level when Adam Cunnington missed a penalty. With six minutes to go in the second-half Wabo found the equaliser and although the Darts pressed for a winner, they couldn’t find it.
Former Oxford City boss, Mark Jones was appointed Hemel Hempstead Town’s manager in September after the Tudors picked up one point in their opening six games under Lee Bircham. Now the Hertfordshire side are mid-table and five points adrift the last playoff place, with seven games to go. The last two games have resulted in some high scoring affairs, the last being a 2-2 draw at home to Chelmsford City. The Tudors showed character to come back from two down, former Dartford striker Charlie Sheringham, then Matt Rush put the Clarets in command. With fifteen minutes remaining the hosts clawed back the deficit with two goals in six minutes, first Charlee Hughes then Pierre Fonkeu completing the comeback.
If four goals in a game isn’t enough then the home match against Tonbridge Angels produced even more. The Tudors ran out 4-3 winners with Fonkeu scoring his first for the club to get things underway. Sam Mantom missed a penalty conceded by former Dartford defender Craig Braham-Barrett, the spot kick saved by former Tudor, Jonathan Henly. The Angels levelled when Teddy Perkins headed into the net, but Craig Fasanmade had the hosts ahead at half-time. James Taylor made it all square again in the second-half before Jack Westbrook restored Hemel Hempstead Town’s lead. The game had just about everything including a red card after Fasanmade was sent off which handed an advantage to Tonbridge Angels. They made it count with a third leveller, Taylor once again. However, the entertainment wasn’t over because in the 94th minute Chris Paul won it for the Tudors. A minute later the Tudors were reduced to nine men when Joash Nembhard was dismissed.
On the road, the Tudors’ form has seen them lose all five matches against those in the top six with only Dartford left to play. The last two on their travels have resulted in a pair of 2-1 defeats against Dorking Wanderers and Bath City.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 7 / Hemel Hempstead Town wins: 1 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Hemel Hempstead Town
|Oxford City||A||1-1||Chelmsford City||H||2-2|
|Hampton & Richmond||A||1-0||Tonbridge Angels||H||4-3|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||1-1||Bath City||A||1-2|
|Chelmsford City||H||2-1||Dorking Wanderers||A||1-2|
|Chippenham Town||A||2-4||Welling United||A||2-1|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||3-2||St Albans City||H||0-2|
Previous Meetings (last six)
Hemel Hempstead Town 2 – 3 Dartford (20/11/2021 – National South)
Hemel Hempstead Town 1 – 3 Dartford (10/11/2020 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Hemel Hempstead Town (31/08/2019 – National South)
Hemel Hempstead Town 1 – 2 Dartford (05/03/2019 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 0 Hemel Hempstead Town (11/08/2018 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 2 Hemel Hempstead Town (17/03/2018 – National South)
- Dartford are unbeaten in ten games in this fixture (W6, D4). Hemel Hempstead Town’s only victory was in their debut National South season in 2015.
- The Darts are unbeaten at home against the Tudors (W2, D3)
- Dartford have scored two or more against Hemel Hempstead Town in nine of the 12 meetings
- If the Darts avoid defeat they will surpass the 1987/88 unbeaten home run from the start of a campaign (16 matches).
- Dartford will also record their longest unbeaten home run in the league since April 1979 to February 1980 (18 matches).
On This Day
Lee Burns ended up between the sticks in the Kent derby against rivals Maidstone United six years ago. The defender played the last few minutes in goal after Deren Ibrahim suffered an injury. On loan midfielder Nathan Ferguson scored a cracking winner after Elliot Bradbrook’s penalty put Dartford ahead, which was cancelled out by Keaton Wood’s own goal. Dartford’s last home match on this day was a 2-1 loss against Grimsby Town in 2013, the Mariners coming from behind in the National League after Jack Evans scored for the Darts. The last home win on 9 April was a 3-2 victory over Woking in the National South, Bradbrook, Sheringham and Jack Pallen scoring for Dartford.
After a 1-1 draw against Yeovil Town in the Southern League Cup Final first leg in 1977, Vic Akers went on to become the first Dartford captain to lift the Southern League Cup when the Darts won the second leg 2-0 on this day. Three years later Dartford reached the final again drawing 0-0 in the first leg on the 9 April against Kidderminster Harriers. The second leg finished 4-1 to the Harriers.