Dartford are in action this weekend when they host St Albans City in their penultimate home game of the National South regular season.
With a National South playoff place secured, the Darts will be aiming for home advantage, which is dependent on where they finish at the end of the season. Steve King’s side lost their first home game in the league on Easter Monday against rivals and league leaders Maidstone United and will be determined to bounce back. St Albans City still have a shot at making the playoffs despite a dip in form since the beginning of last month.
The reverse fixture against the Saints was played on the opening day of the season. At the time the prospect of taking on St Albans City to begin the campaign seemed difficult. Saints had a strong 2020/2021 and after 15 games were only behind league leaders Dorking Wanderers on points per game, before the season was cut short. However, the Darts passed with flying colours setting off on a fantastic run of seven victories and a draw in their first eight National South games.
Ade Azeez and Dan Roberts scored on debut at Clarence Park in a 3-1 win. The Darts scored at the end of either half to claim all three points and it was another debutante, Danny Leonard who provided the cross for Azeez’s first goal for the club. A former Dartford player, Tom Bender equalised for the hosts, but two late goals from substitute Dan Roberts secured the win. Keiran Murtagh, Jake Robinson and George Porter also made their first appearances.
St Albans City won on their last visit to Princes Park when Shaun Jeffers scored a late wonder goal. The striker put in a fine performance capping it off with the match winner. Dartford’s form over the Saints has improved in the last three years with three victories and a draw in the last five meetings. Prior this current run the Darts had won once in six, failing to score in five of those.
Dartford had a mixed Easter with a comfortable victory against Billericay Town and a narrow defeat to Maidstone United. King made two changes to the team that beat Billericay Town 2-0 on Good Friday. Goals from Jack Jebb and Marcus Dinanga secured a playoff place. For the Easter Monday fixture full back, Jernade Meade made his first league start since the beginning of the year and Samir Carruthers was back in midfield. Kristian Campbell and Murtagh were named as substitutes.
However, it was former Dartford striker, Jack Barham who came back to haunt his old side again. After netting a hat-trick in the reverse league fixture, the striker scored the winner putting an end to the Darts unbeaten home run in the National South. The Stones looked the better side and also missed a penalty when Dan Wilks saved from Barham. The closest Dartford came was when Carruthers hit the post, but the Darts were unable to derail their rivals title push.
Defeat means that the Darts have dropped to fourth in the table relinquishing a bye into the playoff semi-final and home advantage. With four games remaining they are only a point of a top three finish just behind local rivals Ebbsfleet United. If King’s side can climb above the Fleet and stay ahead of Oxford City and Eastbourne Borough then they can avoid that extra playoff match.
St Albans City need to make up three points just to get into the playoffs and on current form they will be pleased to sneak in. Although their last three outings have ended in a draw, a defeat and a win they had just lost six in a row and taken just one point from 21 available. On Monday they drew 0-0 with Hampton and Richmond Borough and on Good Friday lost 3-0 to lowly Chelmsford City.
Former Dart, Tom Bender was a substitute in the goalless draw with Hampton and Richmond Borough. He was part of Dartford’s 2014/2015 campaign and made 20 appearances in the National League for the Dartfs. The defender moved on to Forest Green Rovers before joining St Albans City during the 2015/2016 season. As well as scoring against the Darts on the opening day this term, Bender also grabbed a goal at Princes Park in November 2016 when the Saints won 2-0. Almost a year later he also netted an own goal which handed Dartford a 2-1 victory in October 2017.
However, the Darts will have to watch out for striker, Shaun Jeffers who has scored 25 league goals and 32 in all competitions, way more than anyone else for the club this term. Jeffers signed for St Albans City in the summer of 2020 and has so far scored 44 times in 67 appearances for the Saints. He also scored for his former side against the Darts whilst at Chelmsford City back in August 2016.
After taking on the Darts this weekend it doesn’t get any easier for the Hertfordshire side. The Saints host title chasing Dorking Wanderers, travel to playoff certainties Oxford City before ending at home to Tonbridge Angels. It’s been against the top sides that St Albans City have struggled to gain points on the road by failing to beat any of the top six on their travels.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 10 / St Albans City wins: 6 / Draws: 5
Current League Form
|St Albans City
|Maidstone United||H||0-1||Hampton & Richmond||A||0-0|
|Billericay Town||A||2-0||Chelmsford City||H||0-3|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-1||Hungerford Town||A||2-0|
|Oxford City||A||1-1||Maidstone United||A||2-3|
|Hampton & Richmond||A||1-0||Concord Rangers||A||1-2|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||1-1||Ebbsfleet United||H||0-1|
Previous Meetings (last six)
St Albans City 1 – 3 Dartford (14/08/2021 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 St Albans City (17/11/2020 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 2 Dartford (07/03/2020 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 St Albans City (06/08/2019 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 2 St Albans City (12/01/2019 – National South)
St Albans City 2 – 0 Dartford (01/09/2018 – National South)
- Tom Bonner has now made 400 starts as a Dartford player and 403 appearances in total. The defender is now 9th on the all time appearance list for the club.
- Dartford have won three of the last five fixtures against St Albans City, drawing twice and losing once.
- The Darts had scored in their previous 14 league games before the blank at home to Maidstone United.
On This Day
Dartford are playing on St George’s Day for only the second time in 17 years this weekend. The last fixture on this day was in 2016 when the Darts drew 2-2 at home against Oxford City. Elliot Bradbrook’s scored a brace as the Darts levelled twice, the last equaliser coming from a late penalty. Dartford’s last win on 23 April was in 2001 when they beat Langley Sports 2-1 in the Southern League Division One East. In the same division four years later, the last defeat on this day came against Fisher Athletic by the same score line.