Dartford have a tough final home game of the regular season when they host playoff hopefuls St Albans City this weekend.
The Darts will be hoping for another two home matches, but that depends if they can secure second place and make it through to the playoff final next month. A runners up finish will mean a home tie in the semi-final against the side who finishes in either fifth or sixth, that side could be St Albans City. The Saints have a four-point cushion over eighth place with two games remaining.
Victory will bring up 50 points at Princes Park for Dartford this term, who have the second-best home record in the league. St Alban City have fared better on their travels accumulating the second most points on the road. Little separates the two teams and that was the case back in October when they played out a 1-1 draw at Clarence Park. Jack Smith scored his first goal in a Dartford shirt and although it was an easy tap in, the Darts worked the ball forwards swiftly after gaining possession on the halfway line. St Albans City equalised after catching Dartford out with a quick throw in and when the ball fell to Shaun Jeffers, he took an air shot before drilling his second attempt beyond Joe Young. The Darts will have to keep an eye on St Albans City’s top scorer, Jeffers has managed 25 league goals this term and top scored last season with 27.
The prospect of facing St Albans City since Dartford returned to the National South used to be daunting for the Darts, the Saints won five out of six with an aggregate score of 14-2. However, the tide has turned in recent years as Dartford have lost just once in the last seven meetings, winning four of those. The last time the Hertfordshire club came to visit Princes Park was a day shy of a year. Dartford surpassed a century of goals for the season in all competitions and Keiran Murtagh scored his first two for the club. The midfielder’s glancing header from Jack Jebb’s corner set the host on their way, but Jeffers levelled for the Saints. Murtagh put the Darts back ahead when his volley beat goalkeeper, Michael Johnson at the near post. Marcus Dinanga slotted in a third to complete a double over St Albans City after the reverse fixture on the opening day also ended 3-1.
Up until the festive season the Darts were well within a chance of challenging for the National South title. After victories against Havant and Waterlooville then completing a double against local rivals Ebbsfleet United, Dartford were top of the table on New Years Day. Rising to the summit was helped by a run of ten victories and a draw in eleven matches from September to early November. After the fantastic spell over Christmas and New Year, the Darts beat Cheshunt to make it four wins on the bounce, but form has not been that good since. Now the National South title has been sewn up, Dowson’s side are left scrapping for second with Oxford City and Chelmsford City.
On Thursday night the Darts missed an opportunity to go five points clear of the chasers losing 3-2 at Concord Rangers. Only one change was made to the starting eleven after the 1-0 away win at Tonbridge. Luke Allen made way for Pierre Fonkeu. Alex Wall and Charlie Sheringham were named on the bench. Wall had been out with a calf strain picked up against Eastbourne Borough on Good Friday. Although the striker made a ten minute appearance on Thursday he was taken off and may have returned from injury too soon. Sheringham’s injury kept the striker out for over two months and he was introduced later on in the game. Samir Carruthers didn’t feature in the matchday squad and has been recovering since the Easter period, although Dowson did state the midfielder is back training.
Dartford suffered a disappointing defeat in Essex against a Concord Rangers side hoping to pull of a great escape. In a topsy turvy game the hosts went ahead when Lewis Manor scored. Within six minutes the Darts were level and it was Harvey Bradbury yet again with his fifth goal in eight games since joining last month. Dartford edged in front when Sam Odaudu scored his first for the club on his 26th appearance. The Beachboys fought back in the second half, Ben Steward equalised then with two minutes left Manor scored a vital winner for Rob Small’s side.
A second place finish is still in Dartford’s hands but they will most likely need points against St Albans City this weekend. Dowson’s side are two points ahead of their closest challengers Oxford City and Chelmsford City and can still be caught by Worthing.
|Dartford (79pts)||Oxford City (77)||Chelmsford (77)||Worthing (72)|
|St Albans (H)||Havant & W (H)||Hemel (A)||Taunton (A)|
|Hampton & R (A)||Bath (A)||Taunton (H)||Hemel (H)|
St Albans City have hit form at the right time to get into the top seven and they hope to stay put. If the Saints can make the playoffs it will be the first time in this division since they won promotion to the National League in 2006. Difficult to beat in the first couple of months of the season, St Albans City were too inconsistent and by the end of October they were in twelfth. However, the Hertfordshire side saw out the rest of 2022 with seven wins from nine, including a 6-0 away trouncing of Hampton and Richmond Borough and into fifth. A mediocre start to the New Year and a difficult February meant the Saints dipped below the dotted line, but they would rise again. Currently David Noble’s side have tasted defeat just once in their last eight outings winning five of those and their last two matches. A 3-0 triumph over Welling United last weekend followed up a 2-1 win at bottom club Concord Rangers and now St Albans City are hoping to stay above that dotted line.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 11 / St Albans City wins: 6 / Draws: 6
Current League Form
|St Albans City
|Concord Rangers||A||2-3||Welling United||H||3-0|
|Tonbridge Angels||A||1-0||Concord Rangers||A||2-1|
|Taunton Town||H||0-1||Braintree Town||H||0-2|
|Dover Athletic||H||2-1||Chippenham Town||A||1-1|
|Eastbourne Borough||A||1-2||Havant & Waterlooville||H||2-0|
|Dulwich Hamlet||H||3-0||Dover Athletic||H||1-0|
Last Six Meetings
St Albans City 1 – 1 Dartford (22/10/2022 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 1 St Albans City (23/04/2022 – National South)
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 have won 50% of their home games against St Albans City in all competitions (W6, D4, L2)
- The Darts have gone 13 games without a clean sheet against the Saints stretching back to a 2-0 win in February 2016
- Dartford have alternated between wins and losses for their last eight games
On This Day
Two late goals from substitute Tom Murphy turned the final home game of the 2018/2019 season around for the Darts. After finding themselves a goal down at home to Billericay Town, Murphy was introduced and scored in the 88th and 90th minutes to win it for Dartford. Two years earlier, the Darts cruised to a 4-0 triumph over Bishop’s Stortford in the last home league fixture of the 2016/2017 campaign before the playoffs. Andy Pugh and Elliot Bradbrook gave the Darts a commanding 2-0 lead before the break. Duane Ofori-Acheampong and Alfie Pavey added another two in the second-half. Bromley beat the Darts 4-1 at Hayes Lane in 2011 on this day and Danny Harris netted a brace a year earlier in a 2-1 victory over Hendon with the Isthmian Premier League title already secured. Dartford claimed a fourth Kent Senior Cup in five seasons with a 3-2 win over Folkestone back in 1935.