Dartford close out the year with a Boxing Day North Kent derby against league leaders Ebbsfleet United, as top of the table host second place in the National South.
Starting level on points, victory at Stonebridge Road on Monday will put more pressure on Fleet as the two Kent rivals battle it out over the festive season. Alan Dowson led his side to a win over another title challenger in Havant and Waterlooville last time out. Ebbsfleet United have just lost consecutive games for the first time in the league this season.
If facing the title favourites isn’t enough, the Darts will be searching for their first away win in the league against Fleet for 43 years, a run of 11 games without a victory. However, Dowson’s side can take heart from the fact they have just beaten third place Havant and Waterlooville and that Ebbsfleet United have lost two of their last three home games in the National South.
Dartford’s last visit to their local rivals was their first in league competition in five years and it ended in a disappointing single goal defeat back in January. Fleet’s Ben Chapman came off the bench to net the winner in a tightly contested game. The Darts created the better chances, but Ebbsfleet United’s ability to keep possession made for an interesting, but tense Sunday afternoon. Five years earlier the Fleet won by the same score with Bradley Bubb scoring the decisive goal. The three previous meetings in DA11 before the pair of losses all ended in a draw.
Two of Dartford’s experienced players know what the North Kent derby means having played on both sides of the divide. Captain, Tom Bonner has made over 400 appearances in a Dartford shirt, the defender left the Darts for Cambridge United before moving to Ebbsfleet United in 2015, then re-joined Dartford a year later. Charlie Sheringham has scored 59 times for the Darts over four spells, the striker’s spell at Stonebridge Road yielded 11 in 49 games between 2014 and 2017. On the other side, Darren McQueen formed an excellent understanding with Elliott Romain at Dartford. Currently at Ebbsfleet United the duo have had a limited number of starting appearances this term. Mainly used as a substitute, McQueen has scored four this season, when he was with the Darts he top scored with 20 goals in the 2019/2020 campaign. Romain is currently out on loan with Hemel Hempstead Town.
Dowson recently made it clear he’s trying to strengthen the squad, not only is he searching for players he is looking for the consistency that propelled the Darts up the table between September and early November. Since Farnborough brought an end to a lengthy unbeaten run, Dartford have conceded late goals to drop points in the draw at Oxford City and defeat at Chelmsford City, scrapped for a point at home to Bath City in a goalless stalemate, but have also won 3-1 against Concord Rangers at Princes Park and on their travels versus Havant and Waterlooville.
Alex Wall returned to Westleigh Park just over a week ago and recorded a brace against his former club to earn Dartford all three points. The striker was recalled to the starting line up alongside Luke Coulson and Luke Allen, the midfielder coming back from a spell out with injury. Allen and Samir Carruthers combined for the first goal setting up Wall for his first of the evening. Allen netted the winner last season at Havant and Waterlooville and he was involved again to double the lead. The Hawks halved the deficit when Jake McCarthy scored, but Wall put the game beyond the hosts just two minutes later.
Dowson was pleased with his side’s attitude as they showed ‘guts and determination’ after a questionable display at home to Bath, he spoke to Dartford FC TV and said: “It was great for an away performance. I thought the first half we did well, especially after we got a lot of stick after Saturday. The lads got together and had a night out to sort it out between ourselves, so it’s down to them really. I’m delighted for the lads, and we’ve got a bit of belief now. We’ve got to believe, and we’ve got to believe we can get a run going again”.
After narrowly missing out on promotion last season in the playoff final, Ebbsfleet United were quickly installed as the favourites to win the division this term. Under Dennis Kutrieb the Fleet were unstoppable in their opening nine games winning the lot. In fact, it took until matchday 16 for their three-month unbeaten run in the league to come to an end.
Finally defeated by Tonbridge Angels at home, Ebbsfleet United returned to winning ways keeping back-to-back clean sheets beating Slough Town 2-0 and thrashing Worthing 6-0 in Sussex. Fleet’s next trip to the county didn’t go so well as they lost 2-0 at Eastbourne Borough failing to score for the first time in the league this term. On Tuesday night Ebbsfleet United fell to a surprise defeat at Cheshunt. Reece Beckles-Richards scored an early penalty to condemn Fleet to their first away loss in the National South.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 67 / Ebbsfleet United wins: 56 / Draws: 32
Current League Form
|Havant & Waterlooville||A||3-1||Cheshunt||A||0-1|
|Bath City||H||0-0||Eastbourne Borough||H||0-2|
|Concord Rangers||H||3-1||Slough Town||H||2-0|
|Oxford City||A||1-1||Tonbridge Angels||H||1-2|
|Farnborough||A||1-3||Hampton & Richmond||A||2-1|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 1 – 0 Ebbsfleet United (01/02/2022 – National South)
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Dartford (02/01/2022 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 0 Ebbsfleet United (02/01/2021 – National South)
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 0 Dartford (01/01/2017 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 1 Ebbsfleet United (26/12/2016 – National South)
Ebbsfleet United 1 – 1 Dartford (28/03/2016 – National South)
- The away team has failed to win in 20 of the last 21 league games between the two sides (home wins 13, draws 7, away wins 1)
- At Stonebridge Road, the Darts have lost and drawn their last two on Boxing Day, last winning in 1966.
- The Darts lead the head to head with Ebbsfleet United in Boxing Day meetings – W9, D2, L6 (away record W1, D1, L3)
- Dartford have won the last four Boxing Day meetings with Ebbsfleet United all at home with an aggregate score of 14-3
On This Day
Tom Bonner scored against his former club six years ago to give Dartford the lead against Ebbsfleet United. The Darts went two up when Duane Ofori-Acheampong scored, and Fleet’s Anthony Cook pulled a goal back. Since then, the Darts have played Welling United on Boxing Day which included Alfie Pavey’s last minute wonder goal in 2017. The last Boxing Day match for Dartford was also at Park View Road when they beat the Wings 3-0 three years ago. A year earlier, Welling United won 2-0 in Dartford’s only away Boxing Day defeat in their last six. On this day, the Darts have racked up 39 wins, 23 draws and 26 defeats and two abandonments, which includes the infamous clash with Gravesend and Northfleet back in 1959 when the match official called off the game because the players were “fighting against each other”.