Dartford are on the brink of reaching the F.A Trophy quarter-final for the first time in nine years when they visit Needham Market on the weekend.
The Darts have fond memories of their one and only visit to Bloomfields when they progressed in the F.A Cup. This time round the Marketmen could provide a tougher test after making club history causing upsets along the way.
Alfie Pavey inspired Dartford in the only meeting between the two sides in September 2017 when his first-half hat-trick set the tone. The striker scored from a tight angle, headed in a second and secured the match ball with his third. Early in the second-half Tom Murphy got on the end of a counter attack to make it four before Elliott Bradbrook missed a penalty. Needham Market pulled a goal back through Sam Nunn, but Andy Pugh restored the four-goal lead. The hosts had Billy Holland sent off and to round off the rout, Ryan Hayes made it 6-1 with virtually the last kick of the game.
After a string of draws in the National South and victory in the previous round against National League side Weymouth, the Darts have hit some form and are eight games unbeaten in all competitions. Steve King led his side to three consecutive Kent derby wins beating Tonbridge Angels, Ebbsfleet United and Welling United before their trip to Havant and Waterlooville on Wednesday night.
King made two changes to the side that beat Welling United with Kalvin Kalala coming in for Danny Leonard and new loan signing Ody Alfa making his debut. The 22-year-old from Queens Park Rangers will be with the Darts until the end of the season, the forward has previously had spells with Maidenhead United and last season with Billericay Town. Luke Allen’s strike on the stroke of half-time was enough to secure a 1-0 win and move the Darts within four points of league leaders Dorking Wanderers and up into third place. Havant and Waterlooville rarely threatened in front of goal mainly due to a decent defensive display from the Darts, especially Korey Roberts. Returning from injury, Tom Bonner came off the bench to shore things up at the back and see the game out.
In Dartford’s F.A Trophy run they have overcome a mixture of opponents defeating fellow National South side Bath City on penalties, overcoming Cray Wanderers from the division below and knocking out the Terras in the last round. Experience of a F.A Cup exit to lower league opposition this season means the Darts should not take this tie for granted, especially with the results achieved by Needham Market in the last two rounds of the competition.
The Marketmen under former midfielder Kevin Horlock began their journey in the third qualifying round and are still standing after five games. Horlock has a wealth of Football League experience with Swindon Town, Manchester City in the late nineties and early noughties, West Ham United, Ipswich Town before the tail end of his playing career. Whilst in management, as an assistant at Needham Market, Horlock was also assistant with Northern Ireland’s under 21 side and kept that role whilst managing Chatham Town afterwards. Prior his appointment at Bloomfields in June 2019, he also had a spell as Maldon and Tiptree boss.
Three players, Luke Ingram, Jake Dye and Daniel Morphew are still in the Needham Market squad that lost against he Darts back in 2017. They have played their part in the club’s trophy run which has included wins against St Ives Town, Margate, Welwyn City Garden and most notably Wealdstone and Yeovil Town both of the National League. Ingram is the top appearance maker of this current squad and is in his ninth campaign, Dye is an academy product and has made over 200 appearances and is now in his eighth season with the club and Morphew has been a constant in defence over the years.
In the Southern Premier Central, the Marketmen are playing catch up with games in hand caused by a fantastic trophy run. The Suffolk side are tenth in the league 11 points from a playoff spot with four matches extra to play. In all competitions they are six unbeaten at home with victories over Wealdstone, Hitchin Town and Leiston and draws against Peterborough Sports, Hednesford Town and in their last outing Royston Town. The 2-2 draw with Royston Town stretched their unbeaten league run to four, but they were two up in that game entering the 88th minute. The Marketmen have now lost just once in their last 11 competitive matches and with home advantage, previous upsets under their belt and club history already made they will be looking for yet another scalp.
F.A Trophy story so far…
Third Qualifying Round
St Ives Town 0-2 Needham Market
Paired up against fellow Southern Premier Central side St Ives Town, the Marketmen got their F.A Trophy adventure underway with a two goal victory. Luke Ingram expertly controlled and finished to open the scoring and four minutes from time Byron Lawrence’s superb free-kick sealed the deal.
Needham Market 3-2 Margate
Making it to the second round created history for Needham Market as they beat Kent club Margate with a dramatic late goal. The Marketmen went two goals up with a Harvey Sayers solo effort and Ben Fowkes’ strike on the stroke of half-time. Margate hit back with second-half goals by Vance Bola and former Dart, Ben Greenhalgh. Then three minutes into stoppage time Hans Mpongo headed the winner.
Bath City 0-0 Dartford (Dartford won 5-3 on penalties)
A tight affair at Twerton Park ended with no goals scored after normal time and so the tie went straight to penalties. The Darts scored all five of their spot kicks and after two penalties each gained an advantage when Dan Wilks saved from Alex Fletcher. The Darts kept their heads and with Tyrique Hyde last to go for the visitors, the midfielder slotted home.
Needham Market 3-1 Welwyn City Garden
Although not the winner this time, Mpongo netted again in stoppage time to make sure Needham Market’s journey continued. A division higher than their opponents, the Marketmen scored twice in as many minutes just after the hour mark, first Luke Ingram then Jake Dye. In the last minute Welwyn City Garden halved the deficit, but Mpongo added a third.
Cray Wanderers1-3 Dartford
Three goals in five first half minutes settled Dartford’s nerves in round three. The Kent derby against Isthmian Premier League side Cray Wanderers could have been a banana skin but the Darts negotiated their way through to the next round. Jake Robinson opened the scoring past former Dartford goalkeeper Bailey Vose. The striker added a second from the penalty spot and Danny Leonard made it three. The Wands scored a consolation in the second half when Jai Reason scored.
Needham Market 2-1 Wealdstone
The first of two upsets came in the third round as Needham Market knocked out National League side Wealdstone. Callum Sturgess got his side off to a perfect start after eight minutes to set up a trophy shock. Ten minutes before the interval Ingram doubled the lead and when Matthew Buse pulled a goal back it set up a tense finish.
Dartford 1-0 Weymouth
The Darts knocked out higher league opposition and avenged a National South playoff defeat with victory at Princes Park. Jack Jebb scored the decisive goal and despite pressure from the visitors goalkeeper Dan Wilks kept the Terras at bay.
Yeovil Town 1-1 Needham Market (Needham Market won 8-7 on penalties)
The Marketmen caused a massive upset by beating a team famous for their F.A Cup giantkilling. Goalkeeper Marcus Garnham was the hero with four penalty saves in the shoot-out, after 22 spot kicks the shot stopper kept out Morgan Williams to grab the headlines. Williams has earlier opened the scoring in the first-half, a strike that was cancelled out just before half-time by Fowkes.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 1 / Needham Market wins: 0 / Draws: 0
Current Form (all competitions)
|Havant and Waterlooville||A||1-0||Royston Town||H||2-2|
|Ebbsfleet United||H||1-0||Redditch United||A||0-0|
|Tonbridge Angels||A||3-2||Hitchin Town||H||3-1|
|Concord Rangers||H||0-0||AFC Rushden & Diamonds||A||0-2|
|Hampton and Richmond||H||2-2||Yeovil Town (FAT)*||A||1-1|
(FAT – F.A Trophy) / * Needham Market won 8-7 on penalties
Needham Market 1 – 6 Dartford (30/09/2017 – F.A Cup Third Qualifying Round)
- Dartford have won four in a row for the first time since October
- The Darts have won three F.A Trophy ties this season, the first time since their run to the semi-final in 2012/2013
- Jack Jebb will make his 50th Dartford appearance if selected on the weekend. The midfielder has started 47 games, made two substitute appearances and has scored seven goals.
On This Day
The Darts completed a league double over Luton Town in the National League on this day. Ryan Hayes fine effort was enough to take victory, earlier in the game Andre Gray struck the post. Dartford’s last away game ended in a 1-1 draw with Braintree Town, the Darts went a goal down after a Billy Burgess own goal and Jon Main levelled the National South match. In 2005, the Dartford brushed aside Berkamsted Town 5-0 in the Southern League Division One East. The only F.A Trophy tie on this day ended without a goal as the Darts drew 0-0 against Atherstone United in 1972, Dartford won the replay 1-0 two days later.