Dartford kick start their National South season against Bath City at Princes Park on Saturday.
It’s the third time the Darts meet the Romans on the opening day in five years. On the previous two occasions Dartford won at Twerton Park, this weekend Alan Dowson will be hoping his reshaped squad will bag maximum points at home.
Almost a year to the day, Dartford went to Twerton Park to begin the 2022/2023 season and Pierre Fonkeu’s double brought back all three points. It took until 65 minutes to open his account capitalising on goalkeeper, Dan Wilks’ long ball. Five minutes later the striker made it two from close range after applying pressure on Bath City’s defence.
Five years earlier, Dartford came from behind on the opening day. The Romans took the lead in the tenth minute when Adam Mann scored on debut, then Bradbrook levelled in first-half stoppage time. A late Delano Sam-Yorke penalty decided the match after Elliot Bradbrook missed his spot-kick minutes earlier.
Last season’s fixture at Princes Park ended 0-0 as a well organised Bath City side prevented the Darts claiming a seventh consecutive home win over their opponents. Malachai Napa was handed a debut in a match with very few chances. In the second-half both sides had the ball in the net, but Charlie Sheringham’s effort was ruled out for a foul and Bath City’s Callum Ebanks goal was deemed offside.
Dartford’s pre-season has been about getting players fit and Dowson’s new look squad to gel. Results have been disappointing as the Darts finished without a victory, but with the retirement of captain Tom Bonner, the departure of fellow centre back Connor Essam, both goalkeepers Wilks and Ben Dudzinksi leaving as well as full backs Jernade Meade and Kristian Campbell, virtually the whole back line has been rebuilt. In the first half of last season the creativity of Samir Carruthers was influential, however the midfielder made his switch to Chelmsford City over the summer and the hardworking Fonkeu has been signed by National South playoff winners Oxford City.
It is likely a number of new signings will make their Dartford debuts, although Paul Rooney starts the campaign suspended after an incident at his former club Havant and Waterlooville. Following Rooney from the Hawks, the Darts secured the services of Tyrell Miller-Rodney and Joash Nembhard as well. Brandon Barzey has impressed in friendlies and his arrival from Hampton and Richmond Borough will provide width, Baris Altintop will hope to make at least the playoffs again after joining from Braintree Town and Joe Rabbetts will be trying to stand out on loan from Dorking Wanderers. Lewis Manor and goalkeeper Mitch Beeney were both relegated with Concord Rangers last term, the duo will get another chance in the National South. Harvey Bradbury has already tasted life with the Darts and has made his move permanent from Dorchester Town, the striker scored six goals in ten games for Dartford towards the end of last season.
Bath City will commence their twelfth successive National South campaign this weekend and last time out they finished eleventh, although manager Jerry Gill did guide the Romans to a county cup triumph. Up front Cody Cooke formed a decent partnership with Scott Wilson, the pair are back for another season. Luke Russe has been added to the squad from Chippenham Town along with Ben Morgan from Gloucester City and Jordan Thomas from Southern Division One Central side North Leigh. Goalkeeper, Ollie Wright and Ewan Clark both join for season long loans from Southampton and Bristol City respectively.
Pre-season has gone well for the Romans finishing their warm-up with consecutive victories. Cooke scored twice last weekend in a 2-0 win over Yate Town and Gloucester City were beaten by the same score four days earlier. Those wins followed three draws in a row against Exeter City, Tiverton Town and Westbury United. The only defeat came versus a Bristol City under 23 side, however prior that loss Bath City drew with Shaftesbury and defeated Frome Town.
Pre Season Results
|Dartford (LDLLLDLL)||Bath City (DWLDDDWW)|
|Billericay Town||A||0-1||Gloucester City||H||2-0|
|Phoenix Sports||A||2-2||Westbury United||A||1-1|
|Margate||A||0-2||Bristol City U23||H||1-2|
|Dunston UTS||A||2-2||Frome Town||A||2-0|
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 37 / Bath City wins: 40 / Draws: 21
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 0 – 0 Bath City (10/12/2022 – National South)
Bath City 0 – 2 Dartford (06/08/2022 – National South)
Dartford 2 – 0 Bath City (19/02/2022 – National South)
Bath City 0 – 0 Dartford (27/11/2021 – F.A Trophy)*
Bath City 1 – 3 Dartford (04/09/2021 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Bath City (17/10/2020 – National South)
* – Dartford won 5-3 on penalties
- Dartford have won their last three season openers and four of their last five (W4, L1)
- The Darts have lost just once in their last 14 league games against the Romans (W11, D2)
- Dartford have kept four consecutive clean sheets in all competitions against Bath City
- Dartford dropped points at home against Bath City for the first time since 1990 in December. The Darts had won six in a row before the 0-0 draw.
- The Darts have won seven of the last nine home games in all competitions against the Romans (D1, L1)
On This Day
Only twice have Dartford played a competitive match on 5 August and both times the Darts kept a clean sheet. The most recent was a 0-0 draw on the opening day of the 2017/2018 season at home to Hungerford Town. Whilst that match took place at Princes Park, the other fixture on this day was at Watling Street in 1980. The Darts won 2-0 in their belated Eastern Floodlit Cup semi-final versus Barking. A day later Dartford went on to lift the cup beating rivals Maidstone United 1-0 in the final.