Dartford aim to make their game in hand count against bottom side Concord Rangers on Thursday night as they push to secure second place.
The Darts can extend their lead over Oxford City and Chelmsford City to five points going into the final two games of the season with a consecutive away victory. Dartford put their away day troubles behind them on a weekend that saw the chasing sides pile on the pressure with victories of their own. Dowson’s men have failed to win back to back fixtures on the road since the purple patch in December and into January when they beat Havant and Waterlooville, champions Ebbsfleet United and Cheshunt. Concord Rangers will be on their third game of the week and after Tuesday night’s result have given themselves a glimmer of hope.
Dartford are guaranteed a playoff spot after ending their run of six away games without a win in the league by beating Tonbridge Angels on the weekend. The Darts have now gone unbeaten in Kent derbies after inflicting doubles over champions Ebbsfleet United, Dover Athletic and now Tonbridge Angels, picking up an astonishing 22 points from a maximum of 24, only Welling United managed to take anything from the Darts in the league. However, inconsistent form has seen Dartford alternate between winning and losing for the last seven matches and since the start of February they have not recorded consecutive wins, draws or losses. Heading towards the playoffs now is the time for Dowson and company to find consistency and build momentum.
Malachai Napa was given his first league start in nearly a month and rewarded Alan Dowson’s decision with the only goal of the game. The winger was one of four changes from the side that lost to Taunton Town a week ago. With four games in eight days, the Dartford boss shuffled his side by bringing in Napa, Sam Odaudu, Keiran Murtagh and Jack Smith for Jernade Meade, who has now served his one match suspension, Jordan Wynter, Bobby Dunn and Marvin Herschel.
Tonbridge Angels enjoyed most of the possession throughout the Kent derby, but resolute Dartford defending restricted the hosts. The decisive moment came in the 24th minute when goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski sent a long ball forward which fell to Napa. Breaking through the Angels backline the 23-year- old made sure the Darts took an important lead. Keeping out Tonbridge Angels secured three points and earned Dartford their first away clean sheet since August, a third on the road this season and first in 19 matches in all competitions.
Christian Jolley spoke to Dartford FC TV after the game and commented: “I thought the boys were outstanding, to a man they were brilliant, it was a real squad performance. After the week we’ve had and the miles we’ve covered in regard to pitch action we thought it was a really important game to try and get a result. We had to do it differently by being patient and using our energy reserves wisely”.
Last time Dartford travelled across the River Thames to take on the Beachboys they lost 1-0 on a cold November evening. Lemar Reynolds scored the decisive goal to separate the two teams. It was just as tight two months later when a goalless draw was played out at Princes Park.
However, the Darts got the better of Concord Rangers earlier this season thanks to the influential Samir Carruthers. The midfielder stood out and opened the scoring in the first half with a deflected effort, but Mo Bettamer levelled the score from the spot just before the break. A neat move in the second-half saw Pierre Fonkeu swivel and shoot beyond goalkeeper Mitch Beeney to regain Dartford’s lead. Maximum points were secured when Dan Wilks’ drop kick found its way to the edge of the Concord Rangers box. A lack of communication between Beeney and Aron Pollock led to the defender passing the ball into his own goal.
If fit Alex Wall could face his former club, a team he helped reached the F.A Trophy final in May 2021 scoring the winner in the semi-final. The striker had two spells with the Beachboys scoring 32 goals in 53 games. Wall has been back training this week and so has well as Charlie Sheringham, so they could play a part against Concord Rangers. Dowson is also confident midfielder Samir Carruthers can make a return, whilst Jernade Meade returns from suspension. Former Dart, Ricky Modeste could feature for Concord Rangers, the winger only made three appearances for Dartford in the 2020/2021 campaign.
Concord Rangers have lost every game against sides in the top six and have picked up just one point from those in the current top ten. However on Tuesday night they faced a struggling Dover Athletic side a grabbed a crucial three points. Nana Kyei’s cross was finished by Lewis Manor in the only goal of the game leaving the Beachboys nine points from safety with five matches to go.
The heavy end of season schedule could play a huge part in whether the Essex club remain in the division. Last weekend they were comprehensively beaten away at Bath City losing 4-0. That defeat came after a relegation scrap with Hungerford Town in which Concord Rangers won 1-0, and victory over Dover Athletic was just their second in nine outings. The Beachboys need to cram in their final fixtures over the nine days remaining of the season and by the time they take on Dulwich Hamlet it could be a vital six pointer.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 6 / Concord Rangers wins: 4 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Tonbridge Angels||A||1-0||Dover Athletic||H||1-0|
|Taunton Town||H||0-1||Bath City||A||0-4|
|Dover Athletic||H||2-1||Hungerford Town||H||1-0|
|Eastbourne Borough||A||1-2||St Albans City||H||1-2|
|Chelmsford City||H||1-2||Taunton Town||A||0-1|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 3 – 1 Concord Rangers (26/11/2022 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 0 Concord Rangers (25/01/2022 – National South)
Concord Rangers 1 – 0 Dartford (02/11/2021 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 Concord Rangers (21/12/2019 – National South)
Concord Rangers 0 – 2 Dartford (14/09/2019 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 1 Concord Rangers (26/01/2019 – National South)
- Dartford have won just one of their last five trips to Concord Rangers (D2, L2).
- The Darts have scored once in each of their last five away games.
- Tom Bonner made his 450th start for Dartford in the win at Tonbridge Angels on Saturday.
On This Day
Dartford were defeated in the first leg of the Southern League Cup final on this day in 1988. The reliable Peter Taylor missed a penalty as Bromsgrove Rovers won 3-1 giving the Darts a mammoth task, only two teams had ever overturned a two goal deficit in the Southern League Cup final before. Six days later and despite another miss from the spot, Dartford won 3-0 in the second leg with goals from Garry Britnell, Kurt Davidson and Colin Johnson handing the cup to the Darts. It wasn’t so glorious in Dartford’s last away trip on 20 April, they lost 6-0 down in Eastbourne four years ago.