Dartford can have a say in the National South title race on Easter Monday when they host rivals Maidstone United.
A bumper crowd is expected for this Kent derby and with the Darts protecting their unbeaten home run and the Stones top of the table there is plenty up for grabs. Dartford secured a playoff place on Good Friday and they will want to derail their rivals bid for the title and promotion back to the National League after a three year absence.
Steve King has led the Darts to 17 home games in the National South without defeat and are currently on a seven match unbeaten league run home and away. However, with five fixtures remaining they are ten points adrift from the Stones and six behind second place Dorking Wanderers. Dartford warmed up ahead of the Kent derby with an away day at Billericay Town in which former Maidstone United defender started for the first time in over a month. Midfielder’s Luke Allen and Keiran Murtagh were back in the starting eleven and Jake Robinson was preferred to Ade Azeez up front. Two second-half strikes from Jack Jebb and Marcus Dinanga earned the Darts a 2-0 victory. Dinanga has now scored in four consecutive league games and has eight in just ten appearances since joining Dartford.
The Darts will want to put behind them and avenge the defeat suffered at the Gallagher Stadium back in December. Maidstone United won 4-0 that day and to rub salt into Dartford’s wound, former striker Jack Barham scored a hat-trick and he has three of those this term. Defeat ended a run of seven unbeaten at the time and displaced the Darts from the top of the table. Instead, the Darts will want to reproduce the kind of performance that earned them a 3-0 victory at the same venue in the F.A Cup two months earlier. Goals from Noor Husin, Danny Leonard and Ade Azeez ensured King’s men had the bragging rights back then and a foot in the next round.
Since Dartford’s cup victory the tables have turned as Maidstone United’s form since late November propelled them to the summit. The Stones have won 18 of their last 22 league games, drawing twice and losing twice. A sticky patch for the Darts from October to January saw them playing catch up, but an excellent win against title challengers Dorking Wanderers got them back in with a shout a month ago. However, a loss at Chippenham Town and few more draws mean they are likely to finish in the playoffs.
In this fixture the Darts are unbeaten at home in the league since 1978 and a former Maidstone United player could help them maintain that record on Monday. Jake Robinson could potentially make an impact in front of goal if selected against the Stones, the striker had a brief spell with Maidstone United between December 2018 and March 2019 scoring just twice in eleven appearances.
Prior the heavy reverse four months ago, the Darts had completed a three game winning streak against their rivals in all competitions without conceding. What is more impressive is all those matches came on the road. The aforementioned F.A Cup triumph came after a 2-0 victory at the Gallagher Stadium last season in which Tom Bonner and Charlie Sheringham scored in the final twelve minutes. In January 2020, the Darts progressed in a Kent Senior Cup tie with a 1-0 win, Ky Marsh-Brown scored the decisive goal. Dartford went on to lift the cup with the final being played this season. It was the fourth time the two teams faced each other in that campaign, the previous three came within a space of ten days.
A pair of 2-2 draws, firstly in the National South then in the F.A Trophy proved it was difficult to separate the two rivals. In the league game, Dartford made a dramatic late comeback at home after Dan Wishart and Ibby Akanbi scored in three second-half minutes. However, Bonner scored with just three minutes on the clock and Darren McQueen levelled with a minute to go in the last league meeting played between the two at Princes Park.
In the F.A Trophy, Elliott Romain scored twice against his former club as Dartford came from behind twice. Maidstone United took the lead through Wishart and again when Justin Amaluzor scored. The replay back at Princes Park was decided when Iffy Allen netted the winner.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 46 / Maidstone United wins: 46 / Draws: 19
Current League Form
|Billericay Town||A||2-0||Chippenham Town||A||2-1|
|Hemel Hempstead Town||H||1-1||Havant & Waterlooville||H||4-0|
|Oxford City||A||1-1||St Albans City||H||3-2|
|Hampton & Richmond||A||1-0||Braintree Town||A||2-1|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||1-1||Dulwich Hamlet||H||2-0|
|Chelmsford City||H||2-1||Slough Town||A||1-2|
Previous Meetings (last six)
Maidstone United 4 – 0 Dartford (11/12/2021 – National South)
Maidstone United 0 – 3 Dartford (02/10/2021 – F.A Cup)
Maidstone United 0 – 2 Dartford (14/11/2020 – National South)
Maidstone United 0 – 1 Dartford (21/01/2020- Kent Senior Cup)
Dartford 0 – 1 Maidstone United (26/11/2019 – F.A Trophy)
Maidstone United 2 – 2 Dartford (23/11/2019 – F.A Trophy)
- Dartford are unbeaten in their last eight home league games against Maidstone United (W4, D4)
- The Darts can equal their unbeaten home run of 18 back in April 1979 to February 1980 if they avoid defeat on Easter Monday.
- Dartford last went 18 home league games unbeaten from the start of a campaign in 1925/26 when they finished the Kent League First Division without defeat at home (W15, D3).
On This Day
Dartford have beaten Maidstone United twice on this day, 1-0 in the Southern Premier League back in 1977 and 3-0 in a Kent League fixture in 1913. The Stones won the other fixture also in the Southern Premier League winning 3-1 in 1974. That home defeat 48 years ago was the last time the Darts lost on their own patch on 18 April. Since then they beat Nuneaton Borough 1-0 in 1978 and drew 1-1 in the Southern League Cup Final first leg against Burton Albion. Under Peter Taylor, Dartford went on to win 2-0 in the second leg to lift the cup. Newport AFC were beaten 4-2 in the Southern League South (1998) and the Darts hit four again in 2009 against Ramsgate. A Rob Haworth brace as well as goals from Ryan Hayes and Lee Noble gave Dartford three Isthmian Premier League points.