Dartford continue their push for a National South title challenge on the weekend when they visit playoff hopefuls Oxford City.
The Darts maintained pressure on the top two in their last outing with victory over Hampton and Richmond Borough to go three unbeaten. This weekend’s host have slipped off the pace after suffering a second defeat in a row.
Last time the two sides met in November, Dartford were going through a period of dropping points after opening the season with seven wins and a draw. The 0-0 draw at Princes Park was the last of a five-game winless streak in which goals dried up. It was the fourth game in that sequence without a Dartford goal and the inconsistent results continued up to the end of January. However, the Darts have got back on track, but whether there is enough time to catch the league leaders remains to be seen.
Beating Hampton and Richmond Borough last Saturday helped Dartford close the gap on second place Dorking Wanderers. The weekend almost turned out perfectly as league leaders Maidstone United were being held, however a winner deep into injury time means the Darts remain nine points adrift with a game in hand. The two Kent rivals are due to face each other on Easter Monday.
Steve King gave new signing Samir Carruthers his debut, Kristian Campbell his first start and Olumide Durojaiye his maiden appearance as a substitute. The Dartford boss explained that a change of tactics and a limit on loan players allowed to start was the reason Campbell was selected ahead of Jayden Sweeney, who has impressed King during his loan spell. Danny Leonard, Keiran Murtagh and Jake Robinson also returned to the side helping the Darts claim victory, Marcus Dinanga scoring the winner pouncing on a loose ball to score his fifth goal in only seven appearances.
Speaking after the win, King was pleased with the performance and praised the defence, he commented: “We were good, defensively we were fantastic. We dominated the majority of the game, they had a right go as well, we had to be on it all the time. We were more than worth our win”. The form of Kory Roberts has also impressed the manager especially as the defender has moved to full back, King added: “He’s been a great acquisition since he has come in and I think he has grown and got better and better and better”.
All four remaining away games will be played on a 3G surface starting with the visit to Oxford City. King believes the pitches may suit Dartford’s playing style, but he is expecting a tricky afternoon in Oxfordshire, he said: “All we can do is look out for ourselves. We’ve got to keep trying to win games of football, this will be a tough game. Oxford are a good side, they have been up there in the top seven the whole season, so when you’ve been in the top seven the whole season, you’re a good side. We’ve got to go there with the same attitude we did against Hampton and Richmond Borough”.
Dartford’s last visit to Marsh Lane was in October 2019, the final league match before King took charge at Princes Park. Ben Greenhalgh’s run down the right wing was finished when he cut inside to curl the ball into the Hoops net for the decisive strike. The return match that season ended more comfortably for the Darts as they won 3-0 with goals from Darren McQueen, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong and Luke Wanadio. The two sides didn’t meet in the following campaign which was cut short due to the pandemic.
Up until January and under former Oxford City boss David Oldfield, who left to manage National League side Weymouth, had only lost twice in the National South and those defeats came against the current top two, Maidstone United and Dorking Wanderers. Ross Jenkins stepped up after Oldfield’s departure and early last month he was announced as the new first team head coach. This week Jenkins led Oxford City to the Oxfordshire Senior Cup Final beating North Leigh 4-1 in the semi-final. Joe Iaciofano scored the first two goals for the Hoops either side of North Leigh’s equaliser and Jacob Bancroft added two more. Oxford City will play their city rivals Oxford United in the final and hope to win the county cup for a 38th time.
In the National South the Hoops are going through a sticky patch as they aim to maintain a playoff place. Back-to-back 3-1 defeats to Billericay Town and Ebbsfleet United leave them in sixth, but still with a healthy advantage over eighth place St Albans City, who are nine points further back. Oxford City have only been beaten twice by teams below them in the standings, both against Billericay Town. However, their form versus those in the top five has yielded just one win, two draws and six defeats. On their own patch they have won their last three including a handsome 5-0 win over Tonbridge Angels.
Oxford City manager, Jenkins has called on supporters to help his side ahead of the home match on the weekend, he told www.oxfordcityfc.co.uk: “They’ve supported us up and down the country this season and to get a good crowd here on Saturday and everyone getting behind the boys would be massive for us”, he continued: “I think Dartford will bring a few fans too, they’re doing well and they’ve got a few good results. Every game is going to be a tough one, including Saturday. Hopefully we can please everyone but we’re going into the game to put on a good performance and win a game of football, like they are as well, so it should be competitive”.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 8 / Oxford City wins: 3 / Draws: 4
Current League Form
|Hampton & Richmond||A||1-0||Billericay Town||A||1-3|
|Havant & Waterlooville||H||1-1||Ebbsfleet United||A||1-3|
|Chelmsford City||H||2-1||St Albans City||A||1-1|
|Chippenham Town||A||2-4||Tonbridge Angels||H||5-0|
|Dorking Wanderers||H||3-2||Chelmsford City||A||2-1|
|Hungerford Town||A||1-2||Maidstone United||A||1-2|
Previous Meetings (last six)
Dartford 0 – 2 Oxford City (13/11/2021 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Oxford City (11/01/2020 – National South)
Oxford City 0 – 1 Dartford (12/10/2019 – National South)
Oxford City 2 – 1 Dartford (27/04/2019 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 2 Oxford City (13/11/2018 – National South)
Oxford City 4 – 1 Dartford (06/10/2018 – F.A Cup)
- Dartford have kept three consecutive clean sheets against Oxford City.
- The Darts have only lost once in the league versus the Hoops back in April 2019 (W6, D3).
- Only once have Dartford failed to score in this fixture and that was in the meeting earlier this season.
- The Darts have also scored in their last eleven league matches.
On This Day
Dartford drew at Yeovil Town 1-1 in the Southern League Cup Final on this day back in 1977. The first leg finished even, but Vic Akers went on to become the first Dartford captain to lift the Southern League Cup when the Darts won the second leg 2-0 a week later. Dartford have won their last five games on 2 April, the most recent triumph came six years ago against Maidenhead United. Two goals in three minutes by Danny Harris and Elliot Bradbrook secured a 2-0 win. In 2011, Lee Burns scored a bizarre long range header at St Albans City in a 2-1 victory, the winner coming from a young Jack Pallen. In the Southern League Division One East, the Darts beat Barton Rovers 4-0 in 2005 and Rothwell Town 1-0 in 2003. In the Kent League in 1994, Dartford defeated Cray Wanderers 2-1.