Dartford embark on their first away trip of the season this weekend when they make their way down to the Jurassic Coast to face Weymouth.
The Darts will be searching for a first victory at the Bob Lucas Stadium in 33 years, a ground where they have only won once since it opened in 1987. Four league defeats in a row at Weymouth and a penalty shoot-out loss in the playoff final should give Alan Dowson’s side the determination to put an end to such a barren spell.
In March, an inconsistent Dartford side were beaten 3-1 against a Weymouth team battling to avoid the drop. The hosts went in front when Akheem Rose was fouled in the box, then stepped up to take the penalty to score. Just before half-time, the now departed Pierre Fonkeu netted his tenth in all competitions to level for the Darts. The second forty-five belonged to the Terras and goals from top scorer Bradley Ash and a free kick by Tom Blair sealed the points. This time Bobby Wilkinson’s side will be without Ash and Blair, the pair left in the summer for Torquay United and Havant and Waterlooville respectively.
Dartford’s season opener last weekend provided plenty of entertainment as they drew 3-3 against Bath City at Princes Park. Dowson handed competitive starts to six players, whilst another two came on as substitutes. Brandon Barzey was the pick of the debutants causing Bath City problems with his directness and pace, but it was Tyrell Miller-Rodney who grabbed Dartford’s first goal of the season. The former Havant and Waterlooville midfielder smashed home a rebound in first half stoppage time after Barzey’s shot was cleared off the line. Luke Coulson was handed the captain’s armband and led by example with a man of the match performance, the winger doubled Dartford’s lead with an excellent first time shot from the edge of the box.
At 2-0 up the Darts defensive frailties began to show and in the space of three second-half minutes Bath City were level. First Ewan Clark took advantage of some poor defending, then substitute and last season’s top scorer Scott Wilson was allowed to swivel and shoot to equalise. The Darts continued to show quality going forward and when Coulson converted Luke Allen’s cross it looked as though three points had been wrapped up, especially after Bath City’s Jack Batten was sent off for a second caution. The visitors had one more trick up their sleeve, Jordan Thomas cut inside unleashed an effort from outside the box and beyond debut goalkeeper Mitchell Beeney. It was a tough afternoon for Tommy Block, Baris Altintop and Joash Nembhard in their first games for the Darts, whilst substitutes Lewis Manor and Joe Rabbetts had little time to make an impact.
Alan Dowson was pleased with his side’s attacking play, but acknowledges work needs to be done defensively, he spoke to Dartford FC TV after the match and said: “Going forward we looked alright, but defensively we were awful. I’m working very hard on the defence between my keeper and the back four. We’ve had chances and we look exciting going forward”. The Dartford boss is confident Maxwell Statham will return this weekend and is hoping to bring in another defender and a goalkeeper to challenge Beeney. Paul Rooney will have to wait longer for his debut after joining from Havant and Waterlooville in the summer, he serves the second of his three-game suspension.
Weymouth opened their campaign with a defeat at last season’s playoff runners up St Albans City. Manager, Bobby Wilkinson steered the Terras to safety on the final day last term and over the summer has rehauled his squad. Six new players started at Clarence Park plus the return of Brandon Goodship who enjoyed a prolific first spell in Dorset. The striker is back for a third time and his assist on Saturday turned out to be merely a consolation. Former Dartford man, Dan Roberts was given his first start after leaving Princes Park over the summer. The forward made 37 appearances for the Darts of which 26 were as a substitute and scored six goals. Another ex-player, Norman Wabo also came on for his debut, he played 18 times for Dartford making just six starts and scored four times during the 2019/2020 season.
St Albans City scored either side of the break to lead 2-0 with goals from Dylan Fage and Giorgio Rasulo. Terras goalkeeper, Gerard Benfield initially saved a penalty before Rasulo put away the rebound. Weymouth’s Tom Bearwish halved the deficit and Wilkinson’s side had the chance to level from the spot, only for Bearwish to have his penalty saved.
Wilkinson was delighted with his team’s response at going two down and the overall performance, he told Terras TV after the loss: “I’ve never seen such a one-sided domination in the second-half. We kept our shape well in the first half, but I wasn’t happy with goal. I’m so pleased as that is the standard we have to set in the second-half as we were against a good side and dominated”. Looking ahead to Weymouth’s first home game of the season against the Darts he added: “It’s another tough challenge against a team that were in the playoffs, but I’m loving that, my boys are ready for it”. Max Hemmings was taken off injured at Clarence Park, the Weymouth boss will assess the midfielder’s fitness.
A superior goal difference kept Weymouth up last term avoiding a return to the Southern Premier South, which they won four years ago. After climbing to the National League, the Terras just about avoided consecutive relegations in April, beating Dover Athletic to stay up despite starting the final day in the drop zone.
There has been plenty of comings and goings at Weymouth during the summer and they will have to replace the goals scored by Ash. Calvin Brooks is one of three who have made the move from Salisbury, whilst Chris McQueen made his way down from north of the border having played for Stenhousemuir. Charlie Rowan won promotion with Oxford City last season and moved to the south coast. Anthony Cheshire arrived from Bracknell Town, Tyrique Clarke from Kings Langley, Leo Hamblin from Carshalton Athletic and Tom Stagg from Grays Athletic. Most recently Josh McQuoid has returned to the club from Aldershot Town.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 19 / Weymouth wins: 36 / Draws: 16
Last Six Meetings
Weymouth 3 – 1 Dartford (04/03/2023 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 0 Weymouth (29/10/2022 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Weymouth (15/01/2022 – F.A Trophy)
Weymouth 0 – 0 Dartford (01/08/2020 – National South Playoff Final)*
Weymouth 3 – 1 Dartford (17/08/2019 – National South)
Weymouth 2 – 0 Dartford (27/12/1997 – Southern League South)
*Weymouth won 3-0 on penalties
- Dartford have won just one of the last eight league games against Weymouth (D1, L6)
- The Darts have won just six away games out of 37 against Weymouth (D7, L24)
- Dartford have won their last two first away games of the season beating Bath City last season and St Albans City in 2021.
- The Darts last won three away openers in a row back in 2005, 2006 and 2007 against Arlesley Town, Burgess Hill Town and Wivenhoe Town respectively
On This Day
Dartford have yet to win a competitive match on this day drawing three of their five matches, all away from home. Jordan Wynter was sent off against Chelmsford City four years ago in a heavy 4-0 defeat. Chris Whelpdale gave the Clarets the lead in the second-half and after Wynter’s dismissal the Darts collapsed. Sam Higgins and Jonny Giles netted for the hosts before Josh Hill scored an own goal. In 2017, Dartford drew 0-0 at Havant and Waterlooville and three years earlier gained a point at Woking in a match that ended 1-1, Rory McAuley put Dartford ahead in the National League fixture only for Giuseppe Sole to level in second-half injury time. Dartford played out a goalless draw at Herne Bay in 1995 during their Kent League days and lost 1-0 at Bedford Town in 1972.