Dartford approach their third Kent derby in a row this weekend aiming to maintain their lead at the top of the National South against local rivals Welling United.
Manager, Steve King returns to Park View Road for only the second time as Dartford manager and will be hoping to keep his side’s unbeaten start intact. The Darts have dropped just two points in their six league games and that was in their last National South outing against Tonbridge Angels. The 1-1 draw saw Dartford go behind for the first time this term when Tommy Wood headed the Angels in front, but former Welling United midfielder Jack Jebb equalised for the Darts.
Last weekend Ade Azeez claimed a F.A Cup hat-trick in the second qualifying round against Hythe Town. Azeez took home the match ball in a 5-1 victory which saw Danny Leonard score his first for the club and Michael Kedman play a part in the fourth goal on his debut. Kedman impressed as a triallist in friendlies and has joined the squad along with Deshane Dalling, meanwhile Bagasan Graham has left Princes Park after just one appearance. Tyrique Hyde has also gone out on loan at Hemel Hempstead Town. Azeez secured his hat-trick in the final minute, the 27-year-old has now scored seven goal as many games since arriving at Dartford in the summer and his boss feels there is more to come from the striker.
Despite a near perfect start, King is still looking for perfection from everyone in the squad including in defence, he told Dartford FC TV after the F.A Cup triumph: “We’ve only had two clean sheets and that was a cornerstone to what we did previously. I know it sounds greedy, we’ve conceded the least in the division, but I know we’re better than what we’re showing in certain times and moments in games”.
King will have assessed the fitness of some of his players over the last week, Jernade Meade and George Porter both missed the Hythe Town fixture with injuries. Jake Robinson came off the bench after missing the Tonbridge Angels draw, whilst Jordan Wynter played in the F.A Cup tie despite carrying an injury.
Last time King returned to Park View Road he guided the Darts to a 3-0 Boxing Day victory with goals from the front duo of Darren McQueen, who netted a brace and Elliott Romain. The return fixture at Princes Park on New Year’s Day in 2020 ended with Dartford completing a league double over the Wings. The Darts racked up another four goals to make it seven without reply in the 2019/2020 campaign, this time Romain scored the brace with McQueen finishing the goal rush, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong opened the scoring.
Perhaps those score lines reflect the changes in fortunes between the two clubs with King being the catalyst. The Dartford boss left Welling United in the summer of 2019 after guiding the Wings to the National South playoff final. In the campaign that followed both sides were struggling at the wrong end of the table under new management. King moved to Princes Park in October, got the better of his former side and repeated the playoff near miss with Dartford. Over the last two years the Darts continue to challenge for the title, whilst Welling United have been unable to reach the same heights whilst King was in charge.
So much so that the Wings have just seen Steve Lovell resign as manager after a shock F.A Cup exit to Isthmian Premier League side Harrow Borough. Almost going full circle, Lovell’s first game as Welling United manager was against Dartford the last time the sides met. On that occasion the match ended all square at Princes Park despite the Wings starting the day bottom of the table. The Darts had to come from two down to rescue a point, Luke Allen and Berkeley-Agyepong cancelling out Lyle Della-Verde’s goal, a former Dart who left Welling United this season and Dipo Akinyemi’s strike. Lovell’s encouraging start continued until the season was curtailed.
However, this season began dreadfully with Welling United losing their opening three matches conceding twelve goals in the process. Lovell brought in new signings Pepe Dylan and Teddy Perkins to strengthen the defence and since then the Wings are unbeaten in their last two league games. A 2-1 victory at Concord Rangers was followed by a 2-2 draw with Slough Town and after five games played the Wings are third from bottom.
With no changes to the starting eleven in the last two league games it looked as though Lovell became settled with his best team. Yet he chose to rotate his line-up for the London Senior Cup penalty shoot-out success over Hanwell Town, then again in the F.A Cup. Being taken to penalties by an Isthmian South Central side then losing 2-0 to an Isthmian Premier League team sealed Lovell’s fate. His predecessor, Brad Quinton also lost his job following a shock F.A Cup exit last term when the Wings lost to a Danny Leonard inspired Sheppey United side, Daniel Wilks was Welling United’s goalkeeper. Wilks is not the only former Welling United in Dartford’s squad. Josh Hill, Jebb, Luke Wanadio and George Porter have all spent some time at Park View Road during their career.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 22 / Welling United wins: 10 / Draws: 10
Current League Form
|Tonbridge Angels||H||1-1||Slough Town||H||2-2|
|Bath City||A||3-1||Concord Rangers||H||2-1|
|Eastbourne Borough||H||3-1||St Albans City||A||0-5|
|Dulwich Hamlet||A||2-0||Hungerford Town||H||1-4|
|Slough Town||H||3-0||Havant & Waterlooville||A||0-3|
|St Albans City||A||3-1|
Dartford 2 – 2 Welling United (06/02/2021 – National South)
Dartford 4 – 0 Welling United (01/01/2020 – National South)
Welling United 0 – 3 Dartford (26/12/2019 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 0 Welling United (01/01/2019 – National South)
Welling United 2 – 0 Dartford (26/12/2018 – National South)
Dartford 4 – 1 Welling United (01/01/2018 – National South)
- A Dartford win will make it their best league start since the 2009/2010 Isthmian Premier League title winning campaign. It will also be the first time since 2009 that the Darts have won their opening four away games in the league.
- The Darts have lost just once in their last fourteen matches against Welling United, winning eight and drawing five
- Dartford have kept three clean sheets in the last four fixtures against Welling United
On This Day
This week the Darts were drawn against rivals Maidstone United in the next round of the F.A Cup, fifteen years ago the two sides met on 25 September in the Isthmian Division One South. Richard Avery and Eddie McClements scored the goals to earn the Darts a 2-1 Kent derby victory. Two years prior the Darts started their four game winning streak on this day by beating Arlesey Town 3-2 in the Southern League Division One East. Fast forward to 2010 and Dartford edged past Lowestoft Town in the F.A Cup second qualifying round 2-1, Carl Rook and Danny Harris found the back of the net. The most recent game was in the National League when the Darts beat Braintree Town 2-0 in 2012, this time Tom Bonner and Jacob Erskine grabbed the goals.