Dartford’s preparations will be put to the test when they start their National South campaign this weekend against Wealdstone.
The Darts have found the Stones a difficult prospect over the years with the last victory against them coming twenty five years ago. Last term Wealdstone completed the double over Tony Burman’s side in a set of 2-1 wins.
At Princes Park back in January, the Stones came from a goal down to go home with all three points. Dartford, on the back of an unbeaten home run spanning just over four months let a lead slip in the final fifteen minutes.
Andy Pugh neatly finished a cross from Ryan Hayes early in the second half to put Dartford ahead. Late goals from veterans Scott McGleish and Jefferson Louis inflicted defeat on the Darts.
Since a 4-1 home victory back in 1991, five consecutive draws have been played out followed by three straight Dartford losses. The first of those defeats came in a F.A Trophy replay over four years ago, the Stones caused an upset knocking the Darts out at the third round stage.
This weekend could see summer signing Alex Brown make his debut having joined from Leatherhead. The midfielder was part of two promotions with Maidstone United where he made 139 appearances. Brown believes his new side should make the playoffs this season.
Keaton Wood and Tom Bonner return to Princes Park wearing the white shirt. Wood made his loan from last term into a permanent deal whilst Bonner is back for the Darts after spells with Cambridge United, Dover Athletic and Ebbsfleet United. Bonner was integral to the Dartford squad who won promotion in 2012 and played over 100 times for the club in his previous spell.
Bringing pace to the squad will be Ellis Brown and Luke Wanadio who impressed Tony Burman over pre-season. Ellis Brown played for Tonbridge Angels and gained experience with Charlton Athletic and Southend United. Wanadio can play on both wings and spent time with Welling United last term.
Wealdstone finished last season in thirteenth, recording the most draws in the division. Experienced boss Gordon Bartlett has been in charge at Grosvenor Vale for 21 years, even outstaying Tony Burman at Princes Park.
Over the summer Bartlett refreshed his squad with the signings of strikers Sahr Kabba from Welling United and Elliot Benyon from Hayes and Yeading United. Danny Green and David Hunt moved from Margate, whilst ex Hemel Hempstead Town midfielder Ricky Wellard and St Albans City defender Eddie Oshodi have also been added to the squad.
The Middlesex club also announced changes off the field with new Chairman Peter Marsden being appointed. The Wealdstone supporter held the same position at Accrington Stanley for the past four years. Veteran striker Scott McGleish replaced Leo Morris as Assistant Manager to work alongside Bartlett.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 11 / Wealdstone wins: 13 / Draws: 11
Previous Six Meetings
Dartford have lost three of their last four opening games of the season
Wealdstone have won one of their last eight opening games
On This Day
The Darts lost their last match 3-0 on 13 August to Aldershot Town in the National League in 2013.
Since reforming, Dartford had a perfect record on 13 August until defeat at the Shots. Whitstable Town (3-1 in 1994), Arlesey Town (1-0 in 2005) and Weston-Super-Mare (4-0 in 2011) were all beaten. The win at Weston-Super-Mare is Dartford’s only opening day triumph in the last four years.