Steve King takes charge of his first Kent derby as Dartford boss this weekend when his side hosts local rivals Maidstone United in the first of a double header.
The Darts will host the Stones this weekend and have been drawn away against them in the F.A trophy third qualifying round, which takes place next weekend. As well as the return National South fixture in April, the pair have also been drawn against each other in the Kent Senior Cup.
It has been almost four years to the day since the Darts last hosted the Stones in the National South, although the two were drawn in the Kent Senior Cup back in January. Since the arrival of Steve King, Dartford have won two and drawn one in the league but are without a home win since August. Meanwhile, Maidstone United fresh from their F.A Cup first round triumph are unbeaten in three league games, but without an away win since the first match in September.
Former Dartford manager John Still will be in the opposite dugout this weekend, the 69-year-old became Darts manager in 1983 leading the club to the Southern Premier League title in his first season. In the following campaign, Still guided the club to third in what is now the National League, which remains Dartford’s best ever league finish. He resigned in January 1986 after a difficult time on and off the pitch for the Darts in a season they ended up relegated, it took the club 26 years to return to the National League.
After the last set of Champions League games there was plenty of amusement at the fact an outfield player went in goal, this has become a familiar scenario in the last two games between Dartford and Maidstone United. In the Kent Senior Cup ten months ago, the Darts took the lead when Charlie Sheringham scored from a penalty, not the first time a spot kick was needed that night. The Stones won a penalty of their own five minutes before the break, which Bailey Vose saved.
Early in the second half goalkeeper Vose received his marching orders for a foul on Elliot Romain, now an in-form Dartford striker, leaving midfielder Ben Greenhalgh between the sticks for almost the entire second half. An inspired performance by Greenhalgh kept the score at 1-0 until nine minutes from time when Romain equalised. A penalty shoot-out followed and after 15 perfect spot kicks Maidstone United goalkeeper Josh Strizovic saved Daniel Johnson’s effort, sending the Stones into the last four.
In April 2016, Lee Burns ended up in goal during the closing stages of the game after Deren Ibrahim suffered an arm injury. Nathan Ferguson’s second-half winner was enough to earn Dartford a 2-1 win at the Gallagher Stadium, Elliot Bradbrook’s penalty was earlier cancelled out by Keaton Wood’s own goal.
However, the last Princes Park meeting in November 2015 ended all square in which current squad members Andy Pugh, Ryan Hayes, Ronnie Vint and Lee Noble all played a part. Alex Flisher, who had a spell with the Darts this season headed Maidstone United in front and with eight minutes to go Elliot Bradbrook’s equalised. The midfielder’s effort was initially ruled out for offside until it was overturned causing some controversy.
Four years ago, several players had represented both clubs, nowadays there are not so many. Aside from Romain the only other player who can list Dartford and Maidstone United in their career history is Ryan Johnson, the defender was part of Dartford’s Isthmian Premier League title winning squad in 2009/2010 making 17 appearances and scoring one goal.
Romain joined the Darts from Eastbourne Borough and the striker has scored twice in his first three appearances for the club. He was on target in the 2-1 away win at Hampton and Richmond Borough over a week ago and netted against his former side in the 2-0 victory at Priory Lane. Another of King’s signings found themselves of the scoresheet in Dartford’s last triumph, Kyjoun Marsh-Brown scored the opener versus Hampton and Richmond.
Dartford will be without Lee Noble who will no longer need an operation on his knee, Charlie Sheringham has been out with a dislocated shoulder, Jordan Wynter has been side-lined and Sam Blackman is yet to return from his pre-season leg break. King has already drafted in full back Liam Gordon from Dagenham and Redbridge to replace the departed Mark Onyemah, whilst Ben Greenhalgh has gone out on loan with Tonbridge Angels. The Dartford boss is looking to strengthen the squad and although he has left out wingers Ryan Hayes and Luke Wanadio in his selections, King claims he is still a fan of wingers and a traditional 4-4-2 formation but is looking for a ‘ball winner’ in midfield.
The Stones were involved in the F.A Cup last weekend taking part in the first round for the sixth consecutive season. An own goal by Torquay United’s Matt Buse was the difference sending Maidstone United through to the second round with a 1-0 win, the Kent side will face League One side Blackpool.
Both Dartford and Maidstone United played in form Hampton and Richmond Borough in their last league games. Whilst the Darts won in their trip to the Beveree, the Stones suffered a 2-1 loss ending a seven-game unbeaten run in all competitions. Kyron Farrell gave the hosts an early lead which was cancelled out by Nana Kyei, however Tyrone Lewthwaite scored a last-minute winner for Hampton and Richmond Borough. The Stones have drawn their last two away games, first they recorded a 1-1 draw with Bath City then repeated the same score line against Braintree Town.
John Still has some experience heads in his squad with the likes of former Wolverhampton Wanderers defender George Elokobi, where he made 85 appearances and Gavin Hoyte, who has represented several Football League clubs. Whilst Matt McClure is the club’s top scorer this term with Dan Wishart close behind.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 44 / Maidstone United wins: 44 / Draws: 17
Last Six Meetings
* – Kent Senior Cup, Maidstone United won 8-7 on penalties
Dartford are unbeaten in their last six league games against Maidstone United, winning five.
The Stones last beat Dartford in the league back in 2007 and the last away victory in league over the Darts came in 1978.
On This Day
John Still was in charge of the Darts on this day in 1985 when his side travelled to AFC Bournemouth in the F.A Cup first round. A 0-0 draw secured a replay, however for the second season in a row Dartford lost the rematch to the same opponents, this time a round earlier. Dartford last played on 16 November in 2015 when they knocked Gillingham out of the Kent Senior Cup second round, ending a run of seven games without a win on this day. In 2010, Tony Burman led his team out at Vale Park losing 4-0 in the F.A Cup first round replay to Port Vale. The last league triumph on 16 November came way back in 1963 when Dartford beat Wellington Town 5-3 at home in the Southern Premier League.