The two-week suspension of the National South comes to an end this weekend and Dartford’s first game is against local rivals Welling United.
Dartford top the league table with a three-point cushion and if they avoid defeat, they will remain at the summit. Welling United prop up the rest of the division four points adrift, however the Wings have played just 11 matches, the fewest in the National South.
The Darts know too well not to take their opposition’s league position for granted, it was just under a month ago that Steve King’s side lost to Braintree Town, who were at the foot of the division when they met. Since then the Darts have played just two more times winning convincingly against Billericay Town and drawing with Hungerford Town three weeks ago.
Despite the suspension of the National South and the uncertainty of financial support across all clubs, King has been pressing ahead with keeping the players fit over the last week including a mid-week friendly. Whilst this season has seen a fair amount of new challenges off the field, King is pleased at the progress of the team, he told DFC TV: “They have done magnificently, I believe league tables do not lie. We’ve played one or two games more than other clubs, but we’ve been professional, we’ve done our job and we can only play and beat what is in front of us”.
It’s the first meeting between Dartford and Welling United this season and a chance for King to get one over his former club, who he took to the playoff final in 2019. The Darts boss is not the only one in the Dartford squad up against their ex-employers. King has looked towards players he trusts from previous teams he has managed, so it’s no surprise a number of personnel have represented Welling United in the past including Josh Hill, Gavin McCallum, Craig Braham-Barrett, Ky Marsh-Brown, Jack Jebb and David Ijaha. On the opposing side, Lyle Della-Verde is a former Dart who made 34 appearances during the 2017/2018 campaign and scored five goals.
Dartford approach the Kent derby with a dominating record against their local rivals. Last season the Darts hit seven without reply winning 4-0 at Princes Park and 3-0 at Park View Road. Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong and Elliott Romain (two goals) were among the scorers in the home meeting, Darren McQueen scored the other. In the away match Romain found the net with McQueen notching a brace. In the last three campaigns this fixture has been played over the festive period and in that time the Darts have won five out of six.
Welling United have undergone a change in the dugout with the departure of Bradley Quinton. Quinton lasted a year in charge with one win in 11 league games this season and a shock F.A Cup exit to Sheppey United. Former Gillingham boss, Steve Lovell is now in the hotseat attempting to guide the Wings to safety, starting with his first game at the helm on Saturday.
Although the two week break wasn’t exactly good news for the league, it has allowed Lovell to assess his inherited squad and see their potential. The new Wings boss spoke to The Kent Non-League Podcast and commented: “There is some good players in the squad and I need to give them a chance. It’ll be a challenge and it’s going to be hard work. I’m pretty sure with the combination of the players we’ve got now and the players I’ll bring in, we’ll have a decent second part of the season”.
His new side’s last fixture was three weeks ago when The Wings lost 2-0 to title contenders St Albans City. The third successive home defeat was also the fourth game in a row in which the Wings failed to find the back of the net, picking up just one point from their last four games. Winless in their last six National South games, Welling United’s last win was in mid-November and so it’s now down to Lovell to restore confidence in the squad.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 22 / Welling United wins: 10 / Draws: 9
Current League Form
|Hungerford Town||H||1-1||St Albans City||H||0-2|
|Billericay Town||H||3-0||Oxford City||A||0-0|
|Braintree Town||A||1-2||Chippenham Town||H||0-1|
|Tonbridge Angels||H||1-0||Braintree Town||A||1-1|
|Ebbsfleet United||H||0-0||Billericay Town||H||2-2|
|Eastbourne Borough||A||1-3||Hemel Hempstead Town||A||2-1|
The Darts have won their last six home games against Welling United and eight of the last nine.
Home and away in all competitions Dartford have won eight, drawn four and lost one in their last 13 meetings with the Wings.
The Wings have failed to score in their last two visits to Princes Park and in three consecutive games home and away.
Dartford have gone six league games without repeating a consecutive result (DWLWDL)
The Darts have kept three clean sheets in their last five league outings and four clean sheets in their last five at Princes Park in the National South.
On This Day
Ryan Hayes scored what turned out to be the winner to book Dartford’s place in the F.A Trophy semi-final. Eight years ago, the Darts took on FC Halifax Town in a quarter-final replay and after falling behind in the second minute, the Darts turned the match around in the second half. A quick fire double from Lee Noble and Elliot Bradbrook and a third ten minutes from time by Hayes put the Darts in control. FC Halifax Town scored a late consolation when Dan Gardener scored his second, but Dartford held on. Five years ago an Andy Pugh double earned the Darts a 2-0 home win over St Albans City in the National South.