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MATCH PREVIEW – Dartford v Worthing

Dartford host their penultimate home game of the season against promotion hopefuls Worthing on Tuesday night.

Adrian Pennock’s side remain in the bottom four, but victory on the weekend has given the Darts hope they can survive the drop. Worthing also claimed maximum points in their last outing defeating table toppers Yeovil Town and all but securing a playoff place.

When the original fixture was due to be played Pennock had just been appointed Dartford boss and Worthing’s manager, Adam Hinshelwood left for York City. Now Aarran Racine will be in the visitor’s dugout and both managers have it all to play for as the season heads down the finishing straight. The Darts need victories to have a chance of holding on to their National South status. The Rebels will be determined to keep momentum going and earn home advantage for the playoffs.

On Saturday, Dartford travelled to Hampshire in a relegation six pointer against Havant and Waterlooville. Pennock made three changes to the side that lost 2-0 at home to Eastbourne Borough on Easter Monday. Injuries to Tommy Block and Brandon Barzey meant Jack Smith and Olly Box were introduced to the starting eleven. Alex Wall was brought in to replace Jordan Greenidge. Tyrell Miller-Rodney was named on the bench and made a late appearance after recovering from tonsillitis. Manny Adebowale, Oliver Bray, Tom Wray and Sam Odaudu were on the injury list.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kAWvcXima_Y
Highlights courtesy of Dartford FC TV

Joash Nembhard returned to his former side with a goal and Oliver Box became the match winner as the Darts claimed their first league win in 11 attempts. In the first half Dartford were unfortunate not to be ahead with Alex Wall and Box coming close. Havant and Waterlooville tested Rhys Byrne occasionally, but the Darts goalkeeper was equal to the task. Despite being the better side, Dartford went a goal behind in the second half. Harrison Sodje was down injured when the hosts took advantage through an excellent strike from James Roberts. Yet the Darts showed great character and when Nembhard headed over the line, his fourth goal of the season and third against his former side, the visitors were on level terms. Just four minutes later Luke Coulson set up Box to smash the ball into the roof of the net. A couple of good saves from Byrne at the end made sure the score remained 2-1 to the Darts.

Results elsewhere leaves Dartford a point below Eastbourne Borough. In order to remain in the division it looks as though the Darts will have to stop a winless run of nine at home stretching back to November. Pennock will have two opportunities starting with Worthing and ending the campaign against Truro City. In between those two fixtures Dartford travel to champions elect Yeovil Town.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pElqnk5K8yU
Highlights courtesy of Dartford FC TV

The reverse fixture against Worthing this season was a topsy-turvy affair. The Darts came from behind, let a lead slip, but ended up winning. Worthing went in front when Danny Cashman scored. Then in the space of 15 minutes at the end of the first-half Dartford were 3-1 to the good. Wall capitalised on some poor defending, captain Coulson netted from the edge of the box and Jordan Wynter then grabbed a rare goal. The Rebels fought back with a superb strike from Ricky Aguiar before Ollie Pearce levelled the score. There was one more twist with six minutes to go, Miller-Rodney put away the winner.

Worthing completed the double over the Darts last season winning 2-1 at Princes Park. In a story akin to this season Dartford let a one goal lead slip after going in front through Connor Essam. The Rebels equalised in the second-half when Callum Kealy scored and in the last minute Joel Cobran netted the decisive goal. Five months later Worthing won 3-0 in a game that saw Wall sent off and Maxwell Statham score an own goal. The prolific Pearce and former Dart, Davide Rodari scored the other two goals.

https://youtu.be/tjMKL11e88I
Highlights courtesy of Dartford FC TV

Three consecutive defeats and a draw threatened to derail Worthing, however a playoff place is pretty much guaranteed, barring a drastic goal difference swing and poor run of form. The Rebels bounced back with three victories on the spin. The latest triumph came on the weekend against Yeovil Town.

Pearce grabbed a brace and is on course to reach the 40 mark for the season and Brad Dolaghan also scored in a 3-1 win. In front of a home crowd, Yeovil Town had the chance to wrap up the National South title, but the Rebels denied the Glovers. Pearce won a penalty in the first half and the league’s top scorer added another to his tally to put the visitors ahead. On the stroke of half-time Joe Felix pounced on a defensive error to set up Dolaghan to make it 2-0. Alex Fisher headed a goal back for the Glovers with six minute to play, but Pearce sealed the deal seven minutes into injury time.

Over the Easter period Rancine’s side claimed maximum points scoring seven and conceding one. On Good Friday they breezed past Havant and Waterlooville with a 5-1 triumph and on the Monday defeated Hampton and Richmond 2-0. Pearce grabbed a brace against the Hawks whilst Dolaghan repeated the feat versus the Beavers.

The Sussex side are top scorers in the division with 94 goals and England C international Ollie Pearce has 38 of them. Last term they were the second highest scorers and despite conceding plenty over the last two years their attacking philosophy has paid dividends. Having missed out in the playoffs almost twelve months ago Worthing will be aiming to go one better and reach the National League for the first time in their history.

Current League Standings

Team Played Pts GD
Hemel Hempstead 44 49 -15
Truro City 39 47 -8
Torquay United 42 45 -9
Eastbourne Borough 42 44 -25
DARTFORD 43 43 -17
Taunton Town 40 41 -22
Havant & Waterlooville 43 36 -34
Dover Athletic 43 27 -33

Current League Form

Dartford (LDDLLW) Worthing (LLDWWW)
Havant & Waterlooville A 2-1 Yeovil Town A 3-1
Eastbourne Borough H 0-2 Hampton & Richmond H 2-0
Chelmsford City A 1-4 Havant & Waterlooville A 5-1
Truro City A 0-0 Bath City H 2-2
Hemel Hempstead H 1-1 Chippenham Town A 1-3
Maidstone United H 0-2 Farnborough H 2-3

Head to Head

Dartford wins: 4 / Worthing wins: 3 / Draws: 1

Last Six Meetings

Worthing 3 – 4 Dartford (14/11/2023 – National South)
Worthing 3 – 0 Dartford (28/01/2023 – National South)
Dartford 1 – 2 Worthing (27/08/2022 – National South)
Worthing 1 – 2 Dartford (26/09/2009 – F.A Cup)
Worthing 2 – 1 Dartford (20/11/1982 – F.A Cup)
Dartford 3 – 0 Worthing (12/11/1927 – F.A Cup)

Statistics

  • Dartford are on their longest winless run at home in the league since 2014/2015 when they went 11 games without a home win between November 2014 and April 2015 in the National League.
  • The Darts have recorded just two league wins in 2024 in 18 attempts (D4, L12)
  • The last victory for the Darts at home against Worthing was 97 years ago in a F.A Cup tie (W2, L1)
  • Oliver Box is already Dartford’s second highest scorer this season in all competitions with six goals in 15 appearances

On This Day

Dartford won the Southern League Cup for the first time on this day back in 1977. The Darts drew 1-1 against Yeovil Town in the first leg in Somerset and shocked the then four times winners early in the second leg at Watling Street. Keith Robinson scored a 15th minute penalty to put the Darts in front. Then six minutes later Vic Akers caught out Yeovil’s goalkeeper with a strike from 35 yards. Dartford won 2-0 on the day and 3-1 on aggregate to lift the cup. Dartford’s last outing on this day was two years ago when they drew 1-1 at home against Hemel Hempstead Town, Marcus Dinanga rescued a point in the last minute. Eight years ago, Lee Burns ended up in goal as Dartford won at the Gallagher Stadium to claim a Kent derby victory over Maidstone United. Elliot Bradbrook scored a tenth minute penalty, Keaton Wood scored an own goal and Nathan Ferguson scored the winner.