Dartford have turned from playoff to title contenders in recent weeks and their next test is at home to Chelmsford City.
It will be the fourth time the two sides meet this season having played in both the F.A Cup and F.A Trophy. So far the away team has edged out with one win a piece in the cups and a draw in the National South back in August. The Darts drew 1-1 in Essex six months ago with Luke Wanadio’s header cancelling out by Shaun Jeffers’ leveller.
Dartford returned to the Melbourne Community Stadium a month later in an interesting and tense F.A Cup tie. Racing into a three goal lead by half time, courtesy of an own goal and an Elliot Bradbrook brace, the Darts were up against the conditions in the second half when they conceded twice. The Clarets did get revenge in the F.A Trophy though in their last visit to Princes Park, Chris Dickson’s winner sent the Essex club through.
Chelmsford City boss, Rod Stringer claimed that 1-0 victory was a statement for other teams in the playoffs. However, since then the Clarets have dropped out of the top five and currently sit four points adrift. Their F.A Trophy run, which ended against Tranmere Rovers, means Stringer’s side do have games in hand on those above.
On the other hand, Dartford are the form team of the division and have pulled away from the Clarets. A run of six consecutive wins has closed the gap at the top leaving the Darts third and a point behind rivals Ebbsfleet United. Since New Years Day, Tony Burman’s side have made up 14 points on Maidenhead United who were strolling at the top at the turn of the year. Dartford are now ten points better off than Stringer’s team and are contenders for the National South title at this stage.
Over the last six league matches goals have come from all over the park, Dartford have netted an impressive 23 with 11 different goalscorers, taking their goal difference from the seventh best to the third. The goals continued on the weekend with a 4-0 away triumph at Gosport Borough. Andy Pugh scored a tap in within five minutes, his fourth league goal in as many games. Luke Wanadio deservedly got on the scoresheet with a well placed finish, Keaton Wood’s stunning strike made it three and Kaka Dembele nodded in the fourth. Alex Brown and Duane Ofori-Acheampong returned to the squad and were named on the bench and Burman gave academy midfielder Richard Seixas some more game time.
Chelmsford City have playoff aspirations of their own and were in with a shout of the title race up until mid October. The Essex club went seven games without a win, drawing six of them. The Clarets have since got back to winning ways, with defeat at Ebbsfleet United an exception, yet on the weekend they shared the points with St Albans City to drop two in a frustrating afternoon. Stringer noted his attack wasn’t clinical enough, a problem he’s noticed with frequency this campaign.
Jeffers who equalised in the reverse fixture back in August is Chelmsford City’s top marksman this term with 15 goals. He can look forward to forming a partnership with new signing Liam Enver-Marum, the former Ebbsfleet United and Maidstone United striker. The 29 year old made a late appearance on Saturday replacing Jeffers. Three former Darts are also in the squad, winger Luke Daley, full back Josh Hill, who only signed last month and Max Cornhill.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 36 / Chelmsford City wins: 51 / Draws: 90
Current League Form
Won 4-0 v Gosport Borough (A)
Won 3-1 v Whitehawk (H)
Won 4-0 v Wealdstone (A)
Won 3-2 v Eastbourne Borough (A)
Won 3-2 v Weston-super-Mare (H)
Won 6-1 v East Thurrock United (H)
Chelmsford City (DWLWWW)
Drew 1-1 v St Albans City (H)
Won 2-0 v Truro City (H)
Lost 0-2 v Ebbsfleet United (A)
Won 1-0 v Whitehawk (H)
Won 3-1 v Bishop’s Stortford (A)
Won 4-0 v Bishop’s Stortford (H)
Dartford 0 Chelmsford City 1 (14/01/2017) – F.A Trophy
Chelmsford City 2 Dartford 3 (17/09/2016) – F.A Cup
Chelmsford City 1 Dartford 1 (13/08/2016)
Dartford 1 Chelmsford City 1 (02/01/2016)
Chelmsford City 0 Dartford 1 (26/12/2015)
Dartford 0 Chelmsford City 0 (07/04/2012)
Dartford have not hosted and beaten Chelmsford City in 17 years. A run of four defeats and two draws means the 3-0 win in 2000 was the last time the Darts achieved a home victory over the Essex club.
Since the home win in 2000, Dartford have only recorded one other league triumph against the Clarets, the 1-0 win at the Melbourne Community Stadium on Boxing Day two years ago.
The Darts are unbeaten in their last five league matches against Chelmsford City, winning one and drawing four. The last two league meetings have ended 1-1.
Very few goals decide this fixture, Dartford have failed to score more than once and Chelmsford City more than twice since the Southern League Southern Division match in 2000.
Andy Pugh seems to warm up in January and February. Last season he also scored in four consecutive league games between 26 January and 23 February, he netted five times.
On This Day
Dartford’s highlight of the 2013/14 season came on 18 February when the Darts swept aside Woking. The 5-1 victory temporarily glossed over relegation fears when braces from Alex Wall and Max Cornhill was added to by Lee Noble. The win was exactly two years to the day since the Cards beat the Darts 1-0 in the National South to dent Dartford’s title ambitions, the Darts did eventually go up in the playoffs that season. Defeats to Horsham (2-3 in 2009), Berkhamsted Town (1-3 in 2006) and Fisher Athletic (1-3 in 2003) all came after 1995’s entertaining 5-3 triumph over Furness in the Kent League.