A new ground will be ticked off the list this weekend when Dartford visit Isthmian Premier League champions Dorking Wanderers.
The Darts were in tip top form over the festive period taking maximum points including a convincing double over local rivals Welling United. Hoping to continue the momentum that has lifted Dartford into playoff places, Steve King’s side face a tougher test when they visit Meadowbank.
If the reverse fixture at Princes Park in September is anything to go by, then fans could be in for a treat. Dorking Wanderers ran out victors in a seven-goal thriller, which saw Tony Burman return to the dugout as interim manager. Wanderers scored first when a counter attack was finished from long range by Niall McManus. The Darts took the lead with two Ben Greenhalgh goals in the space of four minutes, then on the stroke of half-time former Dartford striker Jason Prior netted a penalty.
In the second-half, Dartford went in front once again when Charlie Sheringham got on the end of a Ryan Hayes cross. However, in the final six minutes the game swung in Dorking Wanderers’ favour, Giuseppe Sole scored from a free-kick, Lee Noble was sent off and in the final minutes James McShane grabbed the winner.
Dartford managed to score ten goals without reply over the festive season with Elliot Romain and Darren McQueen sharing eight between them. The beginning of a new decade couldn’t have gone any better with the Darts turning over Welling United 4-0 on New Year’s Day. The only change to the starting eleven that beat Tonbridge Angels was Sanchez Ming returning to the side replacing the injured Tyrique Hyde. On loan from Aldershot Town, Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong scored his first Dartford goal in only his second appearance, Elliott Romain added two more to his season’s tally of 11 in 13 games and Darren McQueen scored his tenth of the campaign.
Dartford manager, Steve King told DFCTV that he is pleased with the ‘strides’ his team have taken, but the game versus Dorking Wanderers this weekend could provide more answers, he said: “The test for me now becomes, can we play a team in the top seven and see exactly where we are or where we’re improving or where we’re short?”. He continued: “It will be a tough game, my friend is the owner and manager and he’s done brilliantly. He’s got a good club and players, they are beating everybody at home and have got themselves up to fourth in the division”. Having been out of work before being appointed Dartford boss, King will already know what Dorking Wanderers are about, he explained: “I know how tough it is going to be, I know their players from when I did a bit of commentary work there at the start of the season”.
Dartford’s full back, Liam Gordon has returned to his parent club after ten appearances for the Darts, whilst midfielder’s Lee Noble and Luke Allen may have to wait another two to three weeks before a return. Defender, Josh Hill suffered a dead leg and could be suspended for three games following his red card against Tonbridge Angels. Hyde has been nursing a bruised heel and Mark Smith will provide competition with in form goalkeeper Alhaji Sesay after recovering from a knee injury.
Dorking Wanderers have risen through the non-league pyramid with five promotions in nine seasons. Founder member of the club, Marc White is the manager and he led the Surrey side to the Isthmian Premier League title last term. This year begun with the Wanderers tasting only their sixth defeat of the season in their first campaign at National South level.
The loss at Eastbourne Borough ended a run of seven consecutive victories in all competitions and their two-month unbeaten run, consisting of seven wins and three draws. During their winning spell they beat playoff challengers Weymouth and Maidstone United, knocked Leatherhead and Bromley out of the F.A Trophy and kept six clean sheets in seven outings.
Looking to complete the double over Eastbourne Borough, following a 4-0 win on Boxing Day against the Sports, White’s side were beaten 3-2 at Priory Lane on New Year’s Day. White made three changes to the side that won 2-0 against Chippenham Town with Sole, McManus and Luke Moore replacing Dan Gallagher, Tom Richards and Jack Barham, who was recalled by Barnet from his loan spell. Matthew Briggs sent Dorking Wanderers 1-0 up at the break, but the second-half belonged to Eastbourne Borough who scored three unanswered goals before Prior grabbed a consolation.
Despite the New Year’s Day setback, Dorking Wanderers are in fourth place a point behind second place and eight adrift of the league leaders. The Surrey club have an exemplary home record taking eight victories from 12. Meanwhile, the Darts are in seventh with an away record of five wins and five defeats from a dozen. Out of the top ten sides, Dartford and Dorking Wanderers have the worst defensive record, however over the last six matchday’s they have kept seven clean sheets between them, both sides showing signs of improvements at the back. In attack there doesn’t seem to be much of an issue with Wanderers the fourth highest scorers in the National South and the Darts the fifth, helped by Dartford’s Elliott Romain who is joint top of the goalscoring charts and Dorking Wanderers’ Jason Prior who is just two goals behind.
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 0 / Dorking Wanderers wins: 1 / Draws: 0
Current League Form
|Welling United||H||4-0||Eastbourne Borough||A||2-3|
|Tonbridge Angels||H||3-0||Chippenham Town||A||2-0|
|Welling United||A||3-0||Eastbourne Borough||H||4-0|
|Concord Rangers||H||0-1||Maidstone United||A||3-2|
|Dulwich Hamlet||A||1-1||Welling United||H||2-0|
Last Six Meetings
Dartford’s 4-0 win against Welling United was the first time the Darts have scored more than three goals in a league game since 24 February 2018 when they beat Truro City 4-1.
The Darts kept a third consecutive clean sheet on New Year’s Day, the first time since April 2018 when they managed four in a row.
Under Steve King, Elliott Romain and Darren McQueen have scored 13 goals in the 9 games when they have both started. The pair have scored 12 in the last 6 in which they were both selected in the starting eleven.
Dorking romped to the league title last season and have settled comfortably in the National South. In 2019 the Wanderers won 31, drew 9 and lost 6 in all competitions.
On This Day
Dartford last won on the 4 January way back in 1986 when they beat Barnet 5-3 at Watling Street, in which is now the National League. The home win rewarded the Darts with two points in the Gola League, bizarrely an away victory was worth three points that season. Victory put some gloss on a difficult period for the club as the financial situation started to unravel, three games later manager John Still resigned. Dartford have played three matches since that triumph, in 1992 they lost 1-0 at Bromsgrove Rovers in the Southern Premier League, were beaten 3-1 at Stamford in the Southern Division One East eleven years later and most recently, lost 2-1 to Kidderminster Harriers at Princes Park five years ago in the National League.