Dartford will be determined to put last season’s playoff defeat and current form behind them when they travel to St Albans City this weekend.
The Darts suffered heartbreak in May when they lost on penalties to a Saints side who fell short in the final. Dartford slipped down the National South standings in mid-week losing their second match in three days. St Albans City have taken four points in that time without conceding, ending their own barren spell of three defeats on the spin.
Dartford have been unable to replicate their form at the end of last year and so far in 2023 their inconsistencies have led to a slow start. On the weekend the long trip west finished in a 1-0 defeat against Taunton Town when Dave Sims-Burgess was allowed a free header at goal. Aiming to bounce back from the disappointment, Alan Dowson’s side had the chance on Tuesday night against bottom of the table Slough Town and failed to take it.
Only one change was made to the starting lineup with Dowson opting to play two strikers, Lewis Manor selected ahead of Moussa Diarra. After serving a three-match suspension, Brandon Barzey is now away on international duty with Montserrat, whilst Tommy Block, Luke Allen, Alex Wall and Sam Odaudu are recovering from injury. Charlie Sheringham returned to the squad and made a substitute appearance against Slough Town, but Maxwell Statham suffered an injury and was replaced mid-way through the first half. A lacklustre performance left the Darts pointless and after Baris Altintop’s first Dartford goal cancelled out George Alexander’s twelfth minute strike, the Rebels scored the winner courtesy of Tyrese Dyce.
Alternating wins and losses in their opening three games, St Albans City went on to lose three on the trot ahead of the weekend. David Noble’s side stopped the unwanted run with a 0-0 draw at Welling United on Saturday. Three days later the Saints took on Dover Athletic and secured a 2-0 victory. Zane Banton and George Hoddle were unavailable due to injury, Nathan Carlyle was brought in to replace Dylan Fage. Forward, Mitchell Weiss assisted and scored to inspire his side. The 30-year-old set up Andronicos Georgiou in the first half and doubled Saints’ lead in the second. Former Dartford midfielder Bobby Dunn featured coming on as a late substitute.
In the three meetings last season the honours were even with Dartford drawing in their last visit to Clarence Park. Loanee, Jack Smith scored his first goal for the Darts to open the scoring. However, Saints equalised through Shaun Jeffers. In the return fixture, despite Dartford winning 2-1, it will be the goal scored by Jeffers that sticks long in the memory. First, Richard Chin provided the pass for Samir Carruthers to finish and put the Darts in front. However, Saints were back level when Jeffers acrobatically struck the ball beyond Ben Dudzinski. The hosts found a winner thanks to a pair of substitutes. Luke Coulson’s free-kick was saved only for Fonkeu to pounce and net the winner.
The crucial playoff semi-final clash came a fortnight later and this time St Albans City prevailed in a shoot-out. Harvey Bradbury gave Dartford the advantage when his clever lob beat the onrushing goalkeeper, Dylan Berry. The Darts were five minutes away from going in at the break with a one goal lead, but a low corner was converted by Aidan Francis-Clarke to draw level. No further goals were scored in the second-half or during extra time and so it came down to the pressure of penalties. When Berry saved Carruthers’ effort from 12 yards it was an advantage the Saints wouldn’t relinquish. St Albans City went on to score all five kicks to win 5-3 and progress to the final.
|St Albans City (WLLLDW)
|Hampton & Richmond Borough
|Havant & Waterlooville
Head to Head
Dartford wins: 12 / St Albans City wins: 6 / Draws: 7
Last Six Meetings
Dartford 1 – 1 St Albans City (07/05/2023 – National South Playoffs)*
Dartford 2 – 1 St Albans City (22/04/2023 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 1 Dartford (22/10/2022 – National South)
Dartford 3 – 1 St Albans City (23/04/2022 – National South)
St Albans City 1 – 3 Dartford (14/08/2021 – National South)
Dartford 0 – 1 St Albans City (17/11/2020 – National South)
* – St Albans City won 5-3 on penalties
- Dartford are unbeaten in their last four league games against St Albans City (W3, D1) and have lost just once in the last eight league matches (W5, D2)
- The Darts are unbeaten in three league games at Clarence Park (W2, D1) after losing the previous four without scoring
- Both teams have scored in the previous five competitive meetings
- Dartford have gone 15 games without a clean sheet against St Albans City stretching back to February 2016
On This Day
Ryan Hayes set up two goals and scored the other in a 3-0 home win over Chippenham Town six years ago. The winger’s accurate cross was headed in by Alfie Pavey in the first-half. After the interval, Hayes picked out Andy Pugh at the far post to double the lead. To wrap things up, Hayes got his goal sweeping the ball home into the bottom corner.
In 2014, the Darts came back from two goals down to clinch a last-minute draw with Eastleigh at Princes Park in the National League. The Spitfires scored twice inside 22 minutes through Jamie Collins and James Constable. However, the hosts fought back after the break with goals from Elliot Bradbrook and a ninetieth minute equaliser by Harry Crawford.
Dartford’s last away game on this day was 23 years ago when they lost 1-0 to Spalding United in the Southern League Division One East. The last victory on their travels on 9 September came in 1998 when the Darts beat Reading Town 3-0 in a F.A Cup preliminary round replay.