London & SE Regional League, Premier Division played on Sunday 29 October 2023 at Aylesford 3G
Team: Jade Charlton, Charlie Torry, Jo Woodgates, Georgie Davis, Meghan McKeag, Gabby Howell,
Shannon Wason, Paris Smith, Shauni Griffiths, Nicha Dyett, Emily Vaughan,
Subs (played): Emily Woodhouse, Lizzie Adams, Hannah Cleary, Bethany Powell
Scorers: Parish Smith(3), Shauni Griffiths(2), Emily Vaughan, Hannah Cleary, Shannon Wason
It had been raining all morning but happily dried up just as the game started, but it left the ground very greasy.
The Darts got off to a bit of a hiccup when they conceded a penalty for hand ball as early as the 2nd minute. Former Dart Becky Burnham delivered a free-kick into the area but the ball bounced unkindly and hit a hand and from the penalty spot, Aylesford took the lead.
The build up to Darts’ quick equaliser started with a throw-in from Charlie Torry who received it back from Paris Smith who placed an accurate pass to Shauni Griffiths on the edge of the penalty area where she worked her magic; took the ball, turned nicely, left defenders for dead and walloped home Darts’ equaliser in the 4th minute.
After ten minutes a long-range free kick from Jo Woodgates only missed the target by inches as it passed the wrong side of the top right-hand corner of the woodwork
On 13 minutes, a fine through-ball to Shauni was then played quickly straight across the penalty box for Emily Vaughan who buried it. 2-1
In the next minute a good inter-passing move involving Meghan, Shannon and Emily got the ball out to Shauni who worked her way towards the penalty area and hit a lovely shot with the ball bending towards the goal which had Sade Rider (another ex-Dart) in the Aylesford goal diving frantically to her left and was very relieved to see it go barely inches wide of the post.
On 18 minutes Aylesford had an opportunity of forcing an equaliser when Becky Burnham, easily the best player for the home team, sent the ball right across the Darts goal, but there was no one to capitalise on it.
Aylesford left-winger looked pretty pacy and was the only Aylesford forward, (along with an effort from Becky Burnham) who looked like she could threaten the Darts’ defence, but as the game progressed Charlie Torry kept her threat under wraps.
On 33 minutes a free-kick for a foul on Nicha was taken by Georgie Davis. She hit a cross-field pass to Shannon, in space, who fired in a beauty that just squeezed in near the top left corner between Sade and the crossbar.
A throw-in down the line to Emily, close to the corner flag, played it back to Paris who delivered a lovely ball into the six-yard box where it beat both the goalkeeper and Nicha who just failed to get on the end of it. Just a touch would have put it in.
On 36 minutes an Aylesford defender skewed the ball high and was picked up by Paris who played a one-two with Shauni and hit the return pass cleanly into the Aylesford goal to make the score 4-1. Dartford were now coasting.
The fitness levels were showing again, while the Aylesford midfield were a little bit sluggish and wayward in their passing, with every minute Darts’ were looking sharper and had the greater ability to switch things at a moment’s notice.
Two minutes into the second half Jo Woodgates sent an accurate pass along the floor and a neat dummy by Paris left Nicha clear with the ball but Sade stood her ground in the Aylesford goal and Nicha’s effort struck the bottom of the post.
On the hour, a diving header from Paris was well saved by the keeper on the line and a couple of minutes later Paris and just failed to add to her goal tally with a great shot from 30 yards.
But it didn’t take long before Darts increased their lead and Paris was the scorer of Darts’ fifth.
Such was the control of the match Darts took full advantage of getting their subs off the bench and the Darts were still able to keep the game well in their pockets as all players adjusted well to the conditions and settled into similar rhythm that enabled more goals to come Darts’ way.
On 74 minutes Hannah Cleary, on her 1st team debut, scored Darts’ 6th goal. A searching ball forward from Georgie found Em whose first touch laid on an inch-perfect pass to Hannah who saw the goalie off her line and placed an accurate shot over the keeper’s head and into the net
Paris Smith and Hannah Cleary battle for possession
In another attack, Paris pushed the ball to Gabby who sent a lovely weighted pass out to Hannah Cleary on the left wing. She got the better of the right back and sent over a great cross that struck the cross bar and rebounded into play.
There was still more excitement to come when Hannah took on and beat the defender again and sent over a beauty of a cross, bending away from the keeper where Paris left the ball, fooling the defender who was up her back, and left the way clear for Shauni to smash the ball home from inside the penalty area. 7-1
With five minutes of the 90 left, Lizzie nearly scored when she drove the ball at goal but it hit the post and then a couple of minutes later the ball was played into the area where it struck a hand, but Darts played on and Paris stuck it home for her hat-trick and although the linesman flagged for the penalty the referee spoke to him and allowed the goal to stand. 8-1
As one of the Aylesford officials half-chuckled, “come on ref, put us out of our misery,” the whistle duly sounded.
Both teams opened brightly enough but the wet and greasy surface didn’t help ball control in the opening 15 minutes or so. Aylesford got their noses in front very early on, but Darts were on level terms within a couple of minutes and gained the lead on the 13th minute. The period up until Darts scored their third was probably Aylesford best period of the day. With a lively left winger this was their best means of attack, but Dartford repelled them after a couple of near break-throughs and after Darts’ secured their 3rd goal this seemed to knock the stuffing out of the ‘Homesters’
Darts’ leading 4-1 at the break made some wholesale personnel changes but still Darts maintained their rhythm, and if anything got stronger as the second half progressed. Darts had opportunities almost at will to build attacks using both flanks effectively and the powerful play down the middle made for another great weekend with strikes from straight-ahead plus all angles.
There were at least three powerful strikes from outside the area that were all on target “between the sticks” but all had a similar attribute, that of being 9-12 inches too high.
Aylesford rather capitulated under Darts’ onslaught and in the end offered little resistance.
So, another strong performance from the Darts and plenty of goals to add to their league tally.
Well done Darts.
Report by Tony Brown
Photos by Taur Everard & video from Alex Barber (ABc Video)