Dartford’s last game of 2019 saw them take on a struggling Tonbridge Angels side at Princes Park on an overcast afternoon.
The Darts came into the game with confidence having destroyed rivals Welling two days ago. Steve King’s side started the game with the intention of inflicting revenge on a Tonbridge side that won the previous encounter earlier in the season. However, the recent form of both sides allowed for an
unpredictable situation in today’s match. The visitors haven’t won on their travels since being promoted to the National League South, having picked up just three points in ten games.
Meanwhile, the Darts have experienced a rather inconsistent run of games at Princes Park, with just two victories and five draws in ten games.
With injuries being a predominant talking point at Dartford, another new signing was announced before the game to help ease the pressure on already fragile players. Midfielder Jacob Berkeley-Agyepong arrived from Aldershot on an initial one-month’s loan and the 22-year old was
named in the starting eleven.
The confidence of the hosts was clearly evident from the beginning, as Dartford put on another dominant display to send Tonbridge to another crushing defeat. Steve King’s side started on the front-foot, pressed the visitors back into their own half and tormented the defence relentlessly with a pacey attack, which proved too hot to handle.
With several corners in the opening few minutes, the Darts were controlling proceedings and should have taken the lead when Elliott Romain got his head on one of those corners. Unfortunately, his effort was cleared off the line, as Tonbridge defended desperately. Ky Marsh-Brown, in particular, was using his pace to good effect, as he consistently got the better of Jack Parter and was unlucky not to have scored in the ninth minute. A poor final touch as he got in the box proved to undo his gallant effort of which deserved a goal.
The Darts continued to press and probe, keeping Tonbridge camped in their own half, but the home
faithful were made to wait until the 27th minute for the opening… and what an opening it was! Josh
Hill picked up the ball and sent a long-ball over the top towards Tyrique Hyde, who then cut inside
and placed the ball into the path of Darren McQueen. The striker then smashed it off the underside
of the crossbar to score his third goal in two games, his seventh league goal of the season.
As the half progressed, the lead should have been doubled on several occasions, as first Hyde (37) ran through virtually the entire Angel’s team before firing over the bar; then McQueen had an effort cleared off the line after superb work from Berkeley-Agyepong (38); and finally Romain breached the defence, received the ball from Marsh-Brown, and shot towards goal (42). Unfortunately, his effort crashed off the post and out to safety.
The second half was a rather scrappy affair, as Tonbridge tried to put up more of a fight and get back into the game. However, their efforts were in vain. As the visitors threw more men forward, they were always vulnerable to the counter, and that’s exactly what happened in the 68th minute. Liam Gordon took the throw-in from deep inside the Dartford half. He picked out Romain, who collected the ball and, using his strength, out-muscled his man, ran forward before unleashing a low piledriver from 25 yards. The strike flew into the bottom corner and the home section of 1,239 supporters erupted accordingly, as Romain celebrated his seventh league goal of the season, tying him with McQueen for top scorer.
The goal knocked the stuffing out of the visitors, and they seemingly all but gave up hope. Steve King then began to make a few changes in personnel. First Luke Wanadio replaced Marsh-Brown (74), then Ryan Hayes came on for the injured Hyde (80), before finally Romain left the field for Charlie Sheringham (82). Then with two minutes remaining referee, Philip Staynings, made a decision which left everyone confused and angry. Hill was fouled and was awarded a free kick, but he reacted angrily towards the challenge and was subsequently shown a red card, where possibly a yellow would have been sufficient.
With tempers now rising, Tonbridge launched an attack but lost out in the process. The ball was quickly picked up by Wanadio, who then sprinted along the right flank before sending a beautiful cross into the box which arrived perfectly for Sheringham to tuck it home. Tempers boiled over as
the final whistle blew, but nothing could wreck another impressive performance from the hosts.
As 2019 reaches its conclusion, the Dartford players can be proud of themselves for finishing the year strongly. With two consecutive wins and clean sheets, Steve King’s side move up to tenth in the table and have the playoff positions in sight as they head into the new year.
DARTFORD: Sesay, Wynter, Gordon, Crook, Hill, Bonner, Marsh-Brown, Hyde, Romain, McQueen, Berkeley-Agyepong.
SUBSTITUTES: Vint, Hayes, Sheringham, Liburd, Wanadio.
TONBRIDGE: Henly, Folkes, Parter, Bentley, Miles, Bray, Small, Theobalds, Williams, Donovan, Turner.
SUBSTITUTES: Da Costa, Smith, Stirman, Hudson, McDonald.