Dartford progressed to the 3rd Qualifying Round of the FA Cup after knocking out Isthmian Premier League side Horsham at The Camping World Community Stadium on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.
Goals from Darren McQueen and Luke Allen in each half ended The Hornets’ hopes of a cup upset.
But it was the visitors’ goalkeeper, Mark Smith, who put on an outstanding performance to keep the hosts out and earn the Darts a second clean sheet in succession on the road.
Smith was an inspiration, as he stood behind a defensive line consisting of Ronnie Vint, Josh Hill, Jordan Wynter and Alex Flisher. The midfield saw youngster Cameron Brodie start alongside Luke Allen, while Ryan Hayes and Ben Greenhalgh took up position on the wings. Charlie Sheringham
captained the side again and lined up alongside Darren McQueen. The substitutes were Jay Bacon, Tom Bonner, Luke Wanadio, Adam Cunnington, Sam Odoudu, Max Walsh and Norman Wabo.
Dartford were quick out of the blocks and created a good opportunity in the 3rd minute when Hayes received a good ball from Sheringham, then chipped it into the path of McQueen. Unfortunately the Dartford number twelve just couldn’t reach it in time and the chance was gone after goalkeeper Josh James gathered the ball with ease.
A few minutes later saw The Hornets begin to get a firm grip on proceedings, as they pressed the visitors back into their own half. First, a long range effort from Charlie Harris flew wide, then Smith made a brilliant save from Chris Smith’s effort in the 12th minute. Six minutes later saw the hosts presented with several efforts in quick succession, but the Darts’ defence held together well and, eventually, Flisher cleared the ball off the line to keep the score at 0-0.
As we approached the 30th minute, Horsham had another great opportunity to take the lead. But up stepped Smith again to save superbly from Lea Dawson’s free header from a free kick. Five minutes later saw referee, Shelby Elson, halt his stopwatch for a water break, and this seemed to wake up the Dartford attack after they won a free kick deep in the host’s half. Greenhalgh sent the ball into the box and Sheringham managed to win the header, only to see the ball bounce off his knee and straight into James’ arms.
Having dominated a majority of the attacking play throughout the first half, Horsham were then hit with a suckerpunch three minutes before half-time. Hayes picked up the ball on the right wing and sent it into the danger area. Hill headed it straight towards McQueen, who struck it beautifully and in
acrobatic style, sending it flying into the back of the net.
Dartford took control in the second half, as they pressed higher up the pitch and dictated the tempo more. However, they were almost made to pay when a lapse in concentration enabled Harvey Sparks to strike with a powerful effort, which saw Smith produce another top save.
The 68th minute saw Cunnington replace McQueen, then Dartford almost doubled their lead a minute later. Greenhalgh sent a free-kick into the box and Wynter won the ball and came close with his looping header.
After a period with chances few and far between for both sides, Horsham came close to equalising again in the 82nd minute. The Darts’ defence was breached and The Hornets were through, but there was Smith again with another superb save, thus keeping the lead intact. A substitution followed, as Wanadio replaced Hayes, and Tony Burman set about maintaining the lead that his team had worked so hard for.
With time running out fast and Dartford defending resolutely, Horsham came close again as the game entered into additional time after the ninety. A deflected shot was heading for the top corner, but there was Smith again, stretching and making yet another outstanding save to keep his clean
sheet intact. Just when it couldn’t get any worse for Horsham, up stepped Allen to send a well struck shot beyond James and send The Hornets crashing out of the FA Cup!
Another away win, a professional performance from Dartford in an extremely difficult game, with two top goals and a Man of The Match performance from Mark Smith, saw them progress into
Monday’s draw for the next qualifying round of the FA Cup.