Malachi Napa’s first-half strike proved to be enough, as Dartford returned to winning ways with a victory over Kent rivals Tonbridge Angels at Longmead Stadium.
Despite what the recent form guide suggested, the Darts came into this fixture unbeaten in Kent Derbies this season. And, having completed doubles over Ebbsfleet United and Dover Athletic, as well as taking four points from Welling United, Alan Dowson’s side were determined to add today’s opponents to the list of doubles… and, that’s exactly what Tom Bonner and Co did!
The Skipper and his team won’t be concerned with the fact that the Angels enjoyed a lot of the ball this afternoon. For this afternoon saw a positive response from his teammates, and a superb defensive display ensured that the single goal was enough and, if fortune was more favourable, could have even been added to.
The afternoon started brightly for the Darts, as Luke Allen came close to opening the scoring as early as the second minute, only to see his strike fly just wide of Jonathan Henly’s upright.
However, the hosts soon became the more comfortable looking of the two sides and Jordan Greenidge, in particular, was looking lively. The ex-Dartford loanee came close after eight minutes after being able to get on the end of Jeremy Santos-Hurado’s cross. But, his header was too soft and Ben Dudzinski made a comfortable save.
One of the regular things to occur in recent fixtures for Dartford has been the biased actions of the officials. And, the case was evident again this afternoon… Keiran Murtagh’s unlucky clip on Santos-Hurado in the 11th minute was “rewarded” with a yellow card from referee Mr Michael Robertson-Tant. A further four Dartford players would go into the referee’s book (Luke Coulson, Harvey Bradbury, Ben Dudzinski, and Maxwell Statham), while only two Angels were booked for similar offences.
As we return to the action, the hosts were just getting into a position of dominance, when the Darts hit them with a swift upper-cut. Ben Dudzinski sent the ball up field with a long clearance, which fell beyond Harvey Bradbury and straight into the path of Malachi Napa on the left-flank. The little winger was released straight through and made no mistake in giving the visitors a 24th minute lead.
Now a goal behind, Tonbridge continued to press forward in an attempt to equalise, but weren’t allowed any access because the defensive unit of Maxwell Statham, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner, and Sam Odaudu were playing a blinder to keep the backline rock solid. In fact, the visitors could have doubled their lead when Jack Smith came close only to see his effort blocked, before Luke Allen witnessed the same scenario with his immediate follow-up (37).
The second-half started in similar circumstances to the first and Bradbury came close within five minutes of the restart. Having been allowed enough space to shoot towards goal, the striker’s effort unluckily deflected off of a defender on its journey, which enabled Jonathan Henly to make a more comfortable save than expected (50).
That was virtually the last of Bradbury’s action this afternoon. Having been booked after an altercation with Ben Swift (who also got booked), the striker was the first of Alan Dowson’s substitutions and was replaced by Pierre Fonkeu in the 55th minute. He was followed by Marvin Herschel replacing Malachi Napa (69) and Richard Chin replacing Luke Coulson (83).
Meanwhile, the hosts went on to swap Lewis Gard with Devonte Aransibia (58), Jack Wood with Tommy Wood (68), and Joseph Turner with Tommie Fagg (77).
As we return to the action, the first real attempt on the Dartford goal arrived in the 67th minute via Jack Wood, who’s last piece of action this afternoon saw him force a save from goalkeeper Ben Dudzinski.
Both Lewis Fagg and Devonte Aransibia came close during the closing minutes… the former fired straight into the side-netting after making a terrific run into the Dartford box (87), before the latter shot straight at Dudzinski from the edge of the box (88)… but the Darts weren’t going to be denied the points this afternoon.
The result ensured that Dartford remain unbeaten in Kent Derbies this season, while also completing the double over the Angels. It also confirmed a first win on the road since January while, more importantly, keeping the target of second place in the National League South in the safe hands of Tom Bonner and Co.
TONBRIDGE ANGELS: Jonathan Henly, Jamie Fielding, Craig Braham-Barrett, Sonny Miles (c), Ben Swift, Lewis Gard, Jordan Greenidge, Jack Wood, Joseph Turner, Scott Wagstaff, Jeremy Santos-Hurado.
SUBSTITUTES: Tommy Wood, Tariq Hinds, Bailey Akehurst, Devonte Aransibia, Tommie Fagg.
DARTFORD: Ben Dudzinski, Connor Essam, Tom Bonner (c), Luke Coulson, Luke Allen, Keiran Murtagh, Maxwell Statham, Jack Smith, Harvey Bradbury, Sam Odaudu, Malachi Napa.
SUBSTITUTES: Richard Chin, Bobby Dunn, Emmanuel Adebowale, Pierre Fonkeu, Marvin Herschel.
By Chris Palmer