Dartford hosted St Albans City on Tuesday the 6th of August, as competitive football returned to Princes Park on a warm summer’s evening.

The Darts were looking to correct things on the pitch after returning from a heavy 4-1 defeat away at Wealdstone on Saturday. Adam, Jamie and the players will be disappointed with the manner in which they lost that game, which saw the team experience its worst opening day defeat in twenty years.

Visitors, St Albans City, started their National South campaign with a 0-0 draw at home to Chippenham. The Saints arrived at Princes Park with the intention of building on that opening day point.

Dartford had won the previous two home games against the Saints. The hosts had intentions of that
trend continuing as Adam and Jamie named a strong squad, despite the current injury worries. With the intention of getting some points on the board to kick-start their season, captain Tom Bonner was joined by Josh Hill, Luke Warner-Eley and Jordan Wynter in the Darts’ defence. Mark Smith continued in goal, and the midfield consisted of Luke Allen and Amos Nasha.

Ryan Hayes found himself on the bench, as Luke Wanadio and Ben Greenhalgh patrolled the wings. New signings Adam Cunnington and Norman Wabo were entrusted with providing the goals, as they led the forward line.

Joining Hayes on the Darts’ bench were Samuel Oduado, Ronnie Vint, Andy Pugh, and Cameron Brodie.

St Albans got things under way as the air temperature began to drop. However, the temperature on the pitch increased dramatically throughout the 90 minutes, as both teams took their part in an entertaining 1-1 draw in front of 919 supporters.

As the third minute approached, Nash made an excellent interception on the edge of the visitor’s penalty area. He threaded the ball out wide to Wabo, who played a great ball into the box only for Saint’s keeper Dean Snedker to gather it with ease.

The Darts had a good spell of possession during the opening few minutes, but it was the visitors who took the lead in the 12th minute. David Noble picked up the ball in midfield and played it straight over the top of the Darts’ defence, thus releasing Giuseppe Iaciofano, who took a neat touch before slotting it beyond Smith and into the net.

Dartford’s response was positive as they immediately searched for an equaliser. They were awarded a corner in the 14th minute, which Josh Hill managed to get on the end of but, unfortunately, hesent it wide of the Saint’s post. Moments later some brilliant footwork by Cunnington saw him get past two Saints defenders and force Snedker into a fine save.

The game was end-to-end at this point, with both sides creating chances. The 25th minute saw Wanadio get behind the visitor’s defence and get on the end of a beautiful ball over the top from Nasha, but his header was wide of Snedker’s post.

Dartford got the second half underway with everything to play for, but the early encounters were
rather quiet. Tempers flared ten minutes in, however, as Norman Wabo made a late challenge on James Kaloczi. The latter received treatment and Wabo earned himself a yellow card from referee Lee Brennan.

Both sets of fans got behind the teams as the temperature started to creep up towards boiling point. Then Princes Park erupted as Dartford pulled level in the 62nd minute. The Darts attacked in numbers and Cunnington found himself in a position to shoot. His fearsome drive was only blocked and parried by Snedker, and the ball fell to Wanadio, who rifled it into the back of the net, before celebrating his first goal for the Darts in front of the home fans.

With confidence at a high and the fans in full voice, the Darts played some great football during this
period, as they tried their best to turn the game around completely. Cunnington and Wabo worked
well together throughout the game, as their partnership upfront caused problems for the visitor’s defence. Cunnington held the ball up well on many occasions and was able to feed it to the lively Wabo, who was exceptional at finding space on the pitch.

The excellent Luke Allen also played well alongside Nash in central midfield, and when he received the ball in the 68th minute, he was able to play a marvellous ball over to Wabo while fending off a couple of opposition players. Wabo cut inside and fired at goal, only to see his shot go agonisingly wide.

Further chances came for the hosts to get ahead as the game reached the 75th minute, with both Greenhalgh and Wanadio coming close. The latter put in another top performance as he terrorised the Saints’ right flank all evening, earning himself the Man of The Match award.

The last ten minutes saw end-to-end football, as both sides searched for that winning goal and both came close. St Albans had one of the closest efforts, however, as Sam Merson unleashed a powerful strike which cannoned back off the crossbar late on.

The Saints pressed Dartford back into their own
penalty area in the closing few minutes as they threatened to take all three points. However, the Darts’ defence stood firm and got the result.

Although Dartford will be pleased with a point, they will also be justified in believing that they deserved all three points after such a strong performance. With so many injuries in key areas and new arrivals still finding their feet at the club, the team is united and growing stronger with each game.

One awaits in anticipation for the return of key players as the Darts continue to improve, making Princes Park a fortress this season.

By Chris Palmer