All to play for as Darts start to believe
On the back of three consecutive wins Dartford manager Tony Burman stated his side’s “belief has come back” as they took on Weston-super-Mare who were playing for an outside chance of the playoffs. The visitors were looking to replicate the teams’ meeting in September, a comfortable 3-0 home victory against the Darts who were top of the league at the time.
The home side were on the front foot from the start, however, and had their first opportunity of the game with only two minutes on the clock. Some good hold-up play from Duane Ofori-Acheampong set-up last week’s match-winner Alfie Pavey but his effort destined for the bottom left corner was deflected just wide by the Seagulls’ left-back Ashley Parker.
The first goal came just four minutes later from midfielder Alex Brown after some more good play from Ofori-Acheampong. His lay-off was met with a composed finish by Brown into the bottom rightcorner from just outside of the area.
Andy Pugh thought he had doubled the advantage from a Tom Bonner free-kick but was adjudged to be off-side by the referee’s assistant who was quick to raise his flag.
Seagulls manager Marc McGregor was only able to name four substitutes out of a squad he described as “down to the bones”. They struggled to gain a foothold in the game and a mis-kick by Aaron Parsons was nearly capitalised on by Ofori-Acheampong but his shot was kept out well by Luke Purnell in the Weston goal.
Dartford doubled their lead on the half-hour mark as a Noble corner was met first-time by captain Elliot Bradbrook. His sweeping effort found its way through the packed penalty area into the bottom left corner.
With 19 league goals this season Darts talisman Pavey is a man high on confidence and it showed as his audacious effort from the halfway line floated just over Purnell’s bar. The ex-Millwall manthen headed a cross goalwards, only to be denied by another excellent save from Purnell.
The visitors were missing their 16-goal striker Gethyn Hill who limped off in their 2-0 defeat to Darts’ promotion rivals Havant & Waterlooville last week. It took them 37 minutes to threaten the Dartford goal when a fierce volley by Danny Greenslade from an improbable angle was tipped over by keeper Berti Schotterl.
Half-time: Dartford 2-0 Weston-Super-Mare
The hosts were looking comfortable with their advantage which probably contributed to a relatively flat second-half.
The visitors felt they should’ve had a free-kick just on the edge of the area as Jarrad Welch collided with Bonner but referee Lee Brennan saw it as nothing more than a tangle of legs.
Tensions bubbled between Bonner and Seagulls attacker Jake Lee which contributed to a stop-start affair punctuated by a few crunching tackles.
Just before the hour mark Ryan Hayes, coming off the bench for the 150th time in a Dartford shirt, cut in from the right but saw his curled effort drift just wide of Purnell’s right post.
Tensions reached boiling point following a late challenge from Noble with both sets of players coming together. But Dartford failed to let it faze them as just minutes later Hayes found Pavey in space as Weston committed men forward. The striker coolly rounded Purnell to slot into the empty net in front of the home fans.
As the game entered the final ten minutes substitute Mohammad Baghdadi forced Schotterl into the save of the game as his curling effort was clawed out of the top corner by the flying Darts ‘keeper.
The visitors came into this game in a torrid run of form which included six defeats in their last seven and failure to score in three of their last five. But 17-year-old Tom Llewellyn was at least able to end their goal drought with a consolation effort into the bottom left out of the reach of Schotterl in added time.
Full-time: Dartford 3-1 Weston-Super-Mare
Dartford will have been frustrated to not keep a clean sheet in a game where they were rarely troubled by the visitors. But the main objective is to keep the pressure on leaders Havant, who edged past Welling United 1-0, and they did so with a professional performance.
So while a miserable run of form appears to have put paid to any promotion hopes for Weston, a victory for the Darts in their game in hand will put them on level points with the leaders and it’s still all to play for at the summit of the Vanarama National League south.
Dartford: Schotterl; Collier, Bonner, Vint, Onyemah; Brown, Bradbrook ©, Noble; Pugh, Pavey, Ofori-Acheampong.
Weston-super-Mare: Purnell; Harper, Cane, Pope, Greenslade; Welch, Parsons, Diallo, Scott, Kington; Lee.
Man of the match: Andy Pugh
Written by Henry Clark (@HenryWAClark)
|April 7, 2018||3:00 pm||National League South||2017/18||90'|
|Grass Banks, Dartford DA1 1LZ, UK|